How Love Island became problematic

In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the #MeToo movement, last year's fun summer fling suddenly seems a bit icky

Oh, another summer, another Love Island. This year’s show has proved hugely popular, with the first episode becoming ITV2’s most watch programme ever, drawing in an  audience of 3.37 million at its peak.

The 2018 edition has, in many ways, delivered as expected. There’s been flirting, shagging (Wes’s “Do Bits Society” has a number of active members), make-ups, and break-ups. Its classic traits never get old: fake tan, fake eyelashes, fake personalities.

But, in the era of #MeToo, with sexual misconduct scandals shaking the entertainment world, Love Island has, in 2018, revealed a sordid, darker side. The death of former contestant Sophie Gradon, too, has overshadowed this season with sadness, with ex-Islanders Zara Holland and Malin Anderson slamming the show’s aftercare. 

So, why has the show become so problematic this year?

Slut shaming

The Love Island contestants were criticised of “slut shaming” each other on Monday’s show, after taking part in a game in which the couples had to guess how many people their respective partners had slept with.

The girls timidly revealed their “body count” – Laura looked visibly embarrassed that hers was “30ish” and Meghan said she was “absolutely fuming” with Eyal for his guess of 37 people – but the boys comfortably revealed their numbers, which were mostly higher than the girls (Adam said he’d slept with about 200 women).

Fans were quick to hit-out at the difference between the way the male and female numbers were received, saying it shamed women for having sex. One Twitter user wrote: “Let’s stop shaming women for what they do or who they sleep with.”

However, this isn’t the first time Love Island contestants have been accused of slut shaming. Back in season two, Zara Holland was stripped of her Miss Great Britain title after sleeping with fellow islander Alex Bowen. Social media users were quick to criticise the the response to Holland having sex by her female housemates (one said: “That’s not impressive, that’s slaggy”), and slammed Miss Great Britain organisers.

The death of Sophie Gradon

The tragic death of season two contestant Sophie Gradon earlier this month, who had spoken out about her battle with anxiety and depression, has cast a murky shadow over the show’s aftercare. The cause of her death has yet to be confirmed, but police said there were no suspicious circumstances.

Malin Anderson, who was on season two, told Mirror Online: “Me and Sophie are both very similar and we were in a not very good place a year after the show, when work started to die down, when life kind of became normal again.”

“It’s like you’re reaching a kind of high with TV. We were like, ‘oh what do we do now? Just go for a normal job or what? What are we doing?'” She added: “Islanders aren’t prepared or know enough about it before they go in. It’s the same with any TV show to be honest.”

And Zara Holland, who also starred alongside Gradon, said she has been on anti-depressants since the show. “I changed as a person. I didn’t want to go out or socialise. I came out of Love Island and they didn’t contact me,” she told The Sun.

Women’s Aid accuses Adam of gaslighting

Following a messy break-up between Adam and Rosie last week, charity Women’s Aid issues a warning about spotting signals of domestic abuse.

“On the latest series of Love Island, there are clear warning signs in Adam’s behaviour,” said Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid.

“In a relationship, a partner questioning your memory of events, trivialising your thoughts or feelings, and turning things around to blame you can be part of pattern of gaslighting and emotional abuse.”

Ghose continued: “Last night, Rosie called out Adam’s unacceptable behaviour on the show. We ask viewers to join her in recognising unhealthy behaviour in relationships and speaking out against all forms of domestic abuse – emotional as well as physical.”

Being the ‘nice guy’ and having a sense of entitlement

Self-described “nice guy” Alex came under fire earlier this week, when he confronted Ellie about her behaviour towards him after he choose her in a re-coupling.

Some fans argued that Alex was acting “entitled.” One Twitter user wrote: “Alex is acting like one of them guys who pops up in your message telling you your beautiful then calls you a slut when you don’t reply [sic].”

Comedian London Hughes, meanwhile, posted: “Alex is super entitled, I feel like he just goes for every new girl that goes on the show simply because he believes it’s his turn.” Still, she added: “Ellie doesn’t actually owe him anything, but let’s be clear that girl still played him like a Nintendo DS Lite.”

Certainly, not everyone agreed with this verdict on social media. One fan responded on Twitter: “Right, I’m putting it out there. What Ellie has done to Alex isn’t that different to what Adam did to Rosie. She said what he wanted to hear until she got what she needed. But Rosie is a hero for calling Adam out and Alex is entitled and manipulative?”

The lack of body diversity

Like in previous years, the contestants on this season are all mostly thin, lean, and toned. This has caused anger among Love Island fans, who argue that it is not reflective of society and could leave viewers feeling self-conscious about their body own type.

A fan on Twitter wrote that Love Island is “so good but there is no body diversity and I just hope that not every girl/guy watching is feeling insecure.”

Love Island’s problem with race

Fans have argued that the show’s casting of the first female, black islander Samira, who was the last islander to couple-up with new boy Sam, has highlighted the racism women of colour face in the dating world.

Journalist Yomi Adegoke wrote in the Guardian“Samira may be coupled up for now, but Love Island would need a script flip of epic proportions to ensure black women were not consistently sidelined from the show and, in doing so, remove the prejudice of the real world from reality TV.”

No LGBTQ+ contestants

Love Island has only ever had one same-sex coupling – a short-lived romance between the late Sophie Gradon and Katie Salmon – and fans are calling on the show to include LGBTQ participants. But, so far this year, there are still no signs of any queer islanders….