By Sarah Molloy
We have all become familiar with the Love Island routine. By the time the clock strikes nine, we can all be found in our pyjamas, gathered on the couch with popcorn and chocolate, ready to commence our nightly tradition. At least, this has become the norm in my house every evening. We all bundle up, ready to lose ourselves in the glamorous world of the villa, where there is no rain lashing at our windows or wind howling through the night. This TV show has become an obsession for many of us, but what is it about the fantasy that has completely stolen our focus? Is the show just a harmless way for us to wind down in the evenings, or is it representative of problematic beauty standards developing in our generation? Love it or hate it, Love Island has become one of the biggest sensations on TV today.
For years, Love Island has come under fire for perpetuating harmful ideals of unrealistic body perfection. Each season, we are introduced to a fresh batch of tanned, toned and TV-ready singletons. They have achieved levels of conventional beauty that most people can’t reach without spending a ridiculous amount of money. We watch Love Island for the glamour, drama and Twitter reactions, but we get inspired by the contestant’s fashion choices, hairstyles and overall aesthetic. They are an aspiration that we can achieve if we buy their hair extensions, shop their Pretty Little Thing edit or try their teeth whitening kit. This is what Love Island really profits off. This is the simple reason why the TV show and all the contestants that participate in it get such attractive sponsorship deals; it is because we are buying the beauty standards they are selling.
Most of us have an understanding of this already, but when, if ever, does it go too far? It’s one thing to buy a dress online because your favourite Islander wore it beautifully last night, while it’s another to feel like you need to get lip and cheek fillers just to come close to looking like the people you see on your screen. What we’re seeing is more than just a trend; Love Island has managed to accelerate a societal shift in how we view beauty. In the years since Love Island has rocketed to fame, the number of us choosing to undergo cosmetic procedures has shot up alongside it. While many of us have adopted minor, safe beauty methods such as lash extensions and spray tans, there are also riskier measures being undertaken to achieve the Love Island look.
Unregulated products and procedures are becoming seen as a budget–friendly alternative to get the desired look of any influencer. Love Island–inspired package deals are being sold to people who are hoping to achieve the look that might one day get them on the show. People are even opting to travel abroad to get work done because of lower prices. The dental tourism industry has grown remarkably in recent years; however, a lot of the time patients have to seek medical help when they return home due to complications, poor quality work or a lack of aftercare. The same problems exist when travelling abroad for plastic surgeries. Yet, these procedures are becoming so normalised that we seem to forget that they are, in fact, medical procedures. We look for the best bargain when we should be looking for the safest solution.
I think that the industry that Love Island is part of abuses our insecurities by selling us solutions to problems we didn’t even know we had. Our seemingly constant need for self-improvement has been magnified by reality TV shows and the influencers that participate in them. Although, Love Island has positive aspects to it as well; it gets us talking about these issues, as well as others that have been highlighted on the show. It’s a topic you can talk about with so many people. I love watching it with my friends, but I have to keep in mind that while I might be busy laughing at something ridiculous happening on screen, someone else in the room might be feeling anxious because they’re obsessed with having lips just like the ones they’re seeing on TV. We must remember that Love Island is a fantasy; it’s not real life. Now, it’s all over for another few months, but if the thought of the show returning in the summer is affecting your mental health, please leave it off and talk to someone about your feelings.