• Natalie Brundle

Human Heartache in Love Island

When watching a reality television show where all the contestants that go on it are guaranteed contracts and sponsorships when they leave, you hardly expect to witness genuine, intelligent people on your screens. In 2016, the year of Brexit, Trump, killer clowns and Harambe, Love Island quickly burst into the lives of many Brits wishing to escape the horrors of reality; life seemed so bleak, Love Island made it seem so frivolous. The show now seems unstoppable, with recreations in both Australia and now the USA, and those that enter are nearly all assumed to be there for the money afterwards - how can't these stunning individuals find a date? The answer it that they can, they just want the other side of what Love Island provides.

Perhaps that is why this season of Love Island has shocked me so much, not for the fact that I've witnessed how fake and at often times dim the contestants are, but for how genuine their heartache is, and how painful it is to watch and relate to.

It's not all doom and gloom however. Watching Tommy strut into the villa, I pegged him as a heartbreaker, there to wreck romances. But as we near the end of this summer in the villa, the entire nation has fallen in love with the soft-hearted boxer who cares just as much for Molly-Mae's toy elephant (Ellie-Bellie) as much as he loves Molly herself. We watch these people at every moment of the day, so there are little places to hide, and we watched as Tommy slept clutching Ellie-Bellie to his chest each night Molly was away in Casa Amor; we watched as he mindlessly played with the toy when he believed no one was there. In short: we witnessed a man fall aimlessly in love with someone, risking potential 'reputation damage', and now when we hear Tommy say that if Molly was kicked from the villa he would leave immediately, we don't doubt him.

Yet there's another side to this particular season of Love Island, one masked thinly with toxic masculinity and echoed around the villa through a mantra of 'childish' behaviour and 'immaturity'. Genuine, raw, human heartache is not something you expect when watching a reality television show, but this is perhaps why Love Island is so successful. What makes it different this season, is how many of the males in the villa diminish the heartache of the females they are coupled up with.

The introduction of Casa Amor, where the girls and boys are split up for a few days and live with 6 new boys and 6 new girls respectively to test their loyalty, always thrives in drama. Last year we got the iconic Georgia reaction when Josh walked back with Kaz, despite Georgia staying loyal (she's LOYAL babes!). This year, we found ourselves anxiously watching as both Amber and Amy realised their love for Micheal and Curtis, while the boys swiftly moved on to new women.

There wasn't a dry eye for any viewer as Amy confessed her love for Curtis to us while the scene cut to Curtis telling a newcomer that he could couple up with her instead. To those who judge the show, to those who mock the contestants, I challenge you to watch the fall out of Casa Amor and not feel for Amy. I challenge you to watch as Amy cries alone, asking the nation why she is never enough for someone. I challenge you to watch as she decides to leave the villa, putting Curtis's feelings before her own, placing her own health before the fame and money, and ultimately thanking Curtis for allowing her to fall in love with him.

The issue so many people have with Love Island as a concept is that it is full of money-grabbing idiots, but when actually watching the show you are reminded that these are real people in there, and that they all still feel true heartbreak when it happens. Yes, there are undeniably contestants in there who are in it for the money and fame (see Michael choosing to stay in the villa after Joanna left, you're an asshole and no one likes you), but there are also people there who truly believed they would find love.

There is such raw, emotive human heartache on the show that it often becomes overwhelming for the viewer, and I can't imagine how it must feel for the contestants. Take Amber, who began so closed off as many of us do, who finally opened up to someone, only to have them drop her as soon as he got the chance and blame every problem with their relationship on her. The troubling issue watching Amber's struggle is the way Michael handled the entire situation, belittling her emotions and pain into an act of 'immaturity' and 'childishness'. When Amber tells Michael she's hurting, he finds any way to justify his borderline cheating behavior instead of simply apologizing; when he does apologize, it's tucked away in a torrent of denial that he is in the wrong. It got to the stage that Amber blamed herself for Michael leaving her for another woman, to which Micheal agreed.

Gaslighting and belittlement of females' emotions is a huge problem in this day and age, and Love Island brings these issues to the limelight. While it's often that the men in the actual villa are clueless as to the issue with their behaviour (see Anton treating Belle like crap and then getting angry when she confronts him about it), the nation can see these problems clear as day. Twitter explodes every night from 9pm to 10pm with people tweeting about the antics of the islanders, and it has been a vocal hub for calling out the toxic behaviour from certain men in the villa, and a support centre for the females suffering from it.

It is then the brilliance of Love Island that these issues can be viewed from both the female and male point of view. We as a nation get an insight both into the lad culture that plagues the villa and the often confusing minds of females, we see both sides justify themselves and reason their arguments. What this season is showing, is how damaging lad culture can be, for every time a woman stands up and defends herself in recent episodes, the men (excluding a good few, such as the saint Tommy) see this as an act of 'immaturity'. Maybe these men have not yet developed an emotional capacity large enough to understand that females have emotions as well, or maybe men are so often unable to cope with admitting they hurt someone.

This is by no means meant to taken as a generalisation, there are many good men out there, but what Love Island does so brilliantly is point out the little issues with men and feminism and being decent human beings. Are the females in the villa perfect? Not by any means, but their flaws pale in comparison to the glaring one that is that the men disregard female emotions and human heartache as damning behaviours.

There are many stupid qualities to Love Island, and many flaws as to how it works and is produced, but if it can teach us how to better understand one another, how to better treat one another, by showing us brutal human heartbreak on our screens, then isn't that a positive?

If anything, by showing the nation these problems, Love Island has created a discussion that might not have been made otherwise.

Hopefully in the future we'll be able to watch a season of Love Island filled with men like Tommy, and through our escape to the world of the frivolous and stupid, we can continue to learn, and grow, and always, always, talk.

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