Love Island may be trashy reality TV – but it’s teaching men like me something vital

We should normalise men feeling vulnerable, and ditch the stereotype of good-looking, super-confident guys who always get the girl and cope with everything alone

Sunny Hundal
Thursday 16 June 2022 13:00
Comments
Jacques threatens to 'flatten' new boy Jay on Love Island

As I was watchingLove Island last night – this is my first season, so you’ll have to forgive me – it struck me that we are rarely allowed to see good-looking men show insecurity so openly.

Popular culture tends to present good-looking men in very plain terms. They are emotionally unavailable, tight-lipped, super confident and always get the girl they want. I went to see Top Gun: Maverick last week and Tom Cruise epitomised that persona perfectly.

You could apply the same male stereotype to James Bond, the Marvel films or literally most movies. Good-looking men are rarely shown to be insecure or self-conscious. And in their relationships, they just automatically get the girl without much effort.

Love Island makes no such pretence. And yes, sure, it’s reality TV and heavily edited, and Top Gun is a Hollywood movie. But the former is not only much closer to real life, it shows us a better depth of character than we would normally see on our screens.

On last night’s episode, two new men were introduced to the group as a surprise. All the other men lost their s***. They couldn’t handle it. They literally started palpitating at the thought of facing some competition. And it only got worse from there. As the two new guys went on dates with girls the other blokes had coupled up with, all they could do was watch from afar, seething with jealousy. It was excellent reality TV, I have to admit.

Ekin-Su, who had been coupled up with “Italian stallion” Davide, used the situation to her maximum advantage. She ended up going on dates with both the new arrivals and flirted with them outrageously throughout. She repeatedly told them that Davide wasn’t making enough of an effort with her.

By the end of the episode, the Italian stallion had been reduced to a blubbering pony. He oscillated between jealousy and despair at losing his girl so quickly. He wasn’t prepared for such a situation; he was used to girls fawning over him.

This wasn’t just carefully-edited reality TV, it was also real life. Watching a group of toned, tanned and good-looking guys – alpha males who were at the top of their game – showing so much insecurity reminded me of my university days. Little old me, who didn’t even have a girlfriend until he was 18, who had always felt helpless in front of the opposite sex, could relate to these guys.

But even now, in my 40s, I have trouble getting my male friends to open up about the emotional turmoil they may be going through. They would rather withdraw and go through it by themselves than share their thoughts with others. Men have long been encouraged, mostly thanks to popular culture, to ignore their emotions or suppress them. When they feel anxiety, they can frequently feel alone and like no one understands what they’re going through. But of course they are not.

To keep up to speed with all the latest opinions and comment, sign up to our free weekly Voices Dispatches newsletter by clicking here

We forget how much of our normal television consumption – particularly in terms of reality TV – is carefully edited to present such stereotypes. Men are supposed to be intelligent and confident, while women are too often portrayed as obsessed by their looks and insecure.

Yet, the truth is that even the most best-looking men feel insecure and anxious. They go through the same emotions, the same drama and the same feelings of insecurity as everyone else. They are far closer to Davide than Tom Cruise. (Though it might also help if Love Island had more body diversity, and didn’t just feature very muscly men and ultra-slim women.)

I say, normalise male insecurity on TV. Show men at their most vulnerable, not just as hard nuts who don’t let anything faze them. Normalise the idea that extremely good-looking men also go through anxiety, depression and insecurities like every other man.  If shows like Love Island can normalise men opening up about their very normal feelings, I can only salute the show. Ekin-Su and Davide, for now, you are my heroes.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in