OPINION: Why does the queer community enjoy Love Island so much?
“Imagine the drama/ratings of an all lesbian Love Island full of exes of exes of exes”
Whenever I need a break from the overwhelming heteronormative culture that surrounds me, I head over to Twitter. There I can always find a multitude of LGBTQ+ identifying individuals to surround myself with and make me feel more at home. Most days, I find discussions on topics such as toxic masculinity, slut-shaming, and lack of body diversity/queer representation in the media. Why then, when Love Island begins, does nearly all of my feed begin a love affair with a TV series that seems to glamourise all of these things?! (Note - I’m sure MANY queer people also hate the show, but my personal Twitter community go wild for it.)
The closest thing to queer in the three seasons of Love Island so far has been a date between two bi women in season two. Sophie Gradon had outwardly stated her sexuality early on in the show, and when Katie Salmon, another bisexual woman, entered the show, all the islanders started trying to force them together. Most of us have been in the classic situation where there’s only us and one other queer person at an event, and people desperately try to set us up. Sophie very correctly said that just because they’re both bi it doesn’t mean they fancy each other (although in this case of course they DID - there wasn’t much competition).
Although their romance only lasted a day or two, it lead to the boys in the villa clearly hypersexualising the pair and getting extremely overexcited about the concept of two women coupling up on the show. My faith in the programme was slightly restored when the women of the villa were quick to tell the men that they were disgusted with how they were acting and asking them if they’d ever actually “hung out with gay people before” (this of course completely erased the fact that they both identified as bisexual, but small victories have to be grabbed when it comes to Love Island).
There have been quite a few queer-baiting articles hinting at the possibility of a queer version of the show, but alas, there is currently no evidence of this happening any time soon. Their loss to be honest - IMAGINE the drama/ ratings of an all lesbian Love Island full of exes of exes of exes (hosted by The Fab 5 of course). For the time being, although not 100% happy about it, us queer folk can’t seem to stop watching the straight version.
When trying to get to the bottom of my own personal addiction to the show (and trust me I’m addicted - I’m currently watching Love Island AU AT THE SAME TIME as the UK version), I realised it actually makes me feel really really glad not to be straight. It’s a world I’m so far removed from that I find it absolutely fascinating to watch (from a distance). Being queer can be extremely hard sometimes, so I grab on to any show which makes me feel lucky and appreciative of my sexuality.
Ciara Maguire summed up my own feelings better than I ever could: “I watch Love Island in the same way I watch Blue Planet. Can’t relate, don’t truly understand it, but interesting to see how another species does their mating rituals”.
I realise it’s really not so deep for many others though. Teddy Edwardes, creator of Lick events, gave a pretty straightforward but very fair answer to my questioning: “I just think everyone loves it? I still hate all of the men in it, just good TV!”
For those of us who spend all our lives fighting against heteronormativity, sometimes when it hits 9pm we just want to put on some trashy, mind-numbing, addictive TV without worrying about all the many problems with it. It’s enjoyable to understand the memes that will be going around for all of summer, and it gives us something we can discuss with our straight friends. Teddy also thinks, “It’s good TV to have a load of men you can’t bear embarrass themselves... I’m always secretly waiting and hoping for the girls to end up coupling up together.” If that doesn’t summarise queer positivity I don’t know what does.
There’s a long, long list of overwhelmingly straight TV shows I’ve watched with a glimmer of hope that it’ll surprise me and get more queer against all odds. And who knows - maybe this will be the season that surprises us all. Even if not, you’ll find me gawping at my TV at 9pm every night for the next couple of months nonetheless...
Opinions expressed by contributors do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors of DIVA magazine or its publishers.
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