Gird your loins, Love Island season is here. Yes, the villa-based happily ever after hunt is back on our screens from June 6. And, to the surprise of absolutely no one, this year’s female contestants have already started being judged online before the first episode of the series has even aired.
‘These are the gals rumoured to be in this year’s Love Island,’ tweeted Pretty Little Thing alongside pictures of student Kat Harrison, footballer Michael Owen’s daughter Gemma, beauty salon owner Sophie Draper and actor Ekin-Su Cülcüloğlu.
To put it mildly, the internet did not like what it saw and the comments on the post reflected that. ‘The whole superficial look is getting old,’ wrote one user. ‘Can already tell this season’s contestants are gonna have personalities like a brick,’ wrote another. ‘These are fake huns,’ chimed in a third, while another simply responded with a picture of a Bratz doll.
The complaint that Love Island contestants ‘look the same’ – or, to be specific, are often the same race, body type and sexual orientation, is just. There have long been calls for greater diversity on the reality show and, from the public’s reaction to the rumoured contestants, it’s clear that viewers are getting bored of repetitive casting decisions.
That being said, this doesn’t justify women (who haven’t even been confirmed as contestants yet!) being ridiculed for their appearance, intelligence, and personality. ‘God damn some of the comments on this thread is probably the reason these ladies got work done in the first place,’ responded one Twitter user to the outpouring of judgement. ‘Such a shame that it’s mainly women hating on other women, too.’
Meanwhile, the rumoured male contestants (basketball player Jordan Spencer, boxer Joshua Legrove and Zara McDermott’s brother Brad) have experienced little scrutiny for also adhering to Love Island’s traditional influencer aesthetic.
In fact, Love Island’s men are rarely discussed by the public or the tabloids until they’re in front of our eyes on the programme. And, even then, they’re judged much less harshly than the women for their appearance and much more so for their actual actions in the villa.
Although the cries for greater diversity on Love Island are justified, the nasty remarks about Kat, Gemma, Sophie and Ekin’s appearance are founded in misogyny – and it doesn’t affect the show. ‘You do know they do this on purpose right?’ wrote one Twitter user. ‘It gets average people angry and tweeting about it. Means more exposure. The show will never change.’
For 2021 Love Island contestants, as with many cast members before them, trolling reached unmanageable levels. Sharon Gaffka was bombarded with violent messages while Chloe Burrows family were forced to seek police intervention after death threats were made to her Instagram account just days after her arrival on the show. We cannot justify a repeat of this behaviour in the name of progress.
Yes, Love Island should absolutely be inclusive — but trolling people with no power to make it happen simply isn’t the way to demand change.