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Love Island: the beautiful and the damned

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The television show ‘Love Island’ is a splendid example of hugely successful modern programme-making. I think it’s a very good piece of television because it satisfies its viewers (including me) on several levels: First off we can be indulgent voyeurs; the young women and men on the show spend most of their time wearing next to nothing – and, under the guise of exploring their relationships, we can simply gawp at – and ogle -the body beautiful. It’s also a perfect projection screen: thus, whilst none of us have had any first-hand direct face-to-face experience of the ‘contestants’ we project onto their ‘characters’ all sorts of fancies and attributions; we make judgements about them even though we really should know better. Third, we do actually ‘see’ some really basic inter-personal dynamics that reflect our shared humanity; in fact, the people on the show demonstrate recurring patterns of behaviour which are permanently at large in the wider society: they whisper behind each others’ backs, they are jealous, they deploy various psychological tactics to secure or advance their self-interest and they deny the obvious realities of their feelings; they use all sorts of devices both to protect their self-image and to avoid facing truths about themselves. It is all sublimely revealing.

And more: The programme is particularly effective because it taps into our desire to know what will happen next: ‘Who will be evicted?’ ‘Which couple will survive the course?’ ‘Who will come off best and who worst in the interpersonal skirmishes?’  (And perhaps surprisingly the level of knowledge or at least the lack of it displayed by some participants (one, for example, did not know the capital city of France, whilst another had no idea when the first world war started) rather underlines why important decisions facing country should not be the subject of referendums.)

The programme has also achieved a kind of national significance: the most recent edition of Love Island continues to attract really asinine comments and judgements from the mainstream media people who discuss the participants – either on daytime TV or in the stupid newspapers – and who are becalmed in their culture of specious mediocrity. As usual the media-journalists are voraciously parasitic.

The major downside of the programme is that the participants – in virtue of their sheer exposure and the way our culture of celebrity and its media operate –  know they are onto a good thing just by having the luck to participate on and in the show. They can create any number of stories about themselves and make a lot of money whilst modelling fashion and trotting out platitudes. (It’s another example of the deceptions intrinsic to our post-truth age.) They can pick and choose from any number of ‘off-the-shelf’ narratives and watch the pennies roll in.

I have become more and more familiar with each of the people who appear on the programme. AND, most importantly, my favourites are the astonishingly authentic Maura Higgins and the curiously anachronistic Anton. I liked Maura from the word go: here was (and is) someone who is deliciously frank about her passions and her values. She’s a hell of a young woman and hell itself would freeze over if it decided to cross her. Maura is good news for humanity; here is someone who is excitingly trust-worthy. In an epic piece of television she has struck a real blow for mature feminism too; and in so doing she’s made nearly all the males look pretty grim. So, it’s hats off to Maura. Anton is a decent chap; he’s been knocked down and he gets up; he’s knocked down again and he gets up and then he’s knocked down again … but he is never self-pitying. ‘It is what it is’ repeats Anton, ‘and you’ve just got to take it.’ I like Elma too – but she was cruelly evicted. She’s a good soul and deserved better.

Yes – for me Maura are Anton are the top woman and the top man. respectively. Amongst the others – well, one or two of them are simply the kind of people that I would avoid at all costs  – but that’s another story.

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