Love Better

‘FBOY Island’ Failed For All The Right Reasons

Alleged assault aside, the banter on FBI is sure to make any womb instantly fill with dust like a dyson vacuum. 
Fboy Island NZ
VICE x Fboy Island 

It’s been 6 months since Aotearoa premiered its own season of FBOY Island and it's time to look back and debate: Was it iconic… or cooked? 

Despite the fact that its original American counterpart was cancelled after just 2 seasons, a local version of the “dating” show was announced last year and aired in October. FBOY Island NZ was hosted by local legend Shavaughn Ruakere, took place in the Cook Islands, ran for 10 fiendish eps, and felt like a fever dream. 


Humiliation abounds as 3 women are plonked on an island with 20 men. Ten are self professed “nice guys” here to win their love. The other 10 are the “fboys” in question, here for the 50k prize money – a formula that feels like it was yanked straight from early 2000s MTV, alongside shows like NEXT and Baggage.

And we all love some reality trash, but here’s the brunt of the issue: FBOY Island rewards deception in dating and encourages its male contestants to manipulate their female counterparts for their own gain. 

For a show airing on one of Aotearoa’s biggest broadcasters, it’s not exactly trying to spread positive messages to young people around dating and relationships. Dating shows can be silly and bad and dumb, because sometimes people are silly and bad and dumb – but FBOY Island locks its insidious ideas into its premise. There’s no escape from the ugly ideologies on display. 

The show also encourages fractured relationships in dating: We’re constantly seeing our 3 queens jump from one guy to the next at any sign of less-than-ideal partnership and as soon as the god-forbidden “ick” makes itself known. Getting to know 20 men, across 10 episodes, doesn’t exactly give the opportunity for exploring these relationships with much depth. This attitude of ditching someone that doesn’t immediately fit your perfect partner tick-list, rather than being considerate and empathetic in how we navigate our relationships, is not a great lesson for any young NZers watching the show. 


The contestants lie to each other to end up in more favourable placements. They’re encouraged to lay their affection hard on each other, in a way that mimics love bombing or even grooming, in fear of getting eliminated for not standing out. And with each girl having to choose a winner at the end, the show perpetuates the idea that you have to snap up whoever is showing you affection and settle for it, even if none of the affection on offer is that healthy or legitimate. Ultimately, the biggest issue with the show is that it’s not an accurate portrayal of healthy love. But you probably (hopefully) know that already.

It’s the type of premise you’d think would be pitched by a 2012 pickup artist and rejected before it even reached a producer's desk. 

While the US version boasted contestants with such enviable occupations as Club Promoter, Bitcoin Investor and SoundCloud Rapper, we were lucky enough to pull 20 guys you went to highschool with and hoped you’d never run into again. There was an entrepreneur, with no evidence of what that actually means, a model looking for “the love you see in the movies”, and a bevy of gym bros with banter that would make any womb instantly fill with dust like a dyson vacuum.  One of the bros shared that he’s put off if a girl “doesn’t keep herself maintained”. 


Even without the dodgy premise, the chats alone are pretty painful to watch. The only thing more uncomfortable than being subjected to obviously unreciprocated flirting yourself is watching someone shoot their shot with cringey pick-up lines on national TV. Sticking out amongst the self-declared “banter” is Denny from Auckland, who’s inability to speak to any of the girls and eagerness to just yarn with the boys nearly gets him immediately booted. 

From there-on, deceit ensues, until our problematic kings are crowned.

If that’s not enough of a sum up of why the show is a semi-sexist mess, but take it from us that it was a shitshow – and not in a funny way. The 10 episodes passed and FBOY Island was never made mention of again. 

But FBOY Island’s problem started long before its filming even began. 

Prior to the show's release it was reported that a male contestant had been edited out of its promotional material, as he had been on trial for attempted suffocation of a woman. 

He was found not guilty – the Judge said the law required it be proved that he intended to restrict her breathing and that the court could not "exclude the reasonable possibility that he was trying to stop her making noise". But the man admitted to police that he lured her to his home because he knew she was drunk and he hoped they’d have sex. 


Before the show's premiere, the woman involved told the NZ Herald that the show “promotes negative sexual activity” and glorifies behaviour that puts women at risk. Later, she said she received a message from TVNZ saying someone would call her in the days following and that they were "looking forward to chatting". 

The gross crossover of New Zealand’s reality TV programs and potential real world violence isn’t new, either. In 2019, a male contestant on Married at First Sight NZ was removed from the show after it was uncovered that he had faced domestic violence charges, in the US, in 2018.

All in all, it’s fair to say it wasn’t a good start for the ill-fated FBOY Island. 

Then the show actually aired.

Less than 2 minutes in, the season preview gives us the lines “nice guys finish last” and “I’ve got a 12 inch” in concerning succession, and shows our central girlies in genuine tears over their treatment by the boys. Towards the end of the episode, when a contestant who is also an adult performer is revealed to be an “fboy”, Coco says “never trust a stripper”. So we’re adding shaming sex-work to the already questionable mess. 

In the end, girls Keira, Kita and Coco choose their winner. 2 out of 3 girls went with a fuckboy. 


Before the show had even hit its most disastrous heights by awarding $100,000 to the winning fuckboys, the NZ audience wasn’t happy. Within its opening few episodes, Project Gender (an Aoetearoa-based agency for social change), published a petition to pull FBOY Island from broadcast. The group claimed the show championed predatory and dangerous sexual behaviour – and it had its shit together to back that claim.

Within only days, the survey was signed by a whopping 6000 people, shortly reaching just under 8000 signatures. 

But despite the public protest, TVNZ kept the show on air. It’s still on TVNZ On Demand, if you’re ever looking to cosy up on a Sunday night and squirm with discomfort. 

Are we surprised FBOY Island wasn’t pulled from the air? Not really. After all, the broadcaster pulled in $321 million for the 21-22 financial year. Sure, FBOY Island is only one show, but attention means audience, audience means advertising and advertising means money. 

In December, 2022, Project Gender confirmed that it had shared a kōrero with the TVNZ team and that the station “has committed to working… at a strategic level to help TVNZ apply a gender lens across their content development .” So that’s something. 

And now we are here 6 months later, with no indication of a second season in sight. 

FBOY Island was a spectacular disaster that failed for all the right reasons, and has already reached a level of obscurity that its contestants' domestic abuse allegations can only dream of. 


And given the shows gross take on modern love and dating, we’re glad it has. 

Own the Feels is brought to you by #LoveBetter, a campaign funded by the Ministry for Social Development.

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Rachel Barker is a writer / producer at VICE NZ in Aotearoa.