Is Love Island a Televised Prison?

In a desperate attempt to find a topic for this week’s blog post, I scrolled through my New York Times app to generate some ideas. My eye quickly gravitated towards an article with the headline, “‘Love Island’ Is a Riveting Human Rights Violation.” I was stunned. Love Island, undoubtedly my favorite reality TV show for the past two summers, was mentioned negatively in my favorite newspaper. 

To truly understand my love for Love Island, I’ll tell you how I stumbled upon this tropical, British dating show. Leading up to November of 2018, I had been a die-hard fan of the Bachelor, Bachelorette, Bachelor In Paradise, you name it. If Chris Harrison was the host, I was watching. This meant buying Hulu to watch the new season since I would be on vacation and needed my Bachelor fix. Suddenly, my recommendations on Hulu introduced me to Love Island. I watched the first episode, and I was hooked. Considering my attention span usually doesn’t last through an hour long TV show, between the contestants hilarious catchphrases, constant relationship drama, and exciting challenges, I would watch episode after episode. I spent so much of my Thanksgiving break watching Love Island that I started to speak with a slight British accent upon returning to school. I will say, my British accent has greatly improved and is now distinguishable as the Geordie accent, commonly heard in Newcastle, England. I finished all 50-ish episodes of the 4th season in a month. I even wrote a list ranking the contestants from best to worst. Which, by the way, if anyone reading this is interested, I would love to share the list with you and compare notes. 

Of course, when June 3rd rolled around, I watched the first episode of Season 5 live. Obviously, I loved the new contestants and was super excited to have my favorite show back on. Sarah Jeong, member of the NYT Editorial Board and author of the article I mentioned, had a different reaction. She argues that Love Island is like the Stanford Prison Experiment, and just a confined space where the contestants drive themselves insane and cause unnecessary drama due to lack of magazines and TV in the villa. Even as America’s biggest Love Island fan, I can’t say I completely disagree. Although the contestants are only shown when talking about relationships or each other, I can imagine lounging at the pool 24/7 can get kind of dull. Especially since they’re forbidden to read or watch anything. The lack of media available to the islanders is my main concern- one that I share with Ms. Jeong. I would practically go insane if I wasn’t allowed to watch Shawn Mendes compilations and scroll through Instagram for at least a small portion of a day, nevertheless a month. These poor contestants would have no idea what’s happening in the world or with their friends and family. There’s no harm in allowing them 20 minutes a day to catch up on the news or watch an episode of their favorite TV show. In that respect, I think the producers should consider allowing some downtime for the islanders. 

The villa is located in Mallorca, an island in Spain.

However, I don’t think lack of media availible is the reason why drama occurs. When you put 12 young, single adults together in a Spainish villa and tell them to couple up, there’s going to be conflict. It’s bound to happen. Access to the news could create even more drama when dealing with political issues. We wouldn’t want their entire Love Island experience to be like Thanksgiving dinner with your extremist relatives. The drama and arguments aren’t enjoyable for me to watch anyways. The producers highlight any disagreeance. Which, hearing a private conversation between two islanders blasted on my computer often feels like an invasion of their privacy. Although they all sign contracts allowing for cameras to be on them at all times, having your feelings on display for millions is an uncomfortable expeperience. I’m not sure if this is the case currently, but I think the islanders should be able to decide what and what doesn’t get aired. I admire the daily episodes and quick turnaround between shooting and airing, but I could live with a longer delay if it meant more careful editing to comply with what the islanders feel comfortable with.

Yes, there are some major issues with the show. The lack of privacy and media should definitely be reconsidered for next season. And, I’m sure the producers have already heard this same feedback from concerned fans and previous islanders. While I do agree with these two points made by Ms. Jeong, I think calling the show a “Human Rights Violation” might be overstated. If these singles were placed in the villa without any contract or consent on their part, this would definitely raise several flags. However, the islanders are aware of what the show entails and simply wouldn’t apply or agree to be on the show if they felt violated. I completely respect Ms. Jeong’s opinion and her definition of the show is undoubtedly true. If one of the islanders specifically mentions they believe it violated their rights, I would revise what I’ve previously said and consider to boycott the show. However, as an outsider who is unaware of the behind-the-scenes of Love Island, I can’t fully bash or support any activity that occurs. 

Two islanders having a chat.

Now, will this change my perspective of the show? For sure. Next time I watch, I’ll pay closer attention to any questionable scenes. Will I continue to watch the show? Absolutely. It’s pretty funny and the Twitter memes born each week are incredible. I believe ITV isn’t out to do serious harm. I think calling some issues to their attention is important, but overanalyzing a British dating show isn’t necessary. If we begin to question Love Island, it’s cousins Big Brother and the Bachelor Franchise need to be picked apart as well. Sadly, there’s no more room in the word count for that this week, but we can revisit those in the future. Thanks for reading!

Here’s a link to the NYT article I reference: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/09/opinion/love-island-usa.html