Film & TV Muse

My type on paper: The return of the Love Island villa

Emily Harvie ushers in the return of TV's hottest (sorry) reality show

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Image Credit: ITV 2

With the weather (finally) getting a bit warmer, and the restrictions appearing to lower ahead of the holidays, it’s back to that time of year again where 16–35-year-olds across the country are glued to their sofas watching a group of hot people date each other while confined to a Meditteranean villa. Yes, after a year’s hiatus due to Covid-19, Love Island is set to return and honestly, I can’t wait!

On the surface, Love Island appears overly sexualised, superficial and just like any other trashy reality show – and if I’m honest, it sometimes is. However, from its origins as ‘Big Brother meets Geordie Shore on holiday’, the third series of the show in 2017 changed the perspective of the series forever. With conservative Camilla finding her match in Jamie, and the unforgettable bromance between Chris and Kem, the 2017 cohort revolutionised the show with a move away from sex and lust and towards a greater focus on wider friendships and loyalty. Consequently, the show has now been replicated in Australia since 2018, and the US since 2019 to a fair amount of success.

With no UK Love Island last year, the Aussie’s own version was aired across the nation. This incredibly dramatic first series demonstrates the widespread lovability of the show. Whereas the UK original has a greater undercurrent of tension (most likely thanks to British conservatism) Australia’s Love Island brings explosions of drama out of absolutely nowhere! More to say, the first series brought us the only person who (spoiler alert) “played the game” and won the money while secretly having a girlfriend at home – I’m looking at you Grant!

However, despite enjoying Love Island down under, you cannot beat watching the British original at the same time as millions of people across the nation. It is this aspect of the public’s contribution that I reckon is the best and also worst part of Love Island. The show is on our screens almost every evening for as long as two months, gripping audiences’ attention and greatly familiarising the viewers with the contestants. The power of the internet also means the public can feel immersed in the dramatics of the villa as well as closely as if they were there themselves.

The culture of social media response that surrounds the show is impressive. Each episode is likely to produce at least one new viral meme or phrase that will penetrate viewers’ own vocabularies for the rest of the summer. Even your most diehard critic of the show will find it difficult to avoid the tweets about so-and-so being muggy or a melt or the classic, “my type on paper” being said about any new contestant walking through the door.

However, with the immense popularity of Love Island comes a great deal of criticism and animosity towards some of its contestants. The show has in recent years come under scrutiny after contestants Mike Thalassitis and Sophie Gradon both committed suicide following their time in the villa, and last year’s host Caroline Flack also tragically died. Calls have been made for greater support for contestants following their appearances on the show resulting in Ofcom tightening regulations in 2019 surrounding the broadcasters responsibilities of the welfare of contributors to their television and radio programmes.

The high levels of public engagement means the contestants are put under great pressure to appease the people watching at home. This can be incredibly detrimental to the cast who often report great strain while confined to the villa. However, contestant Amy Hart has suggested that these much needed changes are happening, and the support for contestants is growing. After leaving the 2019 series early, Hart carried out months of therapy saying to the Sunday Mirror “I have been able to completely turn my life around” with the help of  the ITV aftercare team.

Additionally, in a talk with the Cambridge Union, Hart along with fellow contestants Yewande Biala and Rosie Williams discussed the relief of having a therapist available to them while on set. Producers have therefore appeared to be ramping up the support for contestants with therapy sessions, social media and financial training, and reportedly an increase in psychological testing ahead of this year’s new series.

With a show so immensely popular across the nation it is unsurprising that contestants experience large measures of public scrutiny. Consequently, it seems the ITV team are working hard to combat this pressure in the support for contestants after the show. The popularity of Love Island means producers will always have to be socially aware and continue placing greater emphasis on support for participants.

Love Island has captivated audiences around the world. With the Aussies now on their third series and the US on their second, it is undoubtedly a success. The visual formula has been perfected, now it is time to see if producers can keep up with expectations ahead of summer 2021.

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