ITV2’s Love Island is back on our screens and more popular than ever . The launch episode of the fourth series had 2.9 million viewers and was the highest rating programme at 9pm that day.
The first four episodes have seen an average of 2.7 million viewers tune in to watch what happens in the Love Island Villa.
The show is, tacky reality TV at its best.
It features tans, swimwear and sexual innuendo as young singles compete for both love and £50,000. It is one of the most popular television shows for people aged 16-34. What might be surprising, however, is that many of this viewership may identify as feminist.
In 2017, research conducted by UM London found that 70% of young women aged 13-18 identify as feminist. For women aged 18-24, that percentage drops to 54% and then 44% of women aged 25-34.
Love Island has various factors that feel, to many feminists, problematic. Arguments against the series include:
- Body Positivity: The kind of body shown on the programme is very slim and athletic, this body type is seemingly portrayed as the only desirable one by the show.
- Cis-Heteronormativity: during each ‘re-coupling’, either the boys or the girls line up ready to be picked. That each couple will be heterosexual is assumed. There was a same sex couple in the 2016 series- however, at times, some reactions felt almost like fetishisation. Gender issues such as Cis, Trans, Genderfluid and non-binary are pretty much non-existent on the show.
- Shallowness as a business model: At the start of each series, couples are based solely on looks and throughout the series new contestants are asked to choose people to go on a date based just on ‘face value’.
However the show can also be praised for certain factors, particularly in areas that feminists often find important.
The programme’s editing is very equal. Both male and female contestants can be made to look silly or uninformed. Likewise, both are allowed to be funny or show wisdom or strength.
Beauty and body standards are prevalent in our society for men and women and this is also portrayed equally on the show.
One of the programme’s strengths is in the different relationships and emotions depicted. There is a good portrayal of the bonds that women form, with female friendships shown as strong and forces to be reckoned with.
The series also allows men to be vulnerable, and show them willing to be vulnerable. They cry and talk about their feelings, and are also seen telling each other ‘I love you’ – without feeling the need to follow it with ‘no homo’.
Sara Pascoe is a british comedian and has spoken about her feminism as a guest on the podcast ‘The Guilty Feminist’. On Twitter, she has called Love Island ‘a constant dissection of gender roles and hetrosexual expectations’.
Whether you agree with that sentiment or not, Love Island seems to be one of the strongest reality television shows in recent years.
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