After rejecting the Bachelor for 10 years, I started watching reality dating shows, and something unexpected happened. I really liked them…
Through high school, and my post-secondary education, I sat idly as my friends gathered weekly for wine, snacks, and new episodes of The Bachelor weekly. I was invited, but refused to watch because to me, the premise of the show seemed so unrealistic. And as both a realist, and pessimist of love, I wanted no part of any of it. A few summers ago, some friends said they were obsessed with a British show called Love Island. From what I could understand from their rantings about it, it had the same premise as The Bachelor – with a bunch of young, and conventionally very attractive people hanging out in swimwear. I was therefore uninterested… until a few weeks ago when everything changed.
After about a month of listening to nothing but Taylor Swift’s new album folklore, (and imagining myself going through the most tragic breakup of my life in a cabin in the middle of the woods with no cell service) I was due for a bit of a pick me up. Through one late-night browse on Crave I noticed the first five episodes of the American Love Island were available to stream. I thought “the world is burning, why not give Love Island a shot”. By the time I looked at the clock after finishing the fourth episode, it was 3:30 A.M. It was safe to say I was pretty much hooked. Crap. It turns out that I actually really loved Love Island, and I instantly wanted more. How could I have been depriving myself of this pure joy for years? If you don’t know what Love Island is, it’s basically a mix of The Bachelor and Big Brother. A number of men and women are sequestered in a “villa” (which in this case is a rooftop in Las Vegas since Covid-19 has prevented this season from taking place on a real island), and over the course of many weeks “couple up” with each other until all the sad, beautiful single people that nobody wants to couple up with are sent home. Eventually the last couple standing win some money, and as you can probably imagine, a moderate amount of social media fame for as long as they can manage to stay relevant.
Most of the “islanders” are under the age of 25 and are “sick of dating around”. Of course the next best option to online dating apps is to find eternal, and everlasting love on a reality show where you are in swimwear 80 per cent of the time, are forced to share a bed with someone as soon as you start casually seeing each other. Also while it’s being filmed and broadcasted all over North America. It’s natural, it’s organic, it’s very right now. While I have enjoyed watching the trails and tribulations of these very real, rock solid relationships, I can’t help but scream “this is so dumb” every once in a while, to avoid being sucked into the Love Island void completely. The thing with Love Island is that, there’s so much going on, it’s hard to look away.
I can safely say that I am more invested into all of the relationships on this show, than any romantic relationship I have ever personally been in. But the reality of the show isn’t lost on me. I’ve met a lot of people in my life, and I have never met anybody I like enough to marry. So the probability of being placed somewhere with a number of strangers, and being told you’ll find love with even just one of them to me seems low. It’s the very reason why I continue to abstain from The Bachelor franchise. The expectation that you’ll be engaged to one of twenty strangers producers have picked for you in a few weeks doesn’t sit right with me. Love Island, though follows a similar formula, feels different. I like options, and that’s what Love Island gives to you. The expectation of being on Love Island is to casually date multiple people, so the possibility of it ending in a proposal with a Neil Lane diamond courtesy of ABC isn’t the elephant in the room. And I kind of like it better that way.
The dramatics of the show is the main selling points, especially when you realize that most of the emotional breakdowns we see, are in fact over two-week long relationships. Love Island isn’t just a game to find love though, it is still a competition at the end of the day. It’s hard to see through all the blossoming friendships, but there are strategies at play, even if you can’t always see them. There are fan favourites, both individuals and couples. And because the show is being aired at the same time it’s being filmed, fans can vote on their favourite couples, and even on pairings for spicy one-on-one dates. But the thing I love most about watching Love Island, is the group chat conversations that happen with friends who also watch nightly. For the most part we’re all on the same page, but there are a few islanders nobody can agree on, and it keeps the discourse interesting.
Love Island and shows like it could be the perfect distraction from the absolute wreck the world is right now. It’s perfectly superficial, and there are enough episodes a week to suck you right into the drama of it all. It feels like you’re right there with them, on that Las Vegas rooftop, in your collection of ASOS swimwear. It’s still my personal nightmare to be involved in, but I’ll gladly continue watching from the comfort of my own home. I’ll continue to cheer for my girl Cely, and if Caleb and Justine don’t make it to the end, I will be devastated. But that’s Love Island baby! And much like 2020, it’s unpredictable and anything can happen.