Love it or hate it, Love Island has captured the hearts, or at least eyeballs of the nation. 3.4 million viewers tuned in last night to see Ekin-Su Cülcüloğlu and Davide Sanclimenti win the coveted £50k prize money, according to Variety.
The finale was the most-watched since 2019, meaning Love Island is still the king of reality TV. But why exactly are we so fascinated by these people and their love lives? Arguably, they represent a very tiny portion of the UK population in terms of looks and the show has previously come under fire for showcasing unrealistic beauty standards.
So we asked the people, why do you love Love Island?
Sabrina, 21, notes the show’s sociable aspect.
“I love reality TV in general, but I especially love how it’s live. Me and all my friends can watch it together and give our opinions on it, play drinking games with how many people say ‘can I pull you for a chat’ etc, it’s honestly just quite a sociable thing to watch.”
She also calls it “heartwarming” and a “good way to demonstrate the psychology behind relationships.”
Amber, 18, says she dipped in and out this season, but used the show to relax after her day. “I like how you don’t need to watch every single episode, as the ones I did watch automatically suck you in and by the end of the episode, you’ve already been caught up on the previous drama, new relationships and the chaos that is about to unfold.”
While some praised this season on Love Island for the most diverse cast, some still wondered why Love Island only caters to those who value a very Western, thin or toned body types. While this season featured their first ever deaf contestant, otherwise the people in the luxurious villa looked like they have every other season: tanned, skinny or ripped and impossibly attractive.
Both Amber and Sabrina describe themselves as mixed race and while both would be hesitant to participate in the show, they say the more diverse cast has been a positive change in their opinion.
“I used to feel really heartbroken for the occasional one black girl the series would bring on as it was so obviously to fill a quota, and the boys they would bring on were literally only there for blonde, blue-eyed girls. It definitely put me off ever thinking of going on myself, as you can literally see these men trying their hardest not to say ‘I don’t date black women’, skirting around the subject with things like ‘you’re not really my type'” Sabrina says.
But not everyone is a fan of the show. James, 38, hates it with a passion and believes it promotes an unhealthy body image. This worries him, especially as a father of two young girls.
“My wife watches it and compares herself to it. I know the demographic that watches the show is getting younger. That’s a scary fact. I really don’t want my girls watching something that makes them think they must look a certain way to be beautiful.”
James is curious to know something. “Where are the alt girls, larger girls, girls with piercings, tattoos, short girls, tall girls, bald girls, gamers, geek nerds? Instead we get a cardboard cut-out of what TV thinks a pretty woman should look like.
“TV recently has forgotten what normal looks like, especially ‘reality’ TV. The show is fake, dangerous and promotes vanity and social pressures above everything else.”
Similarly, Emma, 40, didn’t like what she saw. She admits to only having seen one episode, but that put her off from watching any more.
“I felt like my brain was melting watching a group of people obsess about their looks, and of those around them, all while playing mind games and pretending to fall head over heels in love with someone they’ve known for a few weeks for the sake of £50k.”
Harvey, 29, outright hates Love Island. “Love Island is the cheap, mega-farmed soma that the hoi polloi [the dark masses] deserve. It holds a mirror up to the worst of our animal impulses that were once sublimated through high art and heroic deeds in war.”
Harvey and James both share an extremely negative view of the programme and both make excellent, valid points about it. Love Island is traditionally marketed and aimed at young women.
“It annoys me how much hate it gets because why do other people care so much?! Just avoid it, if you hate it. I feel like it gets a bad wrap because it’s a primarily ‘female’ thing” says Abi, 27. She also calls for more diverse representation on the show and notes that they have claimed some contestants are plus-sized while they are simply normal weight.
“It would also be good to see more LGBTQIA+ people,” she concludes.
There seems to be a generational divide between younger people, who the show is undeniably aimed at and slightly older viewers.
“I think the older generation really think it’s just about young people shagging on TV when it’s literally not” says Sabrina while noting that ITV doesn’t air any intimate scenes.
“I think people automatically associate it with the stereotypes of reality TV, that it’s mindless, vapid and the contestants lack any intelligence. I think it teaches you a lot about relationships and how people act. The themes of betrayal, jealousy and hurt which are central to the show are relatable to most people, whilst the toxic behaviour revealed in some contestants acts as a lesson to us about how NOT to act in a relationship,” Amber agrees.
21-year-old Adanna, much like Emma and James, don’t think people can find love on the show, or that they even appear in the show for that reason. “I think if they were to find it, that would be amazing, but there are more exciting aspects of being on Love Island than the actual love itself that I think draws people in: chance of fame and fortune, career development, nice holiday, meeting people and networking.”
Love Island will most likely always be controversial and divide the audience neatly in half when it comes to the question of whether it’s the best TV show in existence or just mindless garbage. Perhaps there isn’t a right answer to the question, but with these viewing numbers, it’s unrealistic to expect Love Island to disappear any time soon.