Is Love Island dumbing down the nation?

There are only two types of people in this country these days, those who watch Love Island and those who choose not to. This year Love Island is everywhere and, inevitably, some people aren’t happy about it. Piers Morgan is most certainly one of them, taking to Good Morning Britain at any opportunity to lament the “mental abilities of contestants” and brand them “the most stupid people in the world.” Is Morgan a snobby, classist pig as many believe or does he have a point? Does Love Island encourage people to be ‘stupid’? UNiDAYS presents the debate.

This year’s series has certainly been littered with its fair share of dumb moments. People young and old were shocked to hear a conversation among the girls of the villa on Brexit, in which Hayley asked, ‘So does that mean we won’t have any trees?’ after the UK leaves the European Union.

And later, Hayley was shown asking the girls for some geography lessons. She asked, “what’s the difference between a country and a county?”, confusing Essex for a continent and Liverpool for a country. She also asked whether Spain was in the UK. This led Piers Morgan to ponder, “I just don’t get the point of this... It just seems to me like we put the dimmest people in Britain into one lair and you all just try to have sex with each other.” However, Piers’ Good Morning Britain co-host Susanna Reid, an educated and accomplished anchorwoman, is a huge fan of the show and has argued, “I think it represents real life and you shouldn’t be snobby about whether people went to university or not.”

And it is here that we get to the crux of the debate; is Love Island, in fact, a reflection of real people in real life situations or is it a form of cheap entertainment which promotes superficiality over substance? Love Island contestants go on to accumulate millions of followers and, as such, have the power to influence large numbers of unsuspecting fans. The power of media and of its influencers is something society is only just beginning to grapple with, with the exponential propagation and pervasiveness of social media in the past decade. Influencers have the power to become role models; should we, then, be more discerning about the people we watch?

Others believe it's important to avoid classism and keep real people on our screens that represent the diversity of the nation.

Susanna Reid argues that we should be allowed to escape to the dramas and romance of the show, “Is it not fair enough just to be distracted in these hard times, by a little bit of floss… light relief”?”

Tanya McKinlay, speaking to The Telegraph, argued similarly, “My brain is so tired of dealing with all the drama of Brexit”. A student at the School of African and Oriental Studies, Tanya added, “There's something about tuning into all that petty drama after a long day that's really relaxing."

The show has however stimulated positive debate. After Adam dumped Rosie for new girl Zara, Love Island fans all over the UK took to social media in horror. Many even accused Adam of emotional abuse and gaslighting (manipulating someone by psychological means into doubting their own sanity). Domestic abuse charity, Women’s Aid, said that there were “clear warning signs” in Adam Collard’s treatment of Rosie Williams in a warning about unhealthy behaviour in relationships. Lizzie Cernik, writing for The Guardian, has argued that “Love Island normalises emotional abuse – and we call it entertainment”. However, men and women all over the UK have condemned Adam for the way he treated Rosie and, arguably, this has drawn positive attention to issues of emotional abuse in relationships which otherwise may have gone unnoticed. Whether you agree that Adam was, in fact, guilty of gaslighting, his behaviour has brought an important issue into the public eye.

Rosie Williams, speaking on Good Morning Britain, said that she feels she has made a positive difference for women.

“I did always in my legal career want to make a difference and I wanted to go into criminal and family law but there’s no money in there right now, it does need to be completely revamped and looked at, so I ended up going into the civil and business side which it wasn't where my heart was. And I feel like now I have a large voice and I have a large following hopefully I could make a difference with empowering women and I’ve had so many girls - honestly, I’ve had so many girls come up to me since I’ve come home saying that I’ve helped them through breaks, that I’ve helped them not feel victimised and that they can stand up for themselves.”

Michael Ball says that Love Island is an important anthropological experiment, in response to Piers’ statement that “it kills brain cells”.

And Ball isn’t the only one who thinks so. “It’s so brutal it’s anthropologically interesting,” says Rosie Litterick for The Telegraph, who studied at the University of York. “From a feminist point of view, all the men are awful and treat the women terribly.” Last year, one male contestant called another a 'slag'. Rosie argues, "That was abuse. And it should have been treated like abuse, but it wasn't - it was on air for all to see.”

But others still disagree. Melvyn Bragg, one of more than 30 signatories of a letter published in The Times in April that warned the Government against changing the way degrees are funded, argued that “The popularity of series like Love Island show that we’re becoming increasingly eccentric and increasingly incompetent, in equal measure”.

Many were shocked that more people applied to Love Island 2018 than Oxbridge (85,000 applied to Love Island 2018 compared with 36,000 Oxbridge applicants).

However, others used this to highlight the inaccessibility of Oxbridge, and of higher education in general in the UK.

@mattsmithetc shows this...

The disparity between the proportions in this table and in the numbers of applications for Oxbridge and Love Island suggest that while many people want to go to Oxbridge, they don't necessarily feel its accessible to them. Does this say more about society, than about Love Island itself?

What do you think? Is Love Island dumbing down the nation?

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