Hit ITV reality TV show Love Island is no stranger to negative reviews, complaints, and online trolls, but the most recent series has sparked a whole new level of debate.
Some of the UK’s biggest domestic abuse charities have been forced to step in and take up conversation with ITV bosses following an onslaught of Ofcom complaints relating to instances of misogynistic and controlling behaviour exhibited on the show. This came after the charities found they were being tagged in such a large amount of social media posts form concerned viewers who felt that the charities needed to get involved.1
Women’s Aid are one of the charities involved following the increased discussion on social media platforms amongst viewers of the show. As a result, Teresa Parker, Head of Media Relations and Communications at Women’s Aid, has commented stating that Women’s Aid are in talks with ITV who have since shared with the charity their ‘inclusion training’. The charity has confirmed that there appeared to be a specific lack of information relating to ‘abusive relationships and an understanding of controlling behaviour in relationships.’2 While discussions appear positive, this insight is worrying considering the array of shows ITV produces which revolve around dating and relationships.
Another charity involved is Refuge, who issued a statement in direct response to called-out episodes of the show stating that gaslighting and manipulation were evident and condemning the individual’s involved.3 These comments related specifically to the behaviour of some male contestants who were accused of bullying following comments made about some of the female contestants on the show. The charity’s CEO, Ruth Davidson, stated concern around the show’s huge audience, particularly young people, adding that ‘popular culture has an important role to play in challenging these behaviours.’4 This raises a pertinent concern that young girls may come to accept the behaviour they see on the show as ‘normal’, risking finding themselves in toxic or even abusive relationships.
One challenge shown on the show resulted in over 1,500 Ofcom complaints and related to the treatment of contestant Tasha Ghouri.5 Following being ‘pied’ by three male contestants in a challenge called ‘Snog, Marry, Pie’, Ghouri has since stated that while she expected a level of banter, what actually happened surpassed that. Following these events, Tasha has also shared that she was ready to leave the show, only choosing to stay to see out the experience with partner Andrew Le Page. While the male contestants involved did later apologise to Ghouri, she stated the apology to be ‘bittersweet’.6 While the incident was called-out and discussed online, no action was taken and no statements made by ITV to state that such behaviour is not acceptable, on a reality TV show or in real life.
Further, Women’s Aid also got involved following this season’s return of previous contestant Adam Collard. Back in 2018, when Collard first appeared on the show, Women’s Aid released a statement accusing him of ‘emotional abuse’ in his treatment of a fellow female contestant.7 This sparked concern about ITV’s awareness of the toxic behaviour it was airing, as well as what it said about the consequences of such behaviour considering Collard was actively invited back onto the show.
Over 5,000 complaints were received in total following the 2022 season of Love Island. ITV boss Kevin Lygo has stated that he will ‘sit down and review’ this year’s show upon its finale, indicating a willingness to address and learn from what occurred in the season.8 However, this year’s 5,000 complaints is but a fraction of the record-breaking 25,000 complaints received for the show’s 2021 season. Further, Ofcom have announced that they will not be taking action over the thousands of complaints received, stating that the negative behaviour seen ‘was not shown in a positive light.’9 They also added that as the show focuses upon relationships, viewers ought to expect to see the highs and lows of such relationships, suggesting that the toxic behaviour shown is only something to expect in young relationships. Women’s Aid, among many others, strongly disagree.
So, are ITV really taking these accusations seriously, or are they adding to the notion that such behaviour is normal, to be expected, and just a part of modern relationships? Either way it seems clear that the UK’s leading domestic abuse charities are not going to let it go unacknowledged nor unchallenged and rightly so.
Written by Leah Harris
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