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Gaslight Island: Is Love Island just too toxic this year?



Ashley Chadamoyo Makombe reflects on the toxic culture in some of this year’s Love Island, and how it reflects real life dating


Most people mark the beginning of the summer with school finishing or the warm weather or the long days and short nights. For me, summer doesn’t begin until the day I am first sitting down in front of my TV at 9pm to watch the opening episode of Love Island. Ever since the first episode I watched in summer 2018 it’s become a staple in my house.

I’ve cancelled plans, left drinks early or gone out later and paid for VPNs while I was away  just to make sure I didn’t miss anything on the hit ITV series. I remember crying when 2018’s winners Jack Fincham and Dani Dyer said ‘I love you’ for the first time, screaming at the TV when Jordan tried to chat up India right after making Anna his girlfriend. I even sat through the entire winter Love Island even though that series was lacklustre in comparison to previous years. The romantic in me can’t turn away. I love watching people fall in love. But this year’s show has left a bitter taste in my mouth.

The first few weeks of this season were epic. We got introduced to Davide and Ekin-Su who may be two of the best islanders to ever grace our screens. We saw Ekin crawling on balconies, Gemma calling Luca by her ex’s name, and Dami “mind reading”, but over time the drama went from being casual enjoyment to just uncomfortable.  For a show called Love Island I’ve never seen a group of people so incompatible with each other.

I began to notice problems with the ways the Islanders interacted with each other when Jacques called Paige pathetic after she said she was upset about his results in the heart rate challenge. It kind of took me by surprise. Firstly because, well, who speaks to someone they have feelings for like that? But two, because of the fact that even with the presence of mics and cameras he would still speak to her in that way. As the series goes on we have seen the men speaking to the women in the villa in a way that is unlike any previous season.

If you’ve been watching the series for more than a year now you have noticed a slight change in behaviour over the years. Don’t get me wrong, there are always villains (looking at you Adam Collard), but usually it would only be one or two a season, with a few nice guys to remind you that there is good in the world. But this year it doesn’t feel like there are any good guys. Every time I have opened my mouth to sing the praises of one of the boys they would go and do something that would completely change my opinion. And making matters worse as the series has gone on, multiple dumped Islanders have come forward with bullying allegations against the OG cast.

The treatment of the girls in the villa only got worse when Casa Amor came around, which sees six new boys and six new girls enter the villa to try to turn some heads. While many of the boys and the girls were open to getting to know the new islanders, the boys spent a lot of time berating the girls  in order to justify their behaviour. Dami in a conversation with the boys expressed how he would like to get to know new girl Summer and the boys encouraged him, with Davide even calling her an upgrade in comparison to Indiyah, the girl Dami was coupled up with. When new girl Coco asks Andrew about his situation with Tasha, Andrew responds swiftly with a “Tasha who?”. And, quite possibly the worst of them all, Jacques, who days previously had told Paige she was the only person he wanted to get to know, starts getting to know Molly and Cheyanne quite intimately, changing what he says he likes and dislikes just to please whichever girl he is talking to.

Very quickly, the show I turned to every year for light entertainment stopped being as fun as it used to be. Even the movie night episode I had been waiting for for so long wasn’t enjoyable in the slightest, and was probably when the double standards became most obvious. The boys would get all riled up whenever a video involving the person they were coupled up with would come up, but all of a sudden it was funny when it was them doing the things and not the girls. The girls where shamed for even talking to a guy, but the guys felt as if they were able to act however they saw fit regardless of how it would make other people feel. 

When confronted by Summer for leading her on during Casa, Dami called her the fakest person he’s ever met. Davide has called Ekin-Su a liar on multiple occasions, one time even saying she was “fake like the Louis Vuitton from China”. Even the boys who weren’t getting to know anyone were still encouraging the boys to forget about the girls they were already coupled up with. With a clip from the show, dumped Islander Jay said that even he was surprised with how fast the boys moved onto cracking on with the new girls.

The treatment of Tasha is probably some of the worst of the series with Andrew during a recoupling saying that she “tells more lies then Pinocchio”. Meanwhile, Dami and Luca form the worst alliance of the century, calling her a game player, and saying that she is walking all over Andrew, even though at this point Tasha and Andrew have forgiven each other for what happened and have since become official. The two would pick on her during challenges and would say she’s too sensitive and needs to get over it. And it wasn’t her crying or asking them to leave her alone that made them stop, but Andrew (and probably producers) who got them to leave her alone.

As much as I am angry and annoyed by the blatant misogyny and double standards shown in the series, I’m not surprised at all. The show is unfortunately very reflective of what dating is like in real life and how even though you may be like Tasha or Indiyah and end up with one of the good ones, how good are they really? Even the men in my life have said that while their behaviour is awful, it is realistic of what really goes on. The only difference is that we are seeing it laid out right in front of us every night from 9-10pm. 

The reality is that as much as we want girls to dump the boys and move on, in real life most women have probably forgiven a man for doing a lot worse. We know in our heads how prevalent misogyny is and how little respect men can have for us, but people watch Love Island to see people fall in love, not be reminded of how much men hate us every day for eight weeks straight. I’d imagine it’s also pretty hard for the girls to demand better for themselves when they are in their couple 24 hours a day. The producers of the show need to do more about what is going on.

And as we near the end of this year’s show, for the first time ever I have no idea which couple will win. And for the first time ever I don’t care. The women on this show, and women outside of it, deserve so much better than men who will treat us like gum at the bottom of their shoes.

Women are people with thoughts and value and feelings, and it doesn’t feel like any of the men on the show realise that, or even care. And while I am still a romantic at heart and will probably watch the series again next year, the one thing the show has taught me and my girl friends is to raise our standards even higher and not settle for any less than what I think we deserve.