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The Problem With The Language Of Love Island

The Love Island lexicon tends infiltrate our lives very quickly. Before we know it, terms like 'muggy' and 'melt' slip into non-Love Island chat and the use of these words suddenly becomes high value cultural currency (even those most of these words are pretty common in the wider millennial vernacular). Seamlessly throwing 'factor 50 thick' into conversation will earn you a few extra cool points and describing someone as a 'peng sort' lets people know that yes, you are down with the kids.

As fun as it is may seem to mimic the slang-heavy dialogue of these bronze 20-something reality TV stars, the underlying semantics of some of the shows most popular phrases don't promote the healthiest of attitudes. There's a lot to unpick from the way we have been talking about love and relationships and, I hate to say it, sadly it's not all banter.

The boys' behaviour grated on us quite a bit this year. Even if you haven't followed the show intently over the last seven week's you'll still be familiar with the appalling way Adam treated the first three women he was coupled with. It took a few weeks for male Alex's arrogance and entitlement to cut through the nation's initial for him. But an attitude they've all shared at one point or another is a weird detachment from their own romantic decisions.

'I've had my head turned'

I can't be the only one who is really frustrated by the 'had my head turned' refrain. It was Josh's rationalisation when he chose newcomer Kaz over Georgia, who he was 'happily' coupled with at the time. It's how Wes described his abrupt move from Laura to Megan, and when Dani Dyer asked boyfriend Jack whether his 'head could be turned in the outside world' in the lie detector episode, it became the line that almost broke everyone's favourite couple.

Having your head turned isn't A Thing. At least, not in the way that the Love Island gang seem to be insinuating. Pursuing an alternative attraction is not incidental. Even in the case of Megan's assertive pursuit of Wes, no women in that villa have forced any of the male hands or enacted the 'turning' of heads. There are choices made in these complicated romantic scenarios, and we all have to take responsibility for them.

In describing every time one of the men (it is overwhelmingly more common among the men than the women) decide that they're more attracted to someone else as 'having their head turned', the responsibility is subtly shifted to the woman they find more attractive. It'd be different if the Love Island guys took the linguistically straightforward route of saying 'I have decided that I'm not very interested in this otherwise attractive woman I am with, so I have made the executive decision to pursue someone else who I deem more attractive. I am wholeheartedly conscious of my choice and forthcoming actions in this scenario'. But evidently, that doesn't happen. Instead, there's a reinforcement of this weird concept that it's not the guys fault if they stray towards someone else while they're in a relationship. The women do the 'head turning' for them.

'I'm not saying I'm not happy, but I could be happier'

A similar refrain echoed around the villa at the series mid-point when Wes, Josh and Adam quantified their 'grass is always greener' attitudes and the ease at which they switched between women. 'I'm not saying I'm not happy, but I could be happier', they'd say. 'I want something better than what I've got with you because I'm suddenly aware of other options', they'd mean.

'Dr Alex'

The inherent alignment of Alex with his profession - you'll only ever see him referred to as Dr Alex rather than plain old 'Alex' - invites us to attach a warped superiority to a very privileged young man whose recent treatment of Alexandra has been pretty gross. The fact that Alex is a doctor has somehow given him license to carry himself a certain way, expect to have his mere existence celebrated by women who are taught to want men of his professional standing, and be held less accountable for shoddy behaviour than the other male contestants. In referring to Alex, the bumbling 27-year-old from Wales, with the 'doctor' prefix, aren't we conflating his personality with the positive attributes we attach to the do-good doctor image? An image that, as it happens, he might not fit after all?

The way the Love Island contestants talk about themselves, each other, women and romance, does actually matter. It tells us a lot about how we are (still) conditioned to view gendered relationship dynamics and though, for the most part, the inference is that in 2018 there are too many ways to describe someone you fancy as 'fit', less trivial discoveries come out of the woodwork. When the semantics of the show make us think of willpower-less men at the mercy of women positioned as head-turning temptresses, it's no wonder that we're continuously surprised by the patterns of real-life rubbish behaviour that are reflected on reality TV shows.

MORE: The Love Island Memes That Are As Good As The Show Itself

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