The Malta Independent 24 February 2024, Saturday
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The villa where love goes to die

Sunday, 21 May 2023, 06:36 Last update: about 10 months ago

Alexander Mangion

Oscar winning actress Kate Winslet made a heart-wrenching appeal this week as she accepted her third BAFTA award. The celebrated A-lister was collecting the coveted prize for her leading role in a movie about the perils of harmful online material and the adverse effects it can have on the mental health of teens and young individuals. In her speech she minced no words and urged politicians to criminalise toxic online content.


Also this week, in a nicely transformed villa in the South of Malta, ten young men and women wrote history by becoming the first contestants of the first edition of Love Island Malta. In terms of production value, one cannot fault the show one bit. The TV programme had all the polish and glitz of its international counterparts, and the allure that spilled well into the following days, online and off, was more than understandable, since this is a world phenomenon Malta is getting to taste for the first time.

However, under the glossy surface that is the show, lies a toxic cocktail, scarcely suitable to be aired on the country’s national broadcaster.

In a modern society where we are constantly bombarded by misplaced values, and the commodification of virtually anything, Love Island takes all that is arguably wrong with society and celebrates it. Contestants are chosen to enter the villa apparently based solely on their physical appearance. This in itself, already sends a clear message to all viewers – if you are not tall, athletic, beautiful or handsome, you are already a failure.

This is immediately further underlined, as soon as all the contestants are in the house. The women are put in a single file (not unlike a line-up of slaves from an age gone by), and the males, who at this point don’t even know the women’s surnames, have to choose their preferred companion. I would think a show that has the pretence to celebrate love would at least offer the opportunity to the contestants to get to know each other before, but probably this would be too slow a process for the format. The cherry on this particular cake is that the men are also free to choose women who had already been chosen by a previous punter, truly underlining the noble values of the show.

The emphasis on society's narrow definition of beauty and the way human relations are reduced to transactional games, for public votes, and the eventual grand prize, send a damaging message to viewers, particularly impressionable young people.

Furthermore, the show also has serious issues of underrepresentation, completely ignoring entire sections of society in terms of background, but most significantly gender and sexual orientation. This only makes the programme all the more problematic.

Love Island sets all the wrong examples for susceptible young audiences who might not be equipped with the right life experiences to differentiate between reality and fantasy. However, the threats are even closer than that. The actual contestants have already been subjected to incredible online bullying, exposing them to repugnant comments and unfair judgement. A total and utter disaster.

Excuses that this is an international format which has been successful overseas, and that it has all been done before are unfortunately futile. Also abroad, the show has three victims to its name - three stunning individuals who couldn’t take the pressures mounted on them by the show, and who ended up doing the unthinkable.

I see absolutely no love on Love Island. It is a sad parody of the most significant process of growth a human can share with another, for the sake of sponsorship deals and cash money prizes. The fact that it is given prime time on the national broadcaster just renders the situation sadder.

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