Love Island or Abuse Island?

Any Love Island fans in the house? Well regardless of whether you love it or hate it, it raised some rather interesting questions this week and I think we can all agree – fan or no – that it’s recent “storyline” has taken a bit of a turn.

Up to speed in 1 minute:

  • Lucie is coupled up with Joe. They’ve had a bit of a rocky start to their coupling with Lucie hitting it off with Tommy who came in after a few days and chose to couple up with her. Lucie decided to get to know Tommy, Joe was NOT happy about it and made her feel like shit despite not being her boyfriend, knowing her for a matter of days AND the whole situation being out of her control…
  • Lucie chose Joe over Tommy but despite having no love interest with Tommy, they have become the very closest of friends.
  • Lucie doesn’t really spend much time with the other girls in the villa. Whilst she’s never been unkind to them or had any fall outs, she just seems to like her own space or to be “with the lads”.
  • Lucie is getting a lot of stick about not being “a girl’s girl” whatever the hell that means. From Amy, the girl she was friendliest with when she was having Joe/Tommy woes, who appears to feel pushed aside and resents that she isn’t “making friends”.
  • There have been multiple comments and arguments over Lucie “not making an effort” with the girls in the villa, including a lot of shit stirring about her relationship with Tommy and how women can’t be friends with men.
  • Joe and Lucie have had a fall out over the whole shebang in which he’s told her he “wouldn’t be happy” about her having male friends on the outside/real world and that she needs to “change”.

Right, now we’re all up to speed ok? Ok.


Let us just take a moment of silence to appreciate the absolute brass bollocks of people like Joe… and then a further moment for putting them all in the bin. Say it with me loud and clear ladies and gents: You don’t own your partner. You don’t tell them they can and can’t be friends with people because you don’t like it and you sure as shit don’t manipulate them into “changing”.

Since the episodes have aired of tearful Lucie sitting alone after yet another dressing down from her fellow contestants and a further reminder from the already creepy Joe that he is not on her side, OfCom have received over 300 complaints and charities like Women’s Aid are urging ITV to step in.

Here’s the thing, I am a well rounded 30 year old woman who is capable of seeing gaslighting and emotional abuse a mile off. I’m also not Love Island’s target audience – I watch it because I love to switch off and watch something completely mindless. I see all of it’s many MANY flaws and I choose to look past them for a bit of daft relief on an evening (I also love the psychology of Love Island but that is a totally different post). Anyway I watch it, but I’m not the target. I watch it and I won’t buy merch. I won’t download the app. I just watch.

The target demographic for Love Island is not a stable 30 year old with three kids who looks at the Islanders as kids themselves, but is a teenage girl who probably hasn’t had many relationships herself. It’s a girl who is still asking her mum and dad to buy her the Love Island merch or using her allowance to get it, maybe even her first job wage when she’s at college or uni. It’s aimed at the under 25s and there is NOTHING more worrying than having someone else see emotional abuse as the norm.

When we talk about emotional abuse, we often think of the big stuff – he won’t let her have money, he won’t let her use a phone or he tells her she’s ugly… but women’s aid charities will tell you that isn’t how it starts.

It starts with “you’re so beautiful, I would do anything for you…” followed by a guilt trip because something out of her control happened.

It starts with “actually, I agree with these people, they have your best interests and I know what is right for you. I just want to care for you.”

It starts with “you can’t be friends with him because I’m not secure and you need to change.”

We need to address the way that things like this are shown to the viewing public, and question the duty of care that TV producers have to their audience and the participants of their shows. Would I like to see Love Island removed from air? Hell no – I love it. What I would like to see is an acknowledgement that this behaviour isn’t ok, that the way this young man is behaving isn’t the norm and needs to be challenged because, intentional or not, it’s abusive.

I’d like to know that the message was sent loud and clear to viewers, and whilst it’s clearly been challenged in the Love Island AfterSun show where Caroline Flack has a natter about the whole episode (or maybe it’s weekly… I don’t know, I don’t watch it!) I think it needs a firmer address from the behind the scenes team – even if it’s only “producers have checked in with Lucie to make sure that she is ok”.

I suppose the one thing that we can says is useful with programmes like Love Island is that it gives us the opportunity to talk to young people ourselves and make sure that they understand that it’s not normal to be told by someone that they hope you woke up and decided to change today – the onus is never on you to change as an individual to appease a partner, if they don’t like you for you then to the bin with they go. It gives us as a society a tool to educate and a talking point with kids, after all, we all love to chat about our fave TV programmes.

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