It’s back. After a whole year, the sundrenched, bikini-clad gawp-fest that is ‘Love Island’ is returning to our screens. Love it or hate it, the hype around the fifth season is already sweeping across the internet, just in time for summer exams. However, recent discussions surrounding the duty of care that reality TV provides for its contestants has resulted in a backlash against the programme, especially in light of the tragic deaths of two former islanders.
Undoubtedly the easiest thing to criticise ‘Love Island’ for is its unrealistic portrayal of body image. Defending the casting decisions, the Controller of ITV Digital Channels said at the Edinburgh TV Festival: “I think on the body image thing, we cast very attractive people because it’s a sexy show.” Being a “sexy show” evidently results in a cast who look as if they spend half their life in the gym, and the other half in the tanning salon. In fact, these are the main activities the islanders seem to participate in throughout the show, either seen lounging around on sun beds or pumping dumbbells in the scorching heat. Interestingly though, one activity we rarely see the islanders engaged in is mealtimes, with the only memorable instances coming from the dates we get to see, or when preparing food is set as a challenge.
One assumption is that the islanders, being lean, mean, grafting machines, are starving themselves to keep their trim physiques; however, reports from previous contestants suggest that this is far from the case. Montana Brown has revealed in interviews that all the contestants are in fact catered for extremely well, being served lunch and dinner, and being able to request specific foods. Breakfast is the only meal they have to prepare for themselves, which is why we do occasionally see contestants frying eggs in the mornings.
The producers’ excuse is that there isn’t time to show meals, while other reports have revealed that microphone checks take place as the contestants are eating, limiting what can be shown. Both reasons are valid, though don’t alter the damaging presentation of eating habits offered by the show. While it could be argued that the absence of mealtimes is simply another way in which reality TV distorts real life, it doesn’t square up well with the heightened attention to food given by shows such as ‘I’m a Celebrity.’ Rather, the imbalance of working out to eating could be considered psychologically damaging to impressionable viewers.
The solution to this problem is obvious. In the same way that the show cut scenes of contestants smoking, the show could include scenes of the contestants sat together eating. This would add a little normality to the strange foodless existence that is Love Island, as well as encouraging healthy eating habits.