In 2017, the island of love Contestant Olivia Attwood has opened up about how she feels about her partner, Sam Gowland. “At the end of the day,” she said, “if you see a boy and you have the tic, it’s not okay.” Six years later, and “the ick” is now part of our everyday dating parlance, joining “it is what it is”, “crack on” and “mugged off” into the lexicon popularized by the ITV show .
This season, the 10th, ends on Monday with one of the four remaining couples declared the winner, taking home a prize of £50,000. Since its debut in 2015, the show has influenced the way we talk, what we wear, what our bodies look like, the memes we use on social media and how we decorate our gardens. The famous fire pit used in every show is now a staple of outdoor spaces across the UK.
the island of love still enjoys viewing figures of 1.5 million (despite surpassing its peak of 3.3 million viewers in 2019) and the show remains popular with 16-34 year olds. It represents both this age group, and shapes it – as evidenced by the relationship to language. “Hardly anything they say on the show is new,” said Tony Thorne, director of the slang and new language archive at King’s College London. “But they were brought together in this unique blend.” While most the island of love phrases have been used for decades, they are featured on the show’s platform and released back into circulation. “It’s that kind of feedback loop: on the street, to the media, and back on the street,” Thorne said.
Mike Spencer, the show’s executive producer, identifies the third series in 2017 as a turning point. “The social commentary started, the ratings really shot up. It regularly became the topic of the water cooler moment,” he said.
However, the influence of the series has not always been trivial. It has been heavily criticized for its impact on the mental health of those involved, largely due to the deaths of host Caroline Flack and former contestants Michael Thalassitis and Sophie Gradon – all of whom took their own lives. This season, ITV released a more extensive duty of care program to help islanders while in the villa and on their way out. He recommends contestants suspend their social media while on the show, helps them deal with the 24/7 filming, and offers therapy sessions when they leave the villa.
It has also been criticized for its lack of diversity, with contestants who are generally glamorous, young, heterosexual, able-bodied, gym-trained and white. Kai Fagan and Sanam Harrinanan became the first non-white winners in the last round, and there were more contestants of color in round 10 with islanders Whitney Adebayo, Tyrique Hyde and Ella Thomas.
Journalist Banseka Kayembe wrote about this development. She says it’s more of a reflection than a game-changer: “It’s actually about following what a lot of young people think about their circles and who they hang out with.” She describes seeing sleeping caps, wig headbands and durags – the hair accessories often used by the black community – on prime time television as “comforting”.
As a show cast with glamorous 20-somethings, the Islanders also reflect this demographic’s penchant for “adjustments” — cosmetic procedures such as Botox and fillers. This season, Jess Harding, Kady McDermott, Molly Marsh and Abi Moores have been open about such proceedings.
But the issue remains controversial: feminist organization Level Up successfully campaigned for plastic surgery ads to be removed from the island of love in 2018. Addressing Grace magazine, plastic surgeon Dr Nyla Raja said she received 40% of her new patient inquiries on the nights the show aired. When Harding mentioned “Turkey Teeth,” the popular phrase for veneers performed at cheaper prices in countries like Turkey, internet searches skyrocketed.
But, according to journalist Lauren O’Neill, attributing this to the show is simplistic: “It would be naïve to say that it’s just the fault of the island of love. It’s much more the result of a globalized idea of beauty,” she said.
And when it comes to body size, Spencer argues the review is “subjective.” “What my version of the body representation is to yours would be different,” he said. “I think we have a variety of body shapes on the show.” Although it is notable that there have been some variations over the past few seasons, the islanders still tend to be fit and into the gym.
Ed Conway, the founder of fitness studio Fit As in Leyton, east London, believes there is a negative impact on viewers: ‘It’s harmful to the young and impressionable as it promotes bodily vanity pure. The show’s producers and casting directors have a lot to answer for. Unfortunately, whole sections of the general public swallow it religiously.
THE the island of love the look is now cemented as complete glam for both men and women or, as one viewer described it, “every night is club night.” Every trend, from upside-down bikinis to name necklaces and water bottles, has been associated with the show.
the island of love ties to fast fashion company I Saw It First have also been criticized. Last year, the show signed up with eBay to dress contestants in “pre-loved” items. This has been hailed as a big win for sustainability, although some former islanders still support fast fashion brands.
According to eBay, searches for “pre-loved fashion” increased significantly between May and December 2022. “Partnering with the show has allowed us to reach mainstream audiences, and everyday shoppers are realizing the benefits second-hand buying and selling,” said eBay’s Kirsty Keoghan. “After all, they’re the ultimate style influencers.”
On the fashion side, this season the spotlight is on duty of care procedures. It should be noted that male roommates open up more. “I noticed that Tyrique [Hyde] talk about how there’s this pressure for guys to have this bravado and pent up feelings,” one viewer said. Producer Mike Spencer agreed, “As a young guy, he’s so articulate. If a young boy watches this, it may guide him through feelings he is experiencing for the first time.