Sunday 22 October 2017

Why I'm switching off sexist Love Island and creepy, weird shows like it

Eva Short on why Love Island and shows of its ilk are creepy, weird and borderline dangerous

Caroline Flack hosts ITV's Love Island
Caroline Flack hosts ITV's Love Island
Love Island has been a hit with viewers (ITV)

Eva Short

The Bachelor, Take Me Out, First Dates — the reality TV dating/love show format existed long before Love Island, but this most recent iteration in particular has exploded in popularity of late, its ubiquity crowned with its own gold-heart-emoji hashtag on media.

Every romantic overture and coupling vicissitude gets its own frothing report in the media, with couple portmanteaus thrown around with wild abandon ("Are JAMILLA in jeopardy?!?!?!" This is a real headline, punctuation and all). Love Island has definitely ballooned into cultural phenomenon.

It would be arrogant to position myself as someone totally above watching shows like Love Island —most people, myself included, have indulged in shows of this kind at some point as a form of escapism— but the pair-up-or-perish format has become wildly uncomfortable to consider.

In principle, the idea of men and women having to scramble into pairs to ensure their (figurative) survival seems like something that should only really be a facet of post-apocalyptic world re-population and not an ITV offering.

However, the ethics of this format has attracted more scrutiny in light of recent events surrounding the sudden halt in filming of Season 4 of the Bachelor/Bachelorette spinoff Bachelor in Paradise.

Like Love Island, BiP saw contestants (selected from the villains and also-rans of the previous Bachelor/Bachelorette series) brought to an isolated tropical island and told to pair up, with any unfortunate singletons promptly kicked off the contest. Allegations of sexual misconduct mere days into the show’s filming, however, cut things short for a time.

Corrine Olympios and DeMario Jackson, two contestants and the villains of each of their respective seasons, had allegedly been informed before filming began that producers had scripted that the two should hook up, citing their shared villainous status as making a potential hookup entertaining for viewers.

Both contestants reportedly drank alcohol one evening and eventually had their anticipated 'hookup', but a producer soon after viewed the footage and promptly filed an internal suit, questioning whether consent was possible.

Olympios later reported that she had little to no memory of the incident. "As a woman," she explained in a statement made last month "this is my worst nightmare and it has now become my reality."

The investigation has concluded with the admission that the footage "does not support any charge of misconduct by a cast member".  However, Bachelor in Paradise resumed filming and has now wrapped on Season four, sans Olympios and DeMario.

I hasten to add that previous castmate testament about Love Island indicates that alcohol consumption is more strictly controlled, possibly as little as two drinks per evening. 

However the show’s format, alcohol fuelled or not, is still attempting to induce hook-ups. Host Caroline Flack defended the steamier scenes on the popular show before its launch, saying: "I know it sounds silly but we’re not about the sex. We only show sex in the programme if it’s relative to the storyline. It’s not gratuitous."

One wonders in general whether presenting a situation in which two people feel they are expected to have sex has the dangerous potential to spiral into people feeling pressured to do things that they (or someone else) may not want.

Love Island's drama has been salacious, but never illegal or immoral.

The stress of the inevitable intensity of appearing on reality television aside, the cast members appear to be in safe hands and well looked after and there has never been incident of misconduct since it first aired in 2015.

Yet Bachelor in Paradise demonstrates that danger may not be outside the realm of possibility, and it calls into question whether prurient audience appetites and producers' rampant desire to create sufficient drama to sate them should be questioned, or at the very least more sternly and seriously watched.

While I may have before let myself indulge in Love Island, the TV equivalent of a sugar rush, I don’t think I’ll be able to stomach it anymore.

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