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27.07.2018

Lessons from Love Island | Connecting with Culture

It had four times more applicants than Oxbridge this year. Even if you aren’t watching it, chances are that someone you know is.

Love Island: the ITV2 reality TV show, peaking at 3.7 million viewers – and we haven’t hit Monday’s final yet.

Its basic premise is simple: a group of attractive 20-somethings are put in a Majorcan villa, filmed 24/7, and to survive they must ‘couple up’. New contestants sporadically enter the villa, and there are ‘re-coupling’ ceremonies where contestants can change partners. If you end up single, you’re dumped from the show.

It is, quite frankly, brutal. There’s good reason that many people baulk at the very idea of it.

As well as being brutal, however, it somehow manages to do something fascinating. By bowing down to the idols of today’s culture – beauty, fame, and relationships – it inadvertently manages to expose them for what they truly are: a lie.

The contestants on Love Island are stereotypically beautiful. They are everything we often think equals success and happiness: tanned, toned, famous… and sexually desirable. Not only that, but they have been given the opportunity to find what many people want most of all: a romantic relationship.

The goals of our society are embodied in these swimsuit-clad humans, swanning around a villa in the Spanish sunshine, trying to find a mate.

We live in a world that tells us that if we’re attractive enough, thin enough, rich enough, famous enough, or just simply ‘in a relationship’, we will be happy.

Love Island, for all its flaws, shows this to be a lie.

From the girl crying ‘I just want to be enough for someone’ after being dumped, to the deep insecurities and flaws exhibited by every contestant, Love Island shows that the idols of today are doing what idols have always done: promising everything but delivering nothing.

This programme offers us an opportunity to speak truth to a generation, a culture that is – whether they realise it or not – watching their idols fall before their eyes. Love Island shows that even those who seem to ‘have it all’ will find themselves broken and disappointed when they put their hope in something fleeting.

It offers us the chance to speak of a God who, through the work of his Son, proclaims us to be ‘enough’, a Father who loves unconditionally, and a hope that remains even when the world which we have built for ourselves crumbles around us.

Author

Nell Goddard

Comments

  1. Spot on. Let’s pray we will recognise the opportunities to speak truth in the context of this show and that people will recognise the idols for what they are: fleeting and worthless. Thanks Nell.

    By Abigail - 27th July 2018
  2. Wow, what a wonderfully insightful analysis. This is hugely helpful. Thank you.

    By Michelle - 27th July 2018
  3. Well done Nell. You have verbalised what I was struggling to say although I have never watched it a lot of people have described it to me. It does sound brutal and I wonder if that girl will struggle with insecurities for the rest of her life? I hope not for her sake.

    By Christine - 27th July 2018
  4. I have never watched this since I assumed that the essence of such a programme would be as described by Nell. Even more sad that – presumably – educated adult “executives” could sit in a darkened room together and think up such an horrific scenario and commission it for television. Worse, that it seems that a large proportion of the general public can bring themselves to watch it. A sad reflection of the culture of our times.

    By Ros Steel - 27th July 2018
  5. Great insight, Nell! Well said!

    By Jennie Pollock - 27th July 2018
  6. Thanks for the explanation. I always wondered what it was about. You are very right, there are so many people watching it around me.

    By Ruth - 27th July 2018
  7. Brilliant – this resonates for me with Naomi Klein’s “No is not enough” insight into the Trump era of politics – in many ways that era represents everything that the western world has been idolising and working towards – but now we see it in action we realise it’s a lie and won’t bring human flourishing ….

    By Victor Tettmar - 27th July 2018
  8. Thank you. The other thing is that it has absolutely nothing to do with love! Love is not self-seeking sex, admiration and about me being desired. The only standard of love is given by God in Jesus and it is self-sacrificial. “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” Galatians 5:6. Jesus generated love expressed trough Jesus generated love.

    Fane Conant

    By Fane Conant - 27th July 2018
  9. I do not have television but if your description is in any degree accurate, which I am sure it is, it goes to show to what depths we have sunk and how desperately God is needed in our society and how much that society needs our prayers.

    By Edward Hogben - 27th July 2018
  10. I think we have to be very careful to ‘judge’ things that we haven’t seen for ourselves and rely on hearsay. I have watched Love Island with my student daughters and although it is absolutely an entertainment show and willing participants are exploited by the production team to create ‘sensational viewing’ it also raises many issues of what it is like to ‘date’ for young people whether Christian or not. Genuine love is not an exclusive gift for Christians, and amidst all the individuals in the show, one couple seem to have found in each other a love that is sincere, unselfish, giving, supportive and committed. They have not only found delight and joy, but acceptance and understanding, and like any young couple at the beginning of their lives I wish them well!

    By Debbie Wright - 27th July 2018
  11. Very true comments…………..however, my problem as somebody who works with people in the real world who watch this kind of thing, is how on earth to communicate to them what you say in the right way and that makes them ‘stop in their tracks’ ?

    By David - 27th July 2018
  12. This write up is very beautiful. The program shows the emptiness of “man”, without Christ. Thank you Neil.

    By Belema - 11th August 2018

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