Diversity on Love Island: Is it time for a change?

Diversity on Love Island: Is it time for a change?

The hotly anticipated 7th series of Love Island has finally made its way onto our screens, but have producers done enough in terms of inclusivity?

Despite its first week having the lowest viewing figures in four years, plenty of viewers are tuning in every evening and sharing their thoughts on social media. In light of events and protests since last year, it is only natural that viewers question and debate the diversity and inclusivity on this popular reality show.

The current formula for the show starts with five single men and five single women, who briefly introduce themselves to one another and to viewers before matching themselves up with who they find most attractive. They come from all over the UK, with a range of jobs and backgrounds. Most contestants are in their 20s, but there have been some exceptions. Some have been single for a few months, others have never been in a relationship, but all of them are looking for love. 

Typically, the men and women are “conventionally attractive”. They work hard to maintain their physical appearance, whether that be through their diet, gym routine, or cosmetic procedures. 

As the show goes on and they start to “couple up” with one another. New individuals come along in a bid to stir things up and potentially break up existing couples. ‘Casa Amor’ is also a twist, introduced in the third season of the show, in which the men and women split up and interact with brand new contestants. During the time apart, they can either decide to stick with their original partner, or match with a new one from Casa Amor. 

During these eight weeks of challenges, parties and drama, the public can take part in various votes. This includes which couples should leave the island. By the finale, the public decides which couple they want to crown the winner.

 

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Is it time for a change?

Since Love Island’s first season in 2015, the reality show has expanded to international franchises as well as a new series every year in the UK. By this point, viewers know the formula and what personality traits or physical appearances to expect from contestants. It tends to take over conversations in the office, with bets being placed on individuals and couples, as well as a trending topic on social media. 

However, earlier this year there were calls for a more LGBTQ+ friendly edition of the show. So far in the UK series and franchises, there have been two same-sex couplings. One on Love Island Australia, and the other on the UK’s second season. Contestants such as Megan Barton-Hanson and this year’s Sharon Gaffka have also spoken about their bisexuality. However, the creators of the show stated there would be “logistical difficulties” if they included LGBTQ+ contestants. 

What do “logistical difficulties” mean? Do the creators think a LGBTQ+ Love Island would negatively impact sponsorships and partnerships? Are they worried about viewing figures and ratings?

 

Tokenism:

Tokenism is defined as making superficial, perfunctory changes in an attempt to appear diverse and inclusive. Examples of this include having one or two black contestants on Love Island, or one disabled contestant, or one contestant having a different body shape to the others. 

What this does is isolate the contestant and make them feel singled out. On the show, this may result in them not getting as much attention as their peers. Outside of the show, they may be more likely to come under attack by online trolls. 

In 2019, Anna Vakili entered the villa. She is a pharmacist from London, with an Iranian background. Being Iranian myself, it was great to see a woman like me be accepted on the show and deemed “attractive” enough. However, as the weeks went on, Vakili became subject to more and more bullying online, with trolls commenting on her weight, body shape, and general physical appearance. 

Is there a point to having a diverse cast if those who stray away from the “formula” are most vulnerable to attack? I’d rather have Love Island stick to its usual casting, rather than attempt to diversify and not provide appropriate aftercare for contestants. 

Regarding the tokenism on the show, Sheilla Mamona recently wrote “That’s exactly why I, and so many of my Black friends and peers, would rather see zero Black women on the show rather than one or two used as tokens”. Black female contestants are “thrown to the wolves, used as punching bags, the butt of the joke, enduring total public scrutiny and humiliation”.

 

Final thoughts:

Every year brings more and more scrutiny to the show, particularly after two contestants committed suicide as well as Caroline Flack, the presenter. This revived the social media campaign #BeKind, but viewers still remain concerned for contestants who deviate from the usual casting.

This year’s season kicked off with the lowest number of viewers since 2019. While this may be due to the Euro’s 2020 matches and the start of Wimbledon, conversations and debates about diversity may have also made an impact. 

Campaigners have worked tirelessly for better representation on fashion websites, adverts, and other TV shows. Conversations are happening every day on the meaning of diversity and inclusion, and it is time for Love Island to catch up.

Love Island is available to watch Sunday to Friday at 9pm on ITV2 or ITV Hub. 

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