Saturday 17 August 2019

Ciara O'Connor: 'Heartbreak ahead for the Love Islanders just in it for the likes'

Millennial Diary

Greg O'Shea

Ciara O'Connor

This Love Island has not, in many ways, been a vintage year. Indeed, the last two months seem like some strange, hyper-modern propaganda campaign by Tourism Ireland - because the only stuff worth watching has been from the Irish, or adopted Irish, contestants.

We started out strong, dignified, with beautiful, intelligent, cynical and funny Yewande - who continues to entertain on social media weeks after her elimination.

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Then Hurricane Maura hit, and the season really got started. Just as Maura's sun begun to set, with her hard-won romance with Curtis (who's ours whether we want him or not) in the bag, ITV gave unto us: Greg. Greg O'Shea, "From Ireland. Limerick, Ireland. Did yeh ever hear of Limerick?"

We first met Greg on his date with Amber; he pulled out the chair for her (Love Island code for, 'Good Guy', because standards on this show are incredibly low) and pretended to not know how to open a bottle of 'champagne' - salt of the earth, this guy. But seriously - he's lovely.

He had to be lovely: Amber needed a hero and ITV needed a foil to the dastardly Michael, who was beginning to attract some really bad press for the usual Love Island nonsense (bullying, casual gaslighting, general toxicity). And what a hero.

If Maura and Yewande represented the two sides of contemporary Irish femininity, then Greg covers 2019 ideal masculinity all in one go: he's a pro rugby player, who's about to take his solicitor exams - because you've got to have something to fall back on, but you might as well chase after a ball and maintain your quads until such a time as you need to fall back.

Greg O'Shea is having your cake and eating it too; except he probably wouldn't go near you if you actually ate cake, because his 'type' is a girl who 'likes to eat well, she likes to train well'. But we'll forgive him that, he's only 24 and 24-year-olds are beautiful fools.

Greg is sweetly aware of the Love Island traditions and archetypes, and seemed vaguely (Irishly) mortified about the whole thing: he doggedly refused to answer the 'famous' holy initiation question, 'what's your type?' with any of the four mandated acceptable answers (curvy brunettes/athletic brunettes/curvy blondes/athletic blondes) and instead listed a couple of personality traits he'd look for, including, 'a girl who knows her value, who knows her worth'.

Greg is the liking-quasi-feminist-inspirational-quote-graphics-on-Instagram woman's crumpet. He calls out Amber's fishing for compliments when she presses him about what he looks for in appearances, using the favoured method of Irish man flirtation: refusing to admit he fancies her; 'Do you want me to come straight out and say you're my type? That's too much, that's just giving in to you straight away.'

He's charming, but not a mortifying honey-dripper like Tommy, who at this point in the season is even making the most hopeless of romantics vomit in their mouths. Of all the egregious reasons given by contestants for appearing on Love Island, ("I'm here to find love"), the most audacious has to be Greg's: "for the craic, like".

Obviously, he's good looking - but not by chance (he's not Ovie). Like, he could very easily be a 3/10, but he's put the time and effort into minding himself and brushing his teeth - clocking in at a solid Love Island 7, and Irish 9. His prettiness is offset by a broken nose and 'cracked forehead,' and like any good Irish man he has a complex about his height, ('I'm just under 5'11') which is reassuring in a man with quite so many abs.

As love-rival Michael stomps around like someone's pooped in his porridge, nostrils flaring and eyes flashing with nakedly jealous rage, Greg gives a masterclass in amiable aggression, exclusively referring to Michael Griffiths as 'Mike' and sometimes 'Mick', when he knows well that the Liverpudlian firefighter has only ever gone by his full name.

As tensions continued to rise during the week, I expected Greg to slap Michael on the back and call him 'Micky' or possibly even 'Griffo' or 'Shmike' or 'Dan'.

Greg was allowed to take another girl on a date, so the next morning he 'obviously' asked Maura for breakfast for reasons which made perfect sense to them, Ireland, and absolutely nobody else: Irish people abroad absolutely love each other.

Maura has been neutralised by falling for Curtis; it seems she mates for life, and she's decided on him. Which is grand, because it means we don't have to listen to too much of his skin-crawling 'young lady' and barely veiled innuendos, 'Maura knows what she wants... and what to do', anymore.

But Maura was obviously delighted to have breakfast with Greg anyway because 1) he's Irish 2) free pastries. 'Slainte', they delightedly say, as if they've been in a foreign land with foreign people for 60 years. They have a lovely time, presumably trying to work out if they've any friends in common or if they went to the same Irish college in 2006.

Afterwards, Maura walks past another table and is horrified, like all of us, that they didn't eat their pastries. And so the future President of Ireland, who knows it's a sin to waste food especially when it's a free breakfast, picks them up for her Curtis.

Greg goes on to fight the good fight, livid sunburn and farmer's tan blazing, vanquishing nasty Mike for another night and winning Amber in the recoupling. I'm not crying, you're crying.

*******

The reality is, Greg isn't in it just for the craic and nor are any of them: though Molly is the only one who admitted to being an 'influencer' when she went in, every single contestant hopes to leave as one.

Greg knows that rugby isn't forever, and that law is hard: so it's no harm to have a back-up career selling laxatives and air fresheners from your bedroom. But what he didn't know is that it's looking like the age of the influencer might be coming (please) to an end: Instagram is trialling a new feature in Ireland that will see the number of likes no longer being visible to the public.

It's because they want 'your followers to focus on what you share, not how many likes you get', which is fair enough, but it might make shilling teeth-whitener a little more difficult.

What is Instagram without that dizzying rush of dopamine when the likes on you-as-a-bridesmaid-with-your-nice-boyfriend-on-a-sunny-day begin to roll in?

Will we keep going back? Like The Emperor's New Clothes, when we see the bleached Molly-Maes holding up an objectively fugly bikini with a 10pc discount but no '10,000 likes' underneath, will we begin to see with our own eyes? Will we finally be forced to confront influencers for what they are?

Perhaps it's just a trial. But perhaps the glory days of Love Island really are over - because what are they competing for if not likes.

Sunday Independent

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