Before This Year I’d Never Watched Love Island, Now I’m Addicted

This is entertainment writer Bonnie McLaren's public apology

chris taylor love island

by Bonnie McLaren |

As an entertainment writer, I have a horrible, dark confession to make. Until this summer, I hadn’t watched Love Island.

There, I’m sorry, I said it. But, unfortunately, the reasons why I didn’t watch it are even worse; it wasn’t on ethical grounds, or because I thought it would have an impact on my self-esteem.

It was mostly because I kind of thought I was too good for it. And also a bit because I thought I didn’t have the time to spend an hour every day for eight weeks - watching gloriously hot Instagram influencers ‘cracking on’.

Obviously, I was wrong on both fronts: this is my public apology.

Not only is Love Island incredibly entertaining, but, as this summer has proved, it turns out I actually have a lot of spare time. Whether I’ve come into the office an hour early – or actually cancelled my own dates – I’ve managed to watch every single episode of this year’s series. (And Unseen Bits.) That’s, like, over 53 hours so far.

It means I’ve fallen in and (very hastily) out of love with Curtis Pritchard; cried as Amy left the villa; written about why I fancy Greg so much; shouted ‘CHALDISH!’ on nights out (and at editorial meetings at work); and laughed so much at Tommy Fury talking about aliens that I nearly pissed myself.

I’m not alone in being a late convert. This year the ratings have peaked over 6million - and we haven't even got to the final yet. In comparison, last year, only 4million watched the finale - meaning that’s at least 2million more people who have become hooked on the love lives of a group of under 28-year-olds. (Even my mum, also tuning in for the first time, text me her thoughts after the first episode. ‘Jesus Christ,’ she wrote, after having 12 hours to process what she’d just seen. ‘That set back women’s rights by a good fifty years.’)

Previously working as a showbiz reporter for a newspaper, I attempted to bluff my way through day-to-day life pretending I knew what Casa Amor was. It was difficult to say the least. Interviewing ex-contestants was an insurmountable task. I remember being at a party last year, and having to interview Eyal. I struggled to speak, not because I was worried about how good looking he was – but literally because I had no idea what to ask him. (From what I haven’t erased from my brain, I remember that we spoke about David Attenborough for a long time.) Obviously, this year it’s been a lot easier chatting to people as they’ve been dumped from the villa; I even worked with Yewande to write an open letter to Amber.

I might now love Love Island, but that doesn’t mean I feel entirely moral watching it. Even though everyone on my Timeline seems to be tweeting about Maura’s ‘trobbin’ vagina, I find myself questioning whether it’s right to tune in. It appears as if producers push certain storylines - to the detriment of some contestants, and the benefit of others. The fact Jordan went after India, merely days after he asked Anna to be his girlfriend, set mine - and most of Twitter’s - alarm bells ringing.

But thankfully, following the deaths of Mike Thalassitis and Sophie Gradon, the aftercare seems to have improved. This year’s cohort of dumped islanders have maintained that producers are continually checking in on their well-being. Amy told Grazia how producers sorted therapy for her after she was brutally dumped by the country’s least-favourite ballroom dancer, Curtis. Yewande told us she had nothing but positive things to say about the way ITV have looked after her.

And as a woman who has struggled with an eating disorder, I do find it sad that nobody on the show looks like they’ve taken full advantage of an all-you-can-eat breakfast. (In the unlikely event they have, they would have undoubtedly burned it off in the gym straight after.) When questioned before the launch of the series, one of the bosses basically – and I’m paraphrasing here – said that the show could only be entertaining with insanely attractive contestants.

Yes, Love Island can be problematic, but it also does something important. The show acts as a catalyst for online and irl conversations about modern life/dating. Whether it's body positivity, gas lighting, mental health, male friendships or toxic masculinity, undeniably it makes you think. Sex positive Maura officially became a goddess when she refused a night in the Hideaway with Tom, after she overheard him wondering whether she was 'all mouth'. It was recognised that just because a woman is open about her sex life, it doesn't mean that she will necessarily sleep with literally any Tom, Dick or Harry.

On Monday, Love Island comes to an end – and I’m already planning whether I’m going to go to the cinema to watch the final, or whether I’m going to make the journey to watch it at a live experience in Brighton. It’s an occasion that needs to be marked, because after eight weeks of watching Tommy Fury being the nicest man alive, I just don’t know what I’m going to talk, or write, about. (At least until January, when the newly-announced Winter Love Island kicks off.)

If you told me twelve months ago that I’d be cancelling my own dates to watch Love Island, I would have laughed in your face - but, unfortunately, it’s a lot more exciting than my own love life. I have no regrets about spending my summer watching Ovie, Chris and Greg.

READ MORE: Megan Barton Hanson Exclusive: ‘I Find It Baffling That Love Island Have Completely Removed The Sex Scenes’

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