Love Island is back and I couldn't be happier

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Alix Walker
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Here is a plea for culture snobs to get on board with season four of Love Island - it’ll enrich your life, I promise, says Stylist’s Alix Walker 

The world can be divided into three types of people. Those who screamed “YES” when they heard that series four of Love Island has been given an official start date - 4 June, people! – those who feigned nonchalance (while secretly setting their Sky Plus) and those who let out an audible groan of disgust. I am a fully signed up member of group number one. The kind of never-miss-an-episode/dedicated Love Island WhatsApp group/happily cancel all plans that won’t be over by 10pm, kind of fan. And I’ll be talking about it a lot over the next few months, so please don’t try to culture shame me.

Yes, I’m talking to all of the culture snobs who consider themselves way too high-brow to watch a TV show about a bunch of good looking people trying to find love in a giant villa in the middle of what looks like a deserted building site in Majorca, when they could be watching a Romanian documentary about the steel industries impact on visual poetry. (And then telling me about it, with a smug look on their face, while I YAWN.)

And actually, I’m not even sure I believe you. Because while the first two series were more of a niche hit (I, of course, watched them religiously and still think series two was the best), over two million people watched the show last summer, up 600,000 from the year before.

People who formerly considered themselves above ‘trash TV’ were hooked by Kem and Chris’ bromance, Muggy Mike’s general mugginess and Marcel who, despite reminding everyone he was in the Blazin’ Squad every five minutes, was the ultimate gentleman. 

“We like it because it’s pure escapism”

Politicians and intellectuals and broadsheet journalists were suddenly tweeting about ‘eggs in baskets’, ‘grafting’ and ‘my type on paper’. And they were very confused about it. Of course they couldn’t just admit they liked it for what it was. Their defence was to try and pseudo-intellectualise the phenomenon. 

People wrote 2000-word essays full of hyperbole on why otherwise intelligent people were reducing themselves to talking about dick-sand and Camilla’s passionate humanitarian speech. ‘It’s actually really clever editing,’ they argued. ‘It’s an anthropological look at youth of today.’ ‘It’s the antidote to Brexit and Trump and Tory leadership.’ ‘It’s...’

Oh, please. We like it because it’s pure escapism. We like it because it’s really good TV. We like it because it’s quite fun to look at good looking people getting off with other good looking people, while you’re sat on the sofa eating Digestive Thins. We like it because it spawned some of the funniest gifs on Twitter (please google Jason Staythumb and Muggy Mike). 

We like it because it takes you back to girls’ holidays in Ayia Napa/Marbella/Ibiza when you used to spend three hours getting ready for a night out, full of anticipation and giddiness, and had all the time in the world to dissect and analyse who your type on paper was. We like it because it’s nice to see the early stages of ‘love’, before real life gets in the way. We like it because there’s just enough light-hearted bitching to keep it interesting, but calling someone ‘muggy’ is a million miles away from the bile we see on the internet every day.

“We like it because it takes you back to girls’ holidays in Ayia Napa/Marbella/Ibiza”

“But how can you watch it? They’re all so superficial and thick!” Guess what? I don’t have to feel intellectually flattered by everything I watch or read or listen to. I’m no Amal Clooney, but I’m moderately secure enough in my own smarts to not feel like I need to leaf through a coffee table book on the history of wheat of an evening. 

Of course I like to feel challenged by a great documentary or podcast, or inspired by a brilliant exhibition, and I’m never without at least six books on my bedside table. But they don’t make me feel culturally superior. I really resent cultural showboating – yes, yes, we spotted you spent your weekend ticking off every exhibition in the city of London on Instagram – or being told what is and isn’t OK to like. (For the record, I do get David Bowie, I thought La La Land was bizarre and I’m a proud lover of Nineties R’n’B and the Fast and Furious franchise).

Love Island isn’t perfect. As a 30-something woman I am not influenced by the bodies, or the Botox or the boob jobs. The Islanders are a million miles away from my world and I’m looking in with intrigue, not aspiration. So I do worry that teenagers watching it might think that your bum is supposed to support a swimming costume which literally gets lost so far in your crack you may never find it. 

And yes, I do sincerely hope that it doesn’t make anyone aspire to a career selling dodgy weight-loss teas on their social media pages, which are so face-tuned they look like avatars. But I suspect the producers are becoming more aware of this – note Camilla’s casting last year - and I really do hope that will be reflected in the line-up this year. 

But we’ll have to see. Until then I shall proudly state that Love Island is 100% my type on paper. 

Images: Channel 4