Should Shows Like Love Island Be Banned?
I wasn’t sure whether to write this post. There will never be a right time to write about someone who has died. Especially when the cause of death was suicide.
But at the same time, there is a serious conversation that has to be had. I’m grateful to see that people are beginning to have it.
As most people will know, over the weekend Mike Thalassitis from Love Island died. The second person from the show to have ended their life, Sophie being the first.
How many more people have to die before something changes with these shows?
I don’t watch a lot of reality shows like Love Island. They’ve never held any sort of fascination for me. I used to watch Big Brother with my Grandma, but that’s about it. In fact, at work I was very outspoken about the fact that I didn’t like or agree with the concept of Love Island.
It’s a weird one, right? You take this bunch of strangers, who had very ordinary jobs and pretty ordinary lives. You throw them on an island together. You cut them off from any kind of support system or contact with the wider world. You film them for the general public’s entertainment.
Then they leave the show having gained some level of celebrity. Their lives are forever changed by this association with the show. But before they know it, many people have forgotten who they are.
Let’s not forget the countless social media posts and articles slating them for going on the show.
No wonder former contestants are suffering. Anyone would, after launching into the public eye in such a brutal way, after having had so much about you aired on TV. People who achieve fame through other means often have a disconnect from their fans. We don’t always know much about their private lives.
When you’ve spent weeks on camera finding 'love', the general public are going to treat you in a very different way.
The sad deaths of Mike and Sophie have shown that this can have devastating consequences.
Should the show, and others like it, stop airing?
We don’t need to see a bunch of beautiful strangers getting together on TV and lounging around in a stunning villa. It perpetuates society’s idea of beauty and pushes to the sidelines anyone who dares go against that. It also doesn’t do much good to the people who are gorgeous enough to get on in the first place.
The trouble with shows like Love Island is that it turns people’s lives into sport. We discuss their every move, often forgetting that the people on the show are real people.
The torrent of articles and tweets about the show would be enough to send anyone who left the island loopy.
And yes, you can argue that they knew what they were signing up for. But did they? No-one can prepare for their entire life to turn upside down like that. No-one. And no-one deserves to feel like they have no other option but to opt out of life.
I’ve been guilting of saying the Love Island cast are nothing but a bunch of vapid beautiful people. We’ve all been guilting of painting them in one way or another. But Mike’s death is a real wake up call, highlighting the true dangers of these shows.
Of course, there’s the other conversation to have here. The one around male suicide, and how so many men are reluctant to open up about their mental health.
If you’ve seen any articles about Mike’s death, you may have seen how all he wanted was a solution to the dark thoughts. Does this mean there needs to be a different approach to how we get men to open up and to straighten their brains out? Seems it.
I don’t know what the answer is here. I would love to see all reality TV shows that exploit vulnerable people taken off the air. We have plenty of other media to consume, we don’t need these TV shows too.
But they make money. They make a lot of money. They get people talking, in real life and on social media.
Does this mean then that we need the conversation around these shows to change? To stop picking the contestants to pieces and focusing only on one part of their lives?
What is clear is that there needs to be some kind of ongoing psychological support. And the right kind of psychological support, the kind they’re asking for. Not the kind someone thinks they need.
Mike was asking, clear in what he wanted. But he didn’t get it. And now he will never get that support.
This cannot happen again.
I urge you, if Love Island comes back, to change the way you consume and talk about the show. Don’t forget about Mike, and what his legacy now stands for. Be mindful how you talk about people on social media. Call out those websites and twitter accounts slating the contestants.
They are real people. Not some made up show created for your entertainment.
What do you think about Love Island and other reality shows?