Why Is There An Audience Stigma With Love Island?

26 Jun 2019

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I watch Love Island and I'm not ashamed to say it, despite the amount of negativity I have heard about the people that watch the programme. I've never had any comments completely directed at me (but I might do after this post goes out), but I've heard snide little quips and seen all of the tweets, so I'm very aware that it's going on. I had a little bit of a rant about this on Twitter not too long ago, but I am sick and tired of hearing people put every single member of Love Island's audience into a box, so I figured I'd do a whole blog post about it. This is a little bit different to my usual content, but it's been bugging me so much and I need to get it off my chest!

If you're from outside of the UK or have just never heard of Love Island before, it's basically a reality TV show where single people get shipped off to a villa in Majorca. "Couples" are formed between a boy and a girl (and, famously, two girls in season 2), but this isn't always romantic. They compete in challenges together and sleep in the same bed in the hopes that love will blossom. The last couple standing stands a chance of winning £50,000 and, obviously, a lifetime of happiness. There are a few twists and turns along the way, but that is the premise in a nutshell.

Now, in this post, I'm going to be talking purely about the stigma that surrounds the watchers of Love Island. This will have nothing to do with the negative points of Love Island, like the race and body type diversity issues, because those deserve a conversation all on their own. This is just about the backlash that the audience faces. And before anyone says it, I know I look a bit like a butthurt little drama queen, but I had to do something before my blood boiled over.
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So, the audience stigma I'm talking about is 'lack of intelligence' and even just writing that sentence grinds my gears. I've never known such a judgement to be made on a group of people because of the TV programming they enjoy, but welcome to the future, right? The question I'm asking myself, though, is where does this stigma actually come from? I want to talk about the possible reasons why this stigma of an unintelligent audience exists and give my two cents on the whole thing.


"Does that mean we won't have any trees?"

Part of me wants to think that it's because the show has a history of selecting applicants that appear a little bit 'dim'. For example, Hayley from season 4 was made into a meme after she asked if Brexit meant that all of our trees would be taken away. However, these sorts of odd comments completely shroud the characters on the show that are painfully intelligent. There was bomb disposal expert, Camilla, in season 3; Doctor Alex in season 4; a scientist who started university at 16 and is now working towards curing cancer, Yewande, in season 5; there have even been solicitors and aerospace engineers, yet for some reason, it's the islanders that appear less intelligent to be the ones that are picked up on.

While it's all well and good to say that these characters are 'thick', as many comments seem to suggest, the people making such comments seem to overlook the fact that intelligence comes in many forms. Sure, if someone were to say 'I'm a rocket scientist,' we'd all be impressed, but could said rocket scientist apply and sculpt nails the way that a professional nail technician could? It's an art and a skill that is taught, but because these two careers are so vastly different, we instantly think of the rocket scientist as much more intelligent. It's unfortunate that this is the case, but it's odd that the same sort of 'impressive' roles aren't picked up on in this way by the groups making sweeping comments about the audience.
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Reality TV is largely scripted, but we're too naive to understand

I see this all too much. You'll have crafted the perfect 'OH NO SHE DIDN'T' tweet, only for someone to come along and say, 'you do know it's scripted, right?' and this is probably one of the things that annoys me the most. Scripted reality TV is a hugely popular genre with the likes of Geordie Shore, Made in Chelsea and other massive names in the game, so I'm pretty certain we're all aware that there are parts of Love Island that have been slightly choreographed to give the audience something a bit more.

Do we honestly believe that all they do is sit and talk about relationships all day? Absolutely not. Are we aware that on dates or days out of the villa, characters are positioned in such a way to look better on camera? Of course we are. Do we think that contestants are chosen willy nilly, with no chance of stirring something up? No, otherwise they'd put any Tom, Dick or Harry in there. If reality TV was exactly that - reality - it would pretty beige and mundane to watch. These types of shows kind of need a bit of scripting to help them flow better and clever editing to make everything make sense.

While I can't speak for everyone, I'm pretty sure that a large percentage of the audience is aware of this, so please, don't patronise our intelligence.
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Being mean is cool

I have tried my absolute best to find the article I'm about to mention and I knew I should've bookmarked it at the time, but of course, my daft self has lost it, so you'll have to just take my word. I read a brilliant piece of writing from a female journalist about how people get involved with ignorance because it's the cool thing to do. The example she used was the Kardashians and how people try to belittle those that like keeping up with the Kardashians (lol) by saying something like 'what's a Kardashian?' This sort of feigned ignorance is designed to put the Kardashian fan down by making them look bad for even talking about the famous family.

I wonder whether it's a similar sort of situation in Love Island's case - person A enjoys watching Love Island and talking about it, but person B makes a comment like 'you need an IQ below 100 to watch Love Island', therefore belittling person A because of what they enjoy. Make sense? But let's be honest, how anyone can think that being mean to someone because the things that they like is cool is just bizarre to me. Let people watch the show in peace!

I think it's totally fine if people don't want to indulge in popular culture, but if they don't, it doesn't make them any more superior to those that do. It really is fascinating that if you're a whizz at maths, you're automatically super duper smart, but if you watch a bit of reality TV, you're automatically thick. If those two things ever collided, the whole world would probably end! (I hope my sarcasm comes across).
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What do I think?

I'll be totally honest here and say that I don't think I've ever seen a TV audience get as much stick as Love Island's. You never see any sort of 'you lot are stupid' comments about things like Game of Thrones or something that is considered much more 'high brow', so I simply can't wrap my head around why anyone would say it to reality TV watchers. Yes, I've outlined a few things that could possibly be reasons as to why it happens, but really, I haven't got the foggiest.

For me, Love Island is escapism. Every night, I can tuck myself in and be transported off to this fancy villa. Each of the contestants have been developed in such a way that it's exactly like watching a soap opera - you have favourites and you want to keep up with the storylines, and that's why it works for me. It also works because human beings are innately nosy. We just love to know what's going on in other people's lives, otherwise we get a serious case of FOMO, and this applies massively to Love Island. We don't know who these people are, but we feel like we do because we get to watch them for an hour every night. We want to know who's snogging who and who's bitching about who because we are human.

I think it's perfectly fine for people to have an opinion on the show itself. Like I said, it's got problems that it needs to iron out, and it is superficial and fluffy, but that doesn't mean that every watching it is brain dead. Please, say what you like about the show, but don't make mean or derogatory comments about us.

I realise that this has been a humongous essay, but if you managed to read it all, wow! You get 10 gold stars. Hopefully this made at least a little bit of sense to someone and if you wanna chat about it some more, give me a comment!

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@thenorthernist