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Are dark clouds gathering over Love Island?

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Published on 03 June 2019

Love Island
Love Island

It’s that time of year again.

Reality TV show Love Island is returning to our screens on Monday.

But is there trouble in paradise as dark clouds gather over the popular show which has developed a large following among Millennials?

Questions over the mental health of contestants, as well as the care offered to those taking part has been a talking point over recent years.

More recently, the programme-makers released a detailed account of the duty of care process each contestant will go through before entering the series five villa.

The show has been questioned following the deaths of series two’s Sophie Gradon and series three’s Mike Thallasitis due to suicide this year.

Here, Angela Smith, Professor of Language and Culture at the University of Sunderland, discusses why the new series, and the health of its participants, will be scrutinised more closely than ever.

For anyone who doesn’t know, Love Island sees a group of singletons living in isolation in a Mallorca villa, constantly under video surveillance. To survive in the villa the contestants must be couple up, with the overall aim of winning £50,000.

Professor Smith said: “Love Island has been mentioned in relation to the recent discussions about the Jeremy Kyle Show. 

“Whilst the two shows would appear to be very different, the similarities drawn by commentators covering the sad death of one participant on the Jeremy Kyle Show also drew links with the desperately sad fate of two previous participants on Love Island. 

“Questions were raised about the level of post-filming care that both shows provided.  In the case of the Jeremy Kyle Show, this had been a topic of discussion for many years. 

The post-filming care is obviously now in the public eye. However, might it be a good idea to also look more carefully at the selection of participants in the first place?

“It is clearly the case that on Love Island, the participants are initially selected for their youth and looks, with anyone who is not exhibiting an idealised 'beach body' being commented on to draw attention to that body.

“However, it is also the case that the extravert personalities of such participants are part of the reason they are perceived to be 'good TV' and therefore selected to take part.

“This focus on the body is also emphasised implicitly by the sponsorship deals for the programme, such as the 2018 sponsorship by a retailer in the UK which marketed a range of beach-body-perfect and beach-ready products. 

“Is the emphasis on 'good TV' participants, the very people we find interesting and engaging, being made at the expense of an initial assessment for mental robustness?”

In a digital world, Love Island combines ‘old school’ TV with social media. With tens of thousands taking to social media before, during and after the show, further adding to the massive focus and scrutiny on contestants.

Love Island begins on ITV2 on Monday, June 3