An interaction between Paige Thorne and Danica Taylor has become the most pivotal scene in ITV2’s Love Island, sparking heated online conversation around bullying.
There has been no shortage of explosive moments in this year’s Love Island. With hook-ups, break-ups, betrayals and many outrageous challenges in skimpy lycra, the cohort of single men, women (and bombshells) have brought all the requisite drama that avid fans of the long-running ITV show have come to expect every summer.
But for me, there is one moment of the current series that stands out above all others, and it doesn’t have anything to do with the contestant’s quest for love in Mallorca.
The moment I’m referring to has been the talk of Twitter since 29 June, when a dramatic recoupling gave the women of the Love Island villa the power to choose which men they wanted to be in a partnership with. During the ceremony, dancer Danica Taylor, who entered the villa as a bombshell, chose to couple up with Jay Younger, despite him telling her earlier in the day that he saw more “romantic potential” with another contestant, Antigoni Buxton. That being said, he did also tell her “you do you” – and, wanting to pursue a connection with someone that she felt sexual chemistry with, Danica elected to couple up with Jay.
Danica’s decision sent a ripple of hostility through the gathering that was palpable to those sitting beyond the TV screen, not least from Antigoni, who had also been planning to choose Jay. After Danica selected Jay, Antigoni mouthed: “I can’t believe this s**t,” while others shook their heads disapprovingly.
After the recoupling was over, the group quickly dispersed across the villa to debrief. Antigoni immediately gathered fellow islanders Paige Thorne, Tasha Gouri and Gemma Owen, where she expressed frustration that Danica had chosen to couple up with Jay, leaving her with no choice but to choose the last remaining islander, Charlie Radnedge. “I just don’t get it. Danica and Jay have no connection,” she told the group.
Soon after, Danica and another islander, Indiyah Polack, approached the group to join the conversation. But upon seeing their approach, Paige turned to the pair and said: “Girlies, do you mind if we just have a little catch-up and then we can all catch up together?”
Danica, taken aback, then replied: “You four?”
“Just us lot,” Paige replied. “It’s not like that.”
Danica and Indiyah acquiesced and left the group to have their private conversation. A gleeful Antigoni then gripped the hands of Tasha and Paige in gratitude, exclaiming: “Love you girls.”
The interaction immediately began trending on Twitter, with viewers expressing shock, anger and disappointment at the “schoolgirl” behaviour and “mean girl” vibes.
I didn’t have to look at Twitter to know that the scene would touch a nerve with other women. Seeing Danica turned away from partaking in a conversation transported me to my high school days, when I was routinely isolated from social gatherings at break time. The interaction, while playing out on my TV screen, literally reflected the pack behaviour of the bullies in those school years, and it wasn’t just the words that were so harmful. Aside from the instruction for Danica to back off, the deafening silence of the other three islanders sat with Paige – who widened their eyes and made passive-aggressive faces when they saw Danica – were so uncomfortable to watch that I felt as though I had been punched in the gut on her behalf.
Love Island, of course, is a heavily edited reality TV show, and it would be remiss of me to acknowledge that the footage we see every evening is but a narrow snapshot of what occurs in the villa. That being said, every season, there are moments of completely unfiltered behaviour – ranging from the smallest eye roll to the most explosive showdowns – where islanders stray beyond the script. It is what makes Love Island such a fascinating social experiment, because some emotions simply cannot be contained, no matter how much we attempt to keep a tight rein on our public image.
And moments like this are a reminder of how powerful reality TV can be. Even as we enjoy the lust, lycra and hilarious commentary of Iain Sterling, the much-loved staple of British TV has the power to spark dialogue around problematic behaviour and make a positive change in society. If we have learned anything from Love Island over the years, it is that bullying sits deeply in the memory – and when we have the opportunity to raise a flag to it, we all have a responsibility to speak up.
Images: ITV; Lifted Entertainment
Christobel Hastings is Stylist's Entertainment Editor whose specialist interests include pop culture, LGBTQ+ identity and lore.