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Love Island 2019: Why this is the most disappointing line-up yet

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Billie Bhatia
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Love Island is set to take over the nation’s screens next week and if the initial line-up is anything to go by, there is little to no body diversity to be seen. In a move that has proven hugely disappointing and following a clap-back of complaints, the show’s producers have finally responded…

Both of the May bank holidays have been and gone, the days are getting longer and commutes are getting progressively sweatier. It can only mean one thing: Love Island is coming.

That’s right: now is the time of year when we bin off all social engagements in the sunshine, all so we can sit inside and watch a bunch of singletons mooch around a villa in barely-there swimwear as they endeavour to find love. 

I first watched Love Island around three years ago, when I was full of flu. Sat on the sofa feeling very sorry for myself, I decided to give the show everyone was talking about a go, and it was brilliant. I genuinely rooted for Nathan and Cara more than I did team Team GB at the Rio Olympics.

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The following year’s series of Love Island wasn’t quite as good. Sure, it was still pretty entertaining, but the only relationship I actually cared about was Kem and Chris. And then last year, along with the rest of the nation, I switched on the show’s opening episode. The line-up so homogenised that I turned it off straight away and had to mute the majority of my WhatsApp groups (I still don’t know which one Megan is).

On 27 May, when the initial contestants for Love Island 2019 were announced, I was hopeful. Maybe I would see something a little better than last year, something more aligned to the fact that this is 2019. I was excited about the idea that, in this new era of forward-thinking, there might just be a woman that looked a little bit like me on the screen. 

I was wrong.

I looked at the line of 12 twenty-somethings heading to Mallorca and my heart sank, because there was little to no improvement on the year before. I couldn’t identify with any of the women that stood before me in high-cut swimwear. They were all thin (yes, there were curves, but I would hardly attribute that to body diversity).

Where was the woman representing 2019?

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It’s not just Love Island’s lack of body diversity which is so grossly disappointing: it’s actually the blatant disregard for a huge proportion of the nation, all of whom, I’m sure, tune in night on night to watch the ‘love’ unfold.

Because, by ignoring the existence of women who aren’t this ‘ideal’, Love Island is basically saying we aren’t worthy of love. That being anything over a size 10 is unattractive and not fit for public television. That it is absolutely impossible they will ever find love.

With such a huge focus on appearance, is there actually any room for love on Love Island? Or should we rename it: Skinny People Who All Look The Same Go On Holiday Together, Have Loads Of Sex, And There Is A Possibility They Might Find Love… But, Like The Contestants, It’s Slim

I think it has a ring to it if you ask me.

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The focus of the show is clear: appearance, appearance, appearance. And, in a time where people are so desperately trying to shift that focus and prove we are more than what we look like, it’s sad to see that appearance is still coming up trumps.

Why are we (I’m looking at you, ITV2) putting such an emphasis on body ideals and proclaiming that people aren’t good enough if they don’t meet them? According to the show, it doesn’t matter if you’re the funniest person, the brightest, the kindest, the most compassionate. It doesn’t matter if you’re just inherently good. Nope, bin all that: no one will love you if you don’t have a flat stomach, perky breasts and an even perkier butt. 

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It’s ironic, really,  that the contestants who have made the biggest impact with viewers were the ones that had the most entertaining personalities – Cara, Nathan, Jack, Danni, Kem and Chris. Even more ironically (bar Chris), these were the contestants that didn’t look as if they were pagenat queens or, y’know, carved from stone.

A spokesperson for Love Island has said: “When casting for Love Island, we always strive to reflect the age, experiences and diversity of our audience and this year is no exception with a cross section of different personalities and backgrounds in the villa.”

Maybe they are waiting for their moment to do better, maybe the contestants that will be joining the villa in due course will be more accurate to that statement – more diverse and more representative. 

Since this statement was released along with the line-up of this year’s contestants - which have been met with cries of disappointment (including my own) - the show’s co-creator and producer, Richard Cowles, has responded with the following: “You try and be as representative and diverse as possible, but it has to come back to, first and foremost, it’s an entertainment show, and it’s about people wanting to watch people on screen and them reacting and falling in love with one another.”

“Where else can you watch people who arrive as strangers fall in love in eight weeks? That’s an amazing thing, to watch love in real time. Yes, we want to be as representative as possible but we also want them to be attracted to one another.” 

“We’re not saying everyone in there is how you’re supposed to look,” he continued. “What we’re saying is: ‘Here’s a group of people you want to watch for eight weeks and we want to watch them fall in love.’ And it doesn’t mean that’s not in the front of our minds, but we do want to be as diverse as possible.”

Until this statement I was mildly hopeful there come be some diversity on the horizon, but now along with being unlovable and undesirable, those women who don’t feel represented in the show, can also add unwatchable to their remit.

Thank you, Love Island. 

Images: Courtesy of ITV / Instagram 

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Billie Bhatia

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