🌴 5 Things I've Learnt From (Being Addicted To) Love Island
This is not just any old Love Island post. This is my Love Island post. Written from a queer person of colour's (PoC) perspective. This isn't a post I expected to write. I feel slightly exposed, like when you get caught smoking a cigarette by your Indian parents and try to blame it on your friends. I have to own this.
Those who know me well know that I’m a contradiction in tastes – Love Island being the most obvious representation of one end of that spectrum (if you don't know what Love Island is - where the hell have you been? Also read more here). I have been living for Amber and Ovie this summer and despite the fact that I’ve spent 53 hours on it this year, I have #noregrets.
There are many things to slate the show for (not least its lack of representation). However, this reality TV experiment helps us learn a little more about human behaviour, understand how gender plays out in society and hopefully get to see some true love unfold 💕 Plus there is always the £50k 🤑, as well as 'heads being turned' to look forward to.
So, having watched the show with shock (mouth wide open) and excitement (heart pounding) as well as dissecting each and every one of my relationships, here are 5 things I learnt from watching Love Island as a queer PoC:
I instinctively root for the PoC in the Villa. This is all about representation. It’s almost like the excitement of seeing an Indian on TV when I was growing up – it’s a significant moment to see someone non-White in a White space (although the likelihood of seeing an Indian on Love Island is low, given the premise of the show and the scorching slap that’d be waiting for you upon being dumped from the Villa). The PoC feel like the underdogs and I want them to shine, to break down stereotypes and to represent. I get that’s a lot of pressure, but when you see so little of yourself represented, you hope for the best. Yewande, Ovie and Amber lit up Love Island, banishing any tropes of the angry Black woman and hypersexualised Black man. We saw their vulnerability, on-point humour and all round class in handling some tricky situations. And Amber was crowned the winner – which was delicious.
PoC continue to be fetishised or rejected based on their appearance. I just KNEW Yewande would not couple up with someone on Day 1 in the Villa. As man after man came into the Villa, Yewande was still left standing solo. Yes, she didn’t step forward for every man but when she did, it was painfully obvious she would not get picked. How did I know she wasn’t going to get picked? Look around – she was surrounded by a range of women who closely resembled a Eurocentric ideal of beauty (lighter skinned, European features). She was not those things but she was still beautiful. It was a stark reminder that people of colour are often not seen as beautiful based on how we are, but that there is an expectation to conform (the US is trying to undo the stereotypes associated with Black women's hair as I type). I also saw the Twittersphere gagging for Ovie and his (alleged) big black penis – he was reduced to being a big Black cock. The queer PoC community is well versed with this type of bullshit - sexual racism anyone?
Misogyny lives on. That’s not to say there isn’t fuckery in the gay world but seeing toxic masculinity and misogyny up close between men and women on a daily basis is a reminder of the privilege I have as a man, the need to constantly challenge my own beliefs and hammered home how women are either objectified or made to feel 'lesser than' in a way I will never know. Seeing this happen in the Villa from covert control to emotional manipulation between certain couples was cringeworthy at best. Seeing men encourage men to carry out actions that were hurtful or help them justify each other’s actions was fugly. It’s hard enough being queer at times, let alone a woman too. I salute you, and promise to do my best to stand up with you through the work colourfull does..
Dating and love create the same anxieties - regardless of sexuality. Despite thinking I was different to the Islanders, I found I could relate more than I care to admit. When I was younger, I thought being with another man would be easier – because we’re the same gender, we’d just get each other in a way that men and women wouldn’t. Bullshit – I have been subject to every emotion and lived through it with the Islanders 😥 . The same insecurities (am I attractive enough? do they really really like me?) to the euphoria of a first kiss. In the midst of all the homophobia and transphobia present today, we are often ‘othered’ as a community. If anything, this show reinforces that when you boil it down, humans are wired in a similar way when it comes to connection, love and wanting to be loved. Let’s not forget that 💓
PoC tend to be more interesting*. The best headlines, stories and interest have been generated primarily by those who are Black on the Island. The best bits on unseen bits usually involved Ovie. And when PoC interacted with each other in the villa, they kept it real (Ovie and Amber doing a woah anyone?). I’ve struggled to put this into words, but simply they had more depth to them, had cultural references that whilst not identical to mine, I could relate to. A freshness that counteracted the politeness and stiffness that Britishness often stands for. I can relate, having grown up in a colourfull, expressive, Indian family - and having had to 'tone it down' in certain spaces as well as finding those I could truly be myself with. When you benchmark the calibre of some PoC Islanders against the White Islanders (e.g. Tommy Fury 🙄); it’s also a reminder that regardless of their mediocrity, as PoC we often have to be EXTRA-special just to occupy the same spaces. This is just as true of the Love Island Villa as it is in the workplace and the outside world. We had Yewande who was a scientist and Ovie a professional basketball player whilst other Islanders were more known for their famous siblings or for being influencers. The upside is we got to see PoC brilliance on screen everyday 🙌
*Disclaimer: White people are also interesting. But the ones who are, tend to have lived through a form of struggle themselves, are culturally curious and recognise their own privilege - and therefore able to be empathetic.
It goes without saying that we need to see even more diversity and representation on Love Island in the future (especially now that we’ll have two series per year from 2020). It makes for much better TV, displays a more accurate representation of society and we get to show the world how fabulous we are. ‘It is what it is’ simply won’t cut it!
Enjoy the rest of the summer