“And last year they dropped the guilty.” The launch episode of this year’s season had around three million viewers, making it the most-watched show ever on ITV2, a relatively small broadcaster.
But the viewing figure alone doesn’t do justice to the scale of its impact on the public imagination.
No, the pull of “Love Island” is in the very contrast between the show and the politics of 2018. 2018 provides the vocabulary, the tools for a satisfyingly enlightened discussion of what we’re seeing on screen; “Love Island” provides the raw material for our growing sense of righteous indignation. Collard, a personal trainer who looked at women like a snake planning its next meal, told one woman, fellow contestant Rosie Williams, that it was behavior that pushed him to pursue another.
Together they are more than the sum of their parts, allowing “Love Island” to function as a sort of technicolor locus of all Britain’s gender and sexual anxieties. He was so manipulative that a domestic abuse charity was prompted to make a statement about unhealthy relationships: Katie Ghose, the chief executive of Women’s Aid, said there were “clear warning signs” in Mr. Williams, explaining that he had exhibited signs of “gaslighting and emotional abuse.” Watching the relationship play out at home,screaming at the screen, the effect was not that toxic masculinity was being normalized, as some critics complained, but instead exposed.
(Yes, this is a festival of banter, that ancient language of British men.) Not the contest itself, with its dystopian coupling ceremonies, where the crackle of hearts breaking is audible against the soundtrack of uplifting house music.
It’s not even the sex, performed nightly in the communal bedroom after the tumescent heat of a Spanish afternoon.
Alex George, an emergency room doctor distinctive initially for his worthy job and lack of fake tan, at first failed to couple up. George found an unexpected fan base in incels, who gathered on Reddit, 4chan and other message boards to support “our boy,” a sunburned, mainstream mascot for their cause.
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Some have started to question what makes this seemingly regressive reality show, now in its fourth season, so popular.
So popular in 2018, when, post-Me Too, every other part of culture appears to be moving forward.