Love Island is back – but is Britain reality TV’s most controversial villa? | Emma Garland
OWe try to be better people. Every year we make new wishes to eat healthier, scroll less, spend more time nurturing our inner child by taking watercolors and reading books about foraging. And it works, for a while. We’re posting our Strava achievements online and telling our followers how “sorry” we are to reveal that eating vegetables and not drinking excessively makes you feel “good, actually”. Then June comes. Advertisements are beginning to appear on our friezes and in stations; 10ft digital billboards of Britain’s hairiest humans winking suggestively in bikinis. The concept of free time begins to fade before our eyes as we resign ourselves to six hours a week watching future Gymshark ambassadors pretend to be unlucky in love. By the time this jingle hits the airwaves, like Pavlov’s bell for Twitter addicts – brrr br br br br BREE br br – escape is futile. Another summer – another eight weeks of Love Island to get us lost.
As hundreds of elected officials traveled to the House of Commons on Monday night to affirm or renounce their confidence in Boris Johnson, 11 random 20-somethings traveled to Mallorca by jeep to rise to the national celebrity post. At the exact time the leadership of the UK swung to the rocks, the top trending name on social media was Curtis Pritchard, a man famous for saying he likes to be “the person who gets up and prepares coffee to everyone to get everyone ready for the morning” three years ago. It was a strange contrast of events: the unfortunate cynicism of real politics meets the over-the-top fervor of semi-scripted entertainment. Does that make sense? No way. Am I here for this anyway, despite the proclamation that Love Island was “over” not 12 months ago? Apparently yes.
Minutes after last night’s episode, viewers were reminded why Love Island is one of the most watched shows in the UK. The format has been revamped, with the tradition of having male contestants “choose” from a lineup of glorious women in six-inch heels dropped. With the audience in charge of the first coupling, and an Italian “snack” called Davide sent in place of their usual female “bombshell”, the producers have clearly heeded some of the criticism of the past few years. This season also features Love Island’s first deaf contestant and a more relatable array of backgrounds, rather than a slew of ready-made influencers and real estate agents. Ahead of the premiere, they ditched their usual fast fashion partner (responsible for everyone’s apparel) in favor of eBay, which could have some interesting implications for the Love Island-to-brand-ambassador pipeline that rests mostly on deals with the likes of Missguided, Pretty Little Thing and Boohoo. He will be curious to see if his audience responds in kind. Love Island exists as entertainment, yes, but also as a guaranteed career launcher for social media stars and hopeful fashion and fitness entrepreneurs. If the wind turns in a fast fashion, take the boat with it,
do the competitors also have to adapt on the other side?
Most of these changes were made out of necessity, of course. The show has become something of a beacon of national sentiment, shooting at everything from on-screen racism and emotional manipulation to the poor duty of care it has previously shown to contestants. It also indicates a shift in what people expect from entertainment. Love Island’s review reached such a fever pitch last year that it was forced to adapt or die, but only time will tell if these adjustments will be enough to roll back the show’s ratings peaks. broadcast in 2019.
In the meantime, the first hour and a half of Love Island 2022 was pretty wholesome by recent standards – notwithstanding the sucking of toes and the discussion of favorite sex positions. The girls entered with instant declarations of “love” for each other and high ponytails rustling in the continental breeze, the guys entered in Crocs and “ugly trunks.” Liam from Newport admitted he thought Elton John was a duo (Elt and John), Paige from Swansea tried to flirt with a man from Rome gushing over her love of ‘mafia books’. All in all, it felt like a fresh start for reality TV’s most controversial villa. That said, on the island where nothing ever changes – and I’m talking about the UK here – it looks like we’ll take whatever we can get.
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