Love Island and body image

Em Richardson talks about the impact Love Island has on body image and tackling diversity issues.

Em Richardson
27th January 2020
Love Island. For the viewer, it’s billed as an hour or two of entertaining escapism, as a bunch of attractive young singles compete with one another to find love. For the contestants, it’s seen as a sure-fire way to gain a place in the public eye, with lucrative promotional deals sure to arrive the second they leave the villa. Yet, it must be acknowledged that the show has a darker side.

The line-up of the current, ‘winter’ version of the show looks like something from a Hollister catalogue. Everyone is thin, young, conventionally attractive, and doesn’t look a day over 25. This is a trend that has been seen time and time again, in previous years. There is a noticeable shortage of body diversity, people of colour, and ‘flaws’ of any kind. No-one in their right mind would argue that contestants on the show look anything like the majority of people in modern Britain, or even that such a physique would be achievable for most people.

Instagram: @loveislanduk_

However, this doesn’t stop modern Britain striving to look like them. Social media is full of people posting about wanting to look like the contestants, and 25% of 18-24 year olds claim that comparing their own bodies to those seen on reality television leads to ‘negative thoughts’. This is despite the fact former contestants have spoken out about the extensive preparation they put themselves and their bodies through before entering the villa, including everything from crash diets to plastic surgery. At the end of the day, contestants are chosen for the show based primarily on their looks, hence they spend time and money maintaining a trim body shape and well-groomed appearance that, quite frankly, aren’t maintainable long-term.

Once contestants are actually in the famed villa, it has to be noted that their presence also attracts some unpleasant behaviour from the viewing public. Several former contestants have had their personalities and appearances mocked online, to the extent that two ex-islanders have actually committed suicide. Some members of the public seem to forget that these contestants are real, breathing people, and not just ‘characters’ on a TV show. Just because they’re pretty, doesn’t mean they don’t have feelings.

Instagram: @loveislanduk_

Moving forward, several parties can play their part in making Love Island more diverse, and less damaging for both contestants, and young viewers. ITV should make a conscious effort to hire a more diverse range of contestants, including women who are above a size 10, and men who don’t have chiselled abs. Viewers should remember that the contestants are real people who can, and may well, read their cruel comments. Contestants should think about the impact they have on their impressionable young fans, and stop posting photo-shopped images on social media, and promoting unrealistic diet plans.

 In short, I want the next generation of viewers of reality TV to see people who look like them on screen, and to strive to treat them the way they themselves would like to be treated.

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