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Image / Editorial

Love Island is cancelled this year. I’ll be glad of the break from watching perfect bodies six nights a week

by Holly O'Neill
06th May 2020

Love Island is cancelled this year. I’ll be glad of the break, to be honest

The beginning of a new season of Love Island has become as much a signifier of the start of summer as the last of the cherry blossoms or your first Aperol Spritz of the year.

It marks the moment when all the great summer clothes disappear from the high street in favour of the show’s lurid, frontless, backless and sideless clothing, when it’s time to switch your white to rosé, when it’s time to start thinking about how you’ll find office-appropriate outfits that also work for a boiling commute, and for me, when it’s time to start feeling loathsome of my body.

This week, ITV confirmed the upcoming season of Love Island is cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Although I would be grateful to have the constant pain of what to watch taken out of my hands six nights a week for the next few months, having completed Netflix very early on in lockdown, I won’t miss beating myself up about not wanting to be seen in a swimsuit with cut-outs in all the places you don’t want cut-out.

Ahead of the release of last year’s season of Love Island, the UK’s Mental Health Foundation conducted research investigating the relationship between reality television and body image. According to a survey of 4,505 adults carried out by YouGov, almost one in four people aged between 18 to 24 say that watching reality television makes them feel worried about their bodies and another one in four said they have experienced suicidal thoughts due to the way they feel about their bodies. The year beforehand, research by YouGov found that 40% of women aged 18-34 feel more self-conscious about their body and appearance after watching Love Island, 30% of female fans had considered going on a diet after watching the show, 22% felt the show had made them more likely to get their teeth whitened, and more than 10% had contemplated lip fillers. Other cosmetic procedures considered by female viewers of the reality series included breast enhancement (8%) and Botox (7%).

If these statistics come as a surprise to you, they certainly don’t to me. Though there have been many calls for ITV to introduce a wider range of body types into the show, each year we watch six nights a week to see if one singular example of perfect proportions warrants love.

The message is thrust on you in the ad breaks too: distract from your mediocrity with whiter teeth, conceal your ugliness in tan, run away from your problems in fast fashion heels! With every new contestant that joins the show, tabloids get days if not weeks out of ‘expert-led insights’ into the thousands of pounds the contestant has spent on veneers, a bum lift or lip fillers. Alongside this, social media scrambles to find pictures of the contestant pre-surgery to declare, “yeah, no wonder she spent £15k on her face,” blind to the problem that they are the reason she did, plus a lifetime of lessons, tabloids, television and tweets that told her exactly how to look.

And at the end of it all, two lucky winners get to tell their newly minted millions of followers that they can find love too, with this skinny tea, teeth whitening product and fast fashion dress.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Love Island. I live for the drama, the memes, the nosy into how a generation handles relationships and feelings. I want Maura Higgins to have her own talk show. I loved seeing Caroline Flack’s incredible outfits and always gorgeous hair, and I love seeing Laura Whitmore champion Irish design on the show to an audience of millions. Love Island also serves what might be it’s most paramount purpose in bringing about so many important conversations, from gaslighting to how we allow others to control us to the real-life consequences of being cruel online.

Following a multitude of devastating suicides, contestants are now required to attend a minimum of eight therapy sessions after the show, given advice on how to deal with social media, finances and adjusting back to life, and the show’s on-the-ground staff have mental health first aid training

Having done so much by instituting new measures to protect contestants, ITV should now focus on protecting their viewers from the damaging message that just one, narrow, homogenous prototype of men and women is worthy of love.

Photography by Love Island.

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