Is it time for Love Island to be ‘dumped’ from TV?

Love Island is a popular British dating reality TV show. Spanning over eight weeks, each series sees young and attractive singles attempt to find love while living together in a villa.

The show’s popularity balloons with every series. In June 2019 over 3.3million Brits tuned in to watch the launch night with 43% of the show’s viewers under the age of 30. Furthermore, in 2018 more people applied to be on the show than for a place to study at Oxford or Cambridge.

Despite the immense popularity of the show, every year it receives criticism over the impact it has on society, facing calls to change the nature of the show.

With each series, the producers face criticisms over the lack of body diversity of contestants with islanders typically having the same slim and toned physiques.

The Mental Health Foundation researched the relationship between body image and reality TV. It found 1 in 4 18-24-year-olds claiming that reality TV made them worry about their bodies. The same survey found a quarter of those asked saying they’d experienced suicidal thoughts from the way they feel about their bodies.

Two former contestants, Mike Thalassitis, aged 26, and Sophie Gradon, aged 32, committed suicide since being on the show. Both suffered severe depression and anxiety, mainly due to the pressures of being on the show and the impact of social media once leaving the villa. In the 2018 series, contestant Megan Barton Hanson received death threats during and after the show for her behaviour in the villa and her physical appearance.

Therefore, the topic of debate for the editors this Sunday is whether Love Island is having a damning impact on its viewers. Whether it is creating unrealistic societal expectations and lowering the self-esteem of young men and women. Or if it is simply light entertainment and therefore should not have to be reformed or banned.

Written by POI Correspondent, Emer Kelly

Love Island is like smoking; we know it’s bad but keep doing it – Labour Article

There is no question that Love Island is cancerous to society. Be it the reinforcement of outdated gender stereotypes, the white-washing of ‘beauty’, the tailored adverts encouraging viewers to undergo plastic surgery, or the devastating suicides of two ex-contestants…

Love Island embodies everything that is wrong with our society. Yet we still watch it in our millions.

Shows like Love Island are not new. The reality show Big Brother kicked off 20 years ago. It sees contestants locked in a house together, only to be scrutinised by the public for weeks on end. Clearly we have always been fascinated by the lives of others and the extreme behaviour that results from being in a human zoo.

The very name of the show, Big Brother, causes unease. It references Orwell’s 1984, in which characters live in a dystopian society that observes their every move. Love Island follows the same principle. It’s a social experiment aimed at bringing the worst out of contestants to cause controversy.

It is the right of producers to create content like Love Island. However, I do worry that such shows have a toll on contestants. They open participants up to cyberbullying, placing their entire lives on a plate for people they have never met. This has proved tragically too much for two ex-contestants so far, Mike Thalassitis and Sophie Gradon.

Of course, one could argue that this is a sad case of coincidence. However, when you hear reports that “since 1986, roughly 38 people are suspected to have died by suicide following appearances on reality TV programmes such as The Bachelor, Hell’s Kitchen and Wife Swap,the reality of these so-called ‘reality shows’ hits home.

Not only is Love Island dangerous to contestants, but it is also damaging to societal progression as I outlined in my introduction. Guardian journalist, Justine Porterie, describes how the show is a huge promoter of fast fashion. As “every day, girls in the villa wear a new outfit, promoting the insidious idea that you cannot be seen in the same clothes twice.”

Alongside this message, Love Island also encourages viewers to impulsively buy clothes on their app as they watch. As the world is on fire and sea levels are rising, Love Island should be using its platform to promote sustainable fashion. Rather than perpetuating a culture of consumerism and wastefulness.

Love Island’s 4.2 million viewers follow the show like a religion. You only have to sit on a bus or take to twitter to hear heated debates and the latest gossip from last night’s episode. With such influence, you would hope that producers consider the impact of their messages on impressionable viewers… although this seems not to be the case.

The show is punctuated by adverts from sponsors glamorising plastic surgery and pushing diet products. Shamelessly tapping into the insecurities created by watching perfectly toned yet curvy women and sculpted men prance around the villa.

In fact, a Level Up poll found that “female viewers aged between 18 and 34 are 11% more likely to consider getting lip fillers after watching the show. These viewers are 40% more likely to feel self-conscious about their body and appearance after watching and 30% have considered going on a diet to lose weight.” Is this self-hatred something that we should be encouraging?

Love Island is addictive and draws in scores of viewers. It is an impressively run operation that must exhaust film crew to the point of needing a luxury holiday themselves. Whilst it isn’t the responsibility of TV producers to moralise, I do hope that one day they will consider the influence of the show and harness it to promote positive values. Rather than exploiting the young and impressionable.

Written by Labour Writer, Isabella Jewell

Point of Information

Not the root cause of the problem – a Conservative response 

Ms Jewell raises some good issues that I did not consider regarding the opportunity that Love island has to positively affect society. I would embrace the promotion of sustainable fashion as we strive to be more environmentally friendly and popular shows is a great place to start.

However, her assertions about the cancerous nature of the programme are contentious. Whilst we must accept that social media and programmes like Love Island play a role in perpetuating social ideals of beauty, I fear she overestimates the true impact in proportion.

Participation in viewership is optional and it provides a source of entertainment for a range of generations. Ultimately, the show in isolation is not the root cause of the problem; for this, we must look at the wider social environment. The removal of Love Island would not widely impact mental health problems throughout the UK.

As a final point, Ms Jewell has somehow found a parallel between Love Island and Orwell’s fictionalisation of Communist Russia. I find this slightly amusing given her position on the political spectrum.

Written by Chief Conservative Writer, Fletcher Kipps

Exploitation is a new problem that Ms Jewell is right to bring up – a Liberal response

Far too often have I come to write my POI response to find Ms Jewell has written an article that overshadows mine by taking it that one step further. In this case, noticing the brainwashing effect that programmes like Love Island can have on their viewers.

Women feeling the need to undergo surgery to improve themselves must be horrible. To feel that social pressure forcing them to go to extremes is something I can’t fathom. The fact that Love Island creates an environment making women feel it is a requirement to get lip fillers is awful.

It is not just this that Ms Jewell notes, it is the whole use of brands. Companies like Boohoo and Samsung pay a huge amount of money to gain sponsorship, to try and brainwash the viewers. This is no better shown by the creation of ‘I Saw It First’, a company owned by Love Island. It survives off directing viewers to the clothes that Love Island contestants are wearing. I really praise the whole of Ms Jewell’s piece, but this point particularly stood out for me.

Written by Labour Writer, Max Anderson

A problem much bigger than Love Island – Conservative Article

When posed with this question, I must admit I have been torn on how I should write. Love Island can be considered cancerous. However, so can most TV programmes depending on how you view them.

How can we be the judge of the show’s effect, surely it would just be our opinion? People react differently to different things. Where Love Island has a negative effect on one, it may have no effect on another. If we decide that this show takes it too far, where do we draw the line?

The issues that have come about surrounding the show are due to social comparison theory. Humans innately compare themselves when they determine their own social/personal wealth. I agree that by showing select few people in society that share a certain look on Love Island could instil a sense of low self-esteem in young viewers. But then so can a lot of things, we cannot blame a specific TV show for this. It is our choice to watch the show.

This brings about deeper issues, we have all created an environment where we find entertainment in such a series. Love Island is by no means the first tv show to potentially be cancerous to some sections of society.

ITV only produce these programmes year after year because of public demand. Over 5 million people viewed last year’s show on a daily basis. If we stopped watching programmes like this, they wouldn’t exist.

Studying theories of liberty recently has led me to think about our freedom to watch what we want. Is freedom not allowing us to make our own decisions as to what is good for us? It would be wrong to take a paternalistic view and pre-empt what we think viewers should watch. Even if you conclude that Love Island is cancerous for society, you must also conclude that we should not do anything about this.

What you may find as negative, another will see from a different perspective. From this angle, the show is just entertainment. Once you accept this you can enjoy it for what it is. Once you separate TV from reality, it is much easier to view the show as not cancerous at all.

Why do we have a watershed at 9 pm? To protect young people from shows that we see as unsuitable. Shows that possess potentially cancerous content for the younger generation. Love Island is after this time, and although I understand this does not stop young people, it is now the parent’s responsibility to decide if their child is strong enough to handle the content.

It is what the internet is doing as well, we cannot just blame a TV show. As technology is growing it is becoming ever more acceptable for children to use it from a young age. This is more cancerous to society as it allows programmes like Love Island to engulf us. Opinions on social media, constant updates; this is what is cancerous. The show itself is on to entertain. However, social media and the craze that surrounds the people on it are what has detrimental effects on young people.

I accept that the show could have a negative effect and contributes to low self-esteem. But it cannot be completely to blame. The show is there to entertain and we as a nation continue to love it. The issue of media damaging younger people’s mental health is much bigger than Love Island.

If we really want to tackle this, people need educating in distinguishing between reality and TV. Start with social media platforms that provide a place for bullies to put others down about the way they look. This is a far more important place to start than to criticise one programme.

Written by Chief Conservative Writer, Fletcher Kipps

Point of Information

The harm caused by Love Island is far from subjective – A Labour response

Mr Kipps’ article successfully underlines the major issue in this debate. Living in a free society we cannot ban entertainment unless it is openly breaking hate laws. People should have the freedom to choose whether to watch Love Island, even if it will harm them.

I do, however, find his argument that Love Island’s negative impact on young people is ‘subjective’, rather unconvincing. Of course, definitions of beauty do depend person-to-person. However, targeting adverts at viewers encouraging plastic surgery and weight loss is a clear attempt to prey on insecurities. The show knows what it’s doing, and so do its sponsors.

Whilst I agree that we cannot force Love Island to moralise, I hope that an increase in public criticism will push producers to use their platform for the better. Suicide, a sense of inadequacy, and impulsive buying are three tangible outcomes that the show has caused so far. Hopefully, we’re entering a new decade of increased social responsibility.

Written by Labour Writer, Isabella Jewell

A classic case of whataboutism – a Liberal response

I found Mr Kipps’ article this week really interesting. I do applaud him in some cases for noting the harm Love Island can have. His view that this is subjective is true. But just because some people aren’t affected doesn’t mean it isn’t wrong. Also, his ideas about liberty and how difficult it can be to restrict shows like Love Island is something I agree on.

However, where Mr Kipps perhaps strays off path is when he adopts Trump-like rhetoric to protect Love Island – Whataboutism. Whataboutism simply blames other things to take the focus off what you are trying to defend. A classic example, how many times has Trump said ‘What about Hilary and her emails’ when asked a tough question?

Mr Kipps has done the same. He has said social media is also to blame so it makes Love Island acceptable. Just because social media has the same problem does not make Love Island acceptable to encourage such false realities on young people. I think both need to be fixed Mr Kipps, not simply accept it for what it is, don’t you?

Written by Liberal Writer, Max Anderson

The effect Love Island has on Mental health is worrying – Liberal article

Love Island is a strange program to me. It doesn’t mean I don’t watch it. Every night from 9 until 10 pm, my friends and I sit around and watch Love Island. However, it is still a strange concept. Sitting there, judging people we have never met. All while ‘big brother’ (ITV) decides what we see and therefore the perception of these characters.

Beyond this, what effect is it having on us? Not to mention the stereotypes they can set and bad role models they can be, I fear the impact they have on the younger generations is far more disconcerting.

According to the Mental Health foundations, ‘23% [of those aged 18-25] said they had experienced suicidal thoughts and feelings because of concerns in relation to their body image.’ 15% have also self-harmed due to their perception of themselves. This is just a drop in the ocean of the rising problems young adults are having with mental health.

Why are illnesses such as anxiety on the rise? Many people have tried to answer this. Some say it is social media. Others argue it is the cruel reality of the modern world. It might be that the world has become so competitive and emotionless we over critique ourselves in the hopeless pursuit of perfection.

Whatever it is, Love Island doesn’t help. Showing many gorgeous young adults who have either dedicated their lives to the gym or undertaken surgical enhancement only makes us more self-conscious. 34% of young adults say it is shows like Love Island and advertising that leads to this self-criticism.

However, it is not just us who suffers, but the contestants themselves. There have been two contestants who have unfortunately decided to take their own life after being on the show. 38 different contestants on major reality TV shows have decided to take their own life and it is easy to see why. They enter the villa from a rather humble beginning and leave with fame, fortune and the whole nation criticising their love life. It is one extreme to the other and something many can’t cope with.

So what is the solution? I can’t answer that really. I can’t really go from last week defending all forms of free speech and then say ‘ban Love Island’ can I? What is needed is mental support for not only contestants but for the people. The NHS needs more support to deal with these cases. They are woefully understaffed for this task as mental health continues to be a taboo in this country. Support is needed for all now!

Written by Liberal Writer, Max Anderson

Point of Information

All we can do is hope for change – a Labour response

Mr Anderson places Love Island in the wider context of growing mental health problems. We are indeed reaching a crisis point, with NHS waiting lists denying many the support that they need.

It is all too important to underline the role that shows like Love Island play in heightening anxieties. Combined with social media, we are under increasing pressure to look like the contestants – smooth skin, perfect tans, sculpted muscles… the list of ideals is endless. Mr Anderson is right to add Love Island to the collection of pressures that we currently face.

However, it is important to understand the importance of freedom of speech in this debate, as Mr Anderson has noted. One cannot ban a programme on the grounds that it’s creating an airbrushed world. All we can hope is that the show will start to become a force for good. Through diversifying the contestants and cutting out advertisements for body enhancements.

Written by Labour Writer, Isabella Jewell

Not cause and effect – a Conservative response 

This article does an excellent job in explaining the problems that Love Island could and does have. It correctly touches on the rising mental health issues in our society. That is all it does though. Mr Anderson lacks an argument as to what should happen if he does think it is as cancerous as explained.

What is important is changing the way people view the show. Too many allow themselves to view the show as reality, this it is certainly not. Once we distinguish between the two, hopefully, more will stop comparing themselves to these specially selected contestants.

The show is not the problem. Although Mr Anderson shows correlation between the show and mental health, I believe the two may not be as closely linked as suggested. Mental health is a pertinent issue in our society. Love island may contribute but I just cannot believe that the correlation is directly between the two. This is no longer the society our grandparents would have described. It is now one filled with more hate – it is technology as a whole that has fuelled this.

Written by Chief Conservative Writer, Fletcher Kipps


Isabella Jewell
Labour political writer at Point Of Information | Website

I have just finished my second year at The University of Manchester studying French and Italian and am about to leave the Northern Powerhouse for a year abroad.

Fletcher Kipps
Chief Conservative political writer at Point Of Information | Website

I am an incoming third year undergraduate currently studying Politics, Philosophy and Economics at the University of Exeter. I am socially liberal, fiscally conservative editor here at POI. I have been fascinated by politics for many years, from PMQs to late night election results all which has led to the desire to study this at university.

Max Anderson
Publisher/Founder at Point Of Information | Website

I am currently in my second year of reading Politics at the University of Exeter. My first interaction with politics was at the tender age of four years old.

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