Three things I learned after watching Love Island for the first time

Love Island is perhaps a surprising – but still illuminating – reflection of our world

Davide and Ekin-Su share message after winning Love Island

After what seemed like an eternity, the eighth series of Love Island finally came to an anti-climatic end last night, with British-Turkish model Ekin-Su Cülcüloğlu and Italian entrepreneur Davide Sanclimenti taking the crown.

I say anti-climatic because if you had paid any attention to social media during the series, it was obvious both had accumulated an army of fans for their antics on the show. There would have been more drama – in the true spirit of Love Island – if Gemma Owen and her partner Luca Bish had won, because Twitter had already started trending "Rigged" at the shock they had made the top two.

This was my first ever experience of watching Love Island (fiercely encouraged by my partner, who loves the show for possibly different reasons to me) and – I can’t lie – it was more illuminating than I expected.

For the uninitiated, Love Island is of course a reality TV show where a group of good-looking people get shacked up together in a villa, and have to survive by coupling up with someone and not getting voted out by their peers or the audience. Everyone knows they’re being filmed and constantly recorded. But that doesn’t mean the show cannot tell us something about the real world – it wouldn’t be so successful if it wasn’t a reflection of us in some way.

So here are three things I learned from watching Love Island for the first time:

People like drama, but not too much drama

Almost every week in Love Island involved either the introduction of new "bombshells" (entrants) or games designed to get everyone flirting. The biggest “bombshell” was the introduction of previous contestant Adam Collard, who was smooth on a level that Rishi Sunak can only dream of. These interventions are designed to cause pure chaos and I loved them. I wanted more drama and more chaos every day. But I was in a minority.

Everyone around me complained if there was too much chaos and drama. Perhaps they were more emotionally attached to the characters than I was? I wanted to see maximum upheaval, but people complained every time someone was upset or angry. They wanted to see relationships develop and flower, and give everyone some time and space to get settled with each other. The producers had to get the balance right to have a winning show. Get it wrong and you have either angry or bored viewers. Lesson: life demands balance, not just in Love Island but everywhere else too.

Buff people are deeply insecure too

Everyone comes into Love Island full of confidence, charm and a conviction that others would soon be falling at their feet. But as soon as that confidence came into contact with reality, they turned into a blubbering mess. The men were far worse in this regard. Love Island was living proof that it doesn’t matter how good looking and well-built you are, how much confidence you have, you can still be dogged by the same insecurities as “ordinary” folk.

Luca, who coupled up with Gemma Owen early on, was easily the most insecure person at the villa, and got annoyed over minor interactions she had with anyone. You could call it controlling behaviour, except it was clear Gemma was not going to be ordered around by anyone.

In TV shows or movies, the main male characters are almost always shown as strong, confident role models – but not on Love Island. Here, there was no script and no choreography, and it showed because the men were uniformly terrible. I don’t think they were toxic or horrible – they were just insecure and jealous.

Lesson: it doesn’t matter if you are a model or a gym-enthusiast, you are still troubled inside like the rest of us.

People are hopeless romantics

Honestly, this shouldn’t have come as a surprise but it was still annoying when it hit me. The dates the couples went on were shockingly cringey; the love speeches they made for each other would have been laughed out of the room in the real world, especially since they were offered within just a few weeks of coupling. The talks they had with each other were downright embarassing, especially when you knew the couple wouldn’t survive a week after leaving the villa.

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And yet, the audience bought it hook, line and sinker. I can’t even see Ekin-Su and Davide surviving as a couple for too long – on that note Indiyah and Dami were my favourite – but people are hopeless romantics. By the end of the season everyone on social media was falling in love too.

The audience wanted the fairytale ending so badly and the producers knew it – lining them up with gorgeous dates in the last week. Even if we didn’t expect them to last, we believed in them and wanted it for them. And perhaps that’s all that mattered.

Lesson: Reality is nice, but stories are better.

Love Island is successful precisely because it looks like reality, while it’s telling us a fairytale story about love and beautiful endings. The drama is just the cherry on top.

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