Is This The Most Disturbing Love Island Ever?

I have found it hard, even triggering, to watch how the male contestants are treating the women they are coupled up with.

Love Island complaints

by Jessica Barrett |
Updated on

Is it just us, or has Love Island become hard to watch this series? Whilst it has undoubtedly had some extremely difficult moments on and off screen over the years, the show itself has been for the most part an antidote to the bad news of real life. With its genuinely funny narration by comedian Iain Stirling, ITV’s cult dating show is one that has spawned silly slogan t-shirts saying ‘Doing Bits Society’ and sold name-branded water bottles, a show which gave us Chris and Kem, and Hayley Hughes trying to figure out what Brexit was (‘Does it mean there’s no more trees?’).

But, even for the most dedicated of viewers like myself, this series has become hard to stomach. The euphoria of ‘Tit-gate’(aka one of the most entertaining moments in the show’s history when Andrew Le Page copped to ‘sucking [Coco’s] tits or whatever’, then switched it to ‘licked her tit, or whatever’) has crumbled, and the mood has turned both inside and outside the Mallorcan villa. This week charity Women’s Aid has been forced to make its *second* statement about the show after it was tagged in a ‘stream’ of posts on social media highlighting ‘misogynistic and controlling’ behaviour by some of the male contestants. That behaviour may just be some of the most problematic we’ve ever seen, triggering 3671 Ofcom complaints so far.

In the last week alone Luca Bish has been seen exhibiting concerning behaviour towards Gemma Owen, accusing her of entertaining a flirtation with Billy Brown and threatening to ‘explode’, Dami Hope branded Summer Botwe ‘fake’ and was accused of gaslighting her after she filled Indiyah Polack in on what had happened in Casa Amor. Plus, both Dami and Luca have embarked on what feels like a vendetta against Tash, regularly leaving her in tears after they have called her integrity and motives in her relationship with Andrew into question. After Tuesday night’s show viewers wondered if producers had been forced to intervene, asking Dami and Luca to apologise after they caused Tash to become upset during the Snog, Marry, Pie challenge. Viewers were horrified by what they saw as ‘bullying’, and wondered what the effect would be on Tash’s mental health.

Teresa Parker, head of communications and media relations at Women's Aid, says the charity speaks out about the programme as so many young people ‘are influenced by the show’ and are ‘learning what is acceptable in relationships’.

Women’s Aid had previously commented the week before, on the return of series four contestant Adam Collard, saying: ‘In the 2018 series of Love Island, we saw Rosie rightly call out Adam for his unacceptable behaviour, which included gaslighting and emotional abuse. We hope that ITV recognise how serious this issue is and that it must be learned from, considering they have asked Adam to return to the show.’ Yet, so far, Adam has appeared to be exhibiting far less red flags than some of his housemates - which perhaps says a lot about this series which has seen Davide yelling at Ekin-Su that she’s a liar and Billy laughing his way through a conversation with an emotional Danica.

There were disturbing events surrounding Jacques’s exit last week, when he became volatile after Adam entered the villa and showed interest in Paige. It was even speculated that producers had intervened to ask him to leave for his own good, although Love Island's executive producer, Mike Spencer, told Deadline this wasn’t the case: ‘When you date, your emotions are naturally up and down. Finding love is not a simple thing, that’s why the show is so relatable.’ Prior to this Jacques’s family had already been forced to speak out about his poor behaviour on the show, however, revealing that he had been diagnosed with ADHD as a child, and explaining the condition can make those living with it appear ‘rude or disrespectful’. They added, ‘These behaviours can stem from challenges with self-control, executive functioning and self-stimulating actions. How you perceive their behaviour often depends on your understanding of ADHD symptoms.’ Speaking to The Sun, Jacques said he had started to feel in the villa like ‘things could go horribly wrong’.

I don’t think I’m alone in saying I have found it hard, even triggering, to watch how the male contestants are treating the women they are coupled up with - whether you think it's ‘just a game’ or not. There also seems to be no loyalty or camaraderie offered to those girls they aren’t coupled with either. In past series watching the platonic friendships grow between boys and girls has been as big a joy as the romances. This year, however, it has felt like Lord of the Flies as the boys seemingly endeavour to one up the girls and gaslight them into accepting worse and worse behaviour - always hooting and egging one another on from the sidelines - while we all watch at home wondering if this is even entertainment anymore.

Of course, as with any discussion about Love Island, there is a huge duty of care element here to ensure the safety of the contestants. Both the girls, who are being subjected to problematic behaviour, and the boys, who will be facing vitriol and abuse as a result of their behaviour, will need to be properly protected once the show ends next month. The admins for Dami and Luca’s social media accounts posted on Monday, urging followers to remember to be kind after a slew of negative comments.

No matter what you think of their behaviour it’s important to remember we see a 60 minute, carefully manipulated edit of what’s happened, and they will be unprepared for the response they have elicited. ITV has always maintained its dedication to after-care and published its duty of care protocols before this series began, laying out that each contestant would get coaching to adjust to life outside the villa (including social media and financial training), eight therapy sessions and fourteen months of support with additional psychological support offered if necessary.

I’d like to think that this series can recover, and we can enjoy some fun final episodes and final dates, but with the damaging behaviour that’s been exhibited, it’s going to be tough to turn things around. For the first time ever, I don’t think there’s one couple certain to win, and that’s because of the boys’ behaviour. The girls all deserve better, and by watching and voting along, it may feel as if we’re validating what they’ve been subjected to.

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