Love Island: With criticism of diversity, LGBT + portrayal, and body image, has the show lost its chemistry?

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Love Island: With criticism of diversity, LGBT + portrayal, and body image, has the show lost its chemistry?


Remember July 2000, when Tony Blair was Prime Minister, the world barely found out about Coldplay and a group of strangers walked into a roommate for an experience.

That summer, the TV phenomenon of Big Brother was born. The country has become addicted to watching a random group of people go about their lives in a building that at the time looked like a large hollow student, just with a pretty garden and cameras in the toilet.

Nasty Nick antics hit the headlines, Davina McCall became famous for asking people not to swear, and the Paul Oakenfold and Andy Gray theme became as important an ending as the EastEnders. The show’s first winner, builder Craig Phillips, captured hearts across the country when he announced he was giving his £ 70,000 prize to a friend with Down’s syndrome, to pay for a heart and lung transplant.

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Big Brother 3, with Kate Lawler, Alison Hammond, Jade Goody and PJ Ellis

Back then, and for a few good seasons afterwards, albeit to a lesser extent, competitors were doing it primarily for fun, to be part of something new and exciting, with the possibility of winning some money. sizable money at the end.

Over the following seasons, we saw Paul and Helen fall in love, as Kate fell drunk trying to put on her pants, while Michelle screamed “NO NAKED JACUZZI-NESS” as she watched her helpless chicken Stu from the secret bed, and while the late Nikki Grahame spawned a thousand memes with her infamous cries of “WHO IS SHE ?!” “

But gradually it lost some of its magic, the contestants too aware of the cameras, too aware of the promise of glory that accompanied the show. By the time Big Brother called him a Day in Series 19 in 2018, after switching from Channel 4 to Channel 5 in 2011, he was averaging just over a million viewers, up from 5.89 million at its peak in the third season in 2002.

Which brings us to Island of love. A latecomer, I first got hooked as Jack and Dani found love in season four in 2019, then went back to over-watching the season one proposal (yes, really), with Zara losing. her crown of Miss GB during her night at the shelter, and the bromance Chris and Kem. Season five became date TV, mostly thanks to phenomenon Maura Higgins, and Curtis robotically told Amy he preferred making coffee to morning cuddles.

There is a marked difference in the behavior of competitors over the seasons. While those early Love Islanders might have sensed the possibility of stardom, they were still individual, a little rough around the edges; candidates are now ready-to-use influencers.

Season six, the show’s first winter series, simply hasn’t been cut for a number of reasons, and viewership was down for the launch. Other than Shaughna Phillips, most of the contestants are hard to remember. And despite ITV’s promises to improve diversity and feature participants outside of the usual body types, it was clear that Love Island definitely had a type on paper.

Love Island 2020 also suffered without Caroline Flack. Laura Whitmore is a great presenter, funny, warm and entertaining, but part of Flack’s charm was that she felt herself like an extension of the contestants and seemed genuinely invested. Caroline Flack was Love Island. Following his suicide just before the series finale aired, despite the series’ tributes, it seemed bad to move forward.

Moral issues aside, the show must evolve as well. While the tension of Casa Amor’s recouplings is still golden on TV, do we really need to revisit an episode of fake babies, or terrible end-of-series declarations of love?

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Laura Whitmore is back as host of Love Island this year. Photo: ITV

And with the growing criticism of diversity and body image, it’s clear fans want to see more than just identities of beautiful, straight people pulling off.

Earlier this year, ITV commissioner Amanda Stavri said in a Radio Times interview that bringing in candidates of different sexualities presents a “logistical difficulty” as they must have an equal choice when mating.

Bosses also defended criticism of the lack of plus-size competitors, saying all of this year’s entrants all have “healthy BMIs,” according to reports.

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Hugo Hammond is the show’s first disabled contestant. Photo: ITV

This year’s singletons include Hugo Hammond, the show’s first contender with a physical disability – he was born with a clubfoot – which is a step in the right direction, but in general the new stars in the making are not. a million kilometers away. far from previous years. As one Twitter user noted, “They stuck to the symbolism and just hit copy and paste. “

One thing the new series has going for it is time. Due to COVID-19 wiping out any chances of pairing in 2020 (and not just Love Island), it’s been over a year since our last villa living fix. Absence makes the heart more affectionate. And as Whitmore herself put it, after the past 18 months “we all need a little more love and fun in our lives.”

So that’s what it is, as the islanders would say. But this year’s ratings may well tell us that it has to be more.

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