The Love Island Paradox: Why Are We So Obsessed With The ‘Authenticity’ Of Reality TV?

Maybe it's time we suspend our disbelief for a while and just enjoy the show for the Misguided-clad soap opera that it is...

love island girls

by Katie Rosseinsky |
Updated on

There’s been confusion, calls for VAR, cries of ‘fix!’ – and it seems that the confusion won’t be cleared up any time soon. What I’m referring to, of course, isn’t a particularly contentious yellow card at the World Cup or a dispute on Wimbledon’s Centre Court, but a kiss between Love Island’s Georgia and ‘new’ Jack. Who had kissed who? Was Georgia really as 'loyal' as her 'I'm very loyal' catchphrase would suggest?

In an attempt to clear things up, ITV shared footage showing the much-analysed moment from different angles - and ended up kick-starting a whole new debate in the process. Because, as fans at noted_Love Island_ content provider The Tab soon realised, the background footage (showing fellow contestants Wes and Megan) did not match up with the kiss timings. Could this prove that the scene had actually been filmed at least twice?

Aside from the sniping over Megan’s plastic surgery and some low-key speculation about whether Dr Alex is a poster boy for the incel movement, much of the conversation around this series of Love Island has focused on just how authentic the show actually is. When a new contestant, Alexandra, entered the villa in last night’s episode, Twitter users were quick to dredge up a photo of her and Megan. The fact that their friendship wasn’t alluded to on the show left some viewers confused: had Megan been told by producers to ignore Alexandra? The show’s golden couple, Dani and Jack, have sometimes appeared to be a target for behind-the-scenes machinations, too: when Dani was presented with a short video clip of Jack meeting his ex-girlfriend in a different villa, fans were outraged, calling it an attempt to derail one of the show's strongest relationships (and make a slightly lacklustre season a little more exciting in the process).

So, how authentic is Love Island? Last year’s Islander Tyla Carr (remember her?) made headlines last month when she attempted to lift the veil on how the show is put together. ‘What viewers don’t see is there is always a producer on site,’ she told the Daily Star. ‘Someone generally comes in every hour to have a chat. They would often tannoy an announcement asking for someone to come to the sofa to have a chat with one of the producers. They tell you what they want you to talk about, and who with.’ So, it appears, there’s a lot happening in the villa that we never see on camera – but is that really so shocking?

Reality TV has come a long way since the first season of Big Brother: it’s no longer a matter of setting up a camera and letting things run their course. In their rebuttal to Tyla’s interview, the show’s representatives reiterated that ‘as we have said since series one, Love Island is a combination of reality and produced elements. Any produced elements are designed to allow viewers to understand what the Islanders are feeling and to help move narrative threads on.’ Producers are tasked with telling a story – one that will actually make us want to tune in for every episode – so it’s perhaps more constructive to compare Love Island to a ‘constructed reality’ show like Made In Chelsea. And surely we should be a little glad that the producers are there to usher in some more dramatic ‘storylines’: imagine just how much of Alex’s French GCSE-style flirting we’d have been forced to sit through without them.

It seems there’s a strange double logic at work when we watch Love Island. We’ll lap up its artfully constructed twists and turns, cliffhanger endings and emotional maneuvering, none of which exactly scream cinema vérité, but when we are presented with hard ‘evidence’ of this manipulation (a different camera angle, a rogue producer lurking in the background of a shot) we’re shocked and outraged. Let’s not kid ourselves that we signed up for an authentic social experiment about human sexuality. Love Island is glossy, heavily tanned, over-produced escapism - and that's precisely why it's been so successful. Let's suspend our disbelief for a while and just enjoy the show for the Misguided-clad soap opera that it is.

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