It’s unbearably pretentious to apply Freudian psychology to an ITV2 reality show, but without a doubt, Megan Barton Hanson is Love Island’s ‘id.’ Since touching down in Majorca one week into the show, the 24-year-old glamour model has wreaked havoc on the villa’s tiny community in her untrammeled pursuit of what – or who – she wants. She played the perennially sunburned Dr Alex off against ‘spiritual’ Eyal, before ditching the latter with the immortal knockback ‘You’re not exactly Jim Carrey.’ She caused a seemingly solid couple, Wes and Laura, to fall apart, ditched Wes for a man whose entire personality resided in his fake hipster glasses, then swapped back to Wes at the last minute. If that’s not living by the pleasure principle, I don’t know what is.
As a result of her not-actually-that-shocking antics, Megan’s been hailed as this year’s super villain. But look at the Love Island Twitter commentary, and you’ll find that most of the Megan-related vitriol doesn’t focus on her supposedly ‘muggy’ behavior, but on her 'real' face. Because Megan has had the temerity to have had some work done - £25,000 worth of work, if a plastic surgery expert is to be believed – and someone has dredged up a ‘before’ photo for us to compare and contrast. She has darker hair, pulled back from her face, her lips are less plump and she wears glasses. She’s also, it should be noted, a child of 12 years old, but that hasn’t held back the Internet’s collective wit. ‘Every lad in the villa should have this picture of Megan sent to their phones and then lets sic] see if they fancy her,’ tweeted the [@LoveIslandReact account. ‘She’s got no girl friends probably because none of them recognize her any more!’ posited another widely shared meme. And, for the last word, another gem from @LoveIslandReact: ‘Megan just likes the attention because she’s truly an ugly girl, inside and previously outside.’
Read between the tweets – and the headlines, screaming about her ‘unrecognisable’ and ‘shocking’ transformation – and there’s the glaring implication that Megan is deceiving the good blokes of the villa with her crafty fillers, dye job and non-surgical bum lift. It’s 2018, and cosmetic procedures are (for better or worse) becoming more widespread, yet plastic surgery is still somehow seen as dishonest. 'Fake' is a deeply gendered insult, one that (in the Love Island villa and in real life) is attached to women far more often than it is to men (raise your hand if you've ever internally screamed while a man has told you he likes 'natural girls, not fake ones wearing too much make-up'). If we’re threatened by how attractive someone is, it’s easy – reassuring, too – to caveat that beauty. ‘Yes, but look at all the work she’s had done – look at what she looked like before,’ we can say, then bask in the moral superiority that comes with our imperfect but real faces. But by the same logic, we're surely all a bit fake, whether we've coloured our hair or 'fake' tanned or just fallen for the lash-lengthening promise of a new mascara.
Megan’s before and after shots – and the greedy way we’ve scrambled to pick them apart - are a perfect illustration of the knotty Catch 22 of female beauty standards. Her teenage face has been branded ‘rough,’ ‘ugly,’ even – most bizarrely – like a ‘supply teacher.’ When we’re told that there’s only one way to be beautiful, it’s hardly a surprise that women opt for plastic surgery. We’re made to feel bad about our faces and bodies up to the point that we want to change them – but we are criticised when we make that change. Going under the knife isn’t a moral choice, it’s an aesthetic one – and it certainly does not make you an objectively ‘bad’ person. Let’s not knock down a woman for changing her appearance, but look at the culture, pressure and expectations the that might have made her want to do so.
Catch up on the best Love Island memes and Twitter reactions in the gallery below...