I know I’m not alone when I say that my immediate thought when Megan Barton-Hanson appeared on Love Island was: 'Stand on me. Please. Just take a six inch heel to my spine like a pestle to a mortar and grind my bones to dust. Part your hair to the side, have a sip of rosé and literally murder me.'
What I'm saying is Megan is hot. Not just regular hot, like the average professional footballer or someone off Riverdale, but a rare, disorienting kind of hot that interferes with your brain chemistry and temporarily warps your personality – a hot that causes aloof men to fall over themselves trying to maintain their composure and self-assured women to boil over with rage.
It's easy to hate Megan because she doesn't need to graft, like, at all. She can just sit there looking vaguely present and everyone within a ten-mile radius hyperventilates. It’s also easy to hate Megan because, quite frankly, she’s been a bit of an arsehole. She has twice snogged a boy in the face of another boy she’s interested in, she has guzzled wine with chaos eyes while Wes broke it off with Laura, and congratulated Josh for "doing the right thing" after he exaggerated his feelings for Georgia then went off with someone else. She pied off Eyal, causing him to get dumped from the island. Then she pied off Wes, leaving him on his todd during a crucial re-coupling. All of this has earned her the tabloid name of "Muggy Megan", but the thing you have to understand is that most of the men on Love Island are dreadful and Megan is brilliant. So it's not really her fault, you see.
First of all, consider this: Megan has not always been this hot. Several years ago she was just a regular level of attractive. In photos from 2012, Megan has an entirely different face. Thin lips, even thinner eyebrows, nose like an L sign made with your thumb and index finger. Obviously she could have done absolutely nothing to her appearance and thrived quietly in suburban Essex. Instead, she took the action she felt necessary to achieve the life she wanted for herself. She made a shit ton of money stripping, got the best nose job since Lana Del Rey’s third, and quite literally moulded herself into the greatest villain Love Island has ever seen.
I mention the image overhaul not because it matters in general, but because it is integral to Megan’s role in The Villa specifically. There is a difference in attitude between people who have always been hot and people who have only recently acquired hotness. Hayley, for example: always hot. Validation all the way throughout life and a genuinely-not-bothered philosophy as a result. Whenever drama reared its head, she simply said "why you fuming for" and walked off. Hayley was the nearest we had to a female villain, but her power came from disinterest – her heart wasn’t in it. Megan, however: acquired hot. Totally different energy. Probably at least vaguely familiar with the concept of rejection, meaning underlying insecurities abound as she struggles to deliver a firm "no" to men she doesn't really fancy, because – as anyone who has ever spent a meaningful length of time craving it will know – attention is absolutely class.
Megan, therefore, has the clout of a Sports Illustrated model in the 1990s, but the lived experience of someone who was not above being picked on at school because her name sort of rhymes with "fart". It’s jarring to think of Megan in her current form spending 45 minutes at home taking selfies and not ending up with a single usable photo, but that is the reality of things. Deep down, she has a little bit of 'regular person' in her. Given £25k to spend on surgery so good it makes the entire cast of TOWIE look like they’ve been Face Swapped with a character from Antz, who among us would not shag on reality television and then dump the guy for being boring? She has the looks, the drive and probably some misdirected desire for revenge. We should be grateful she is only using her powers to crack on.
Megan has two expressions: neutral, or brimming with evil. When the camera pans to her she is often staring into the middle distance, glassy-eyed and giving away nothing beyond the possibility that she might be thinking about which of her loved ones she would pull the plug on if push came to shove. Then drama occurs and they light up like a cursed talisman, practically glowing green. Every now and again, though, the veil will slip – and it is in these moments where all the most intriguing nuggets of Megan information can be extracted.
In a previous episode, while talking to Samira about her repeated knock-backs, Megan alludes to having work done and describes beauty as just "1 percent" of attraction: "Yeah, you can look nice, you can pay for your fake tits and your veneers, but that's it. You’ve got more about you." Which is basically a coded way of saying: I don’t think I’m very interesting and that’s why I’ve chosen to accrue value by way of non-surgical bum lifts. Elsewhere in the same conversation, she says: "If you had to pick out of me and you, who would be the easiest option? Me, because I sit down and listen to what they say, but they know you’re strong…" Which isn’t the most coherent sentence in writing, I’ll admit, but somewhere within that is the awareness that the sort of men who end up on Love Island probably tend to see her as a blank receptacle for their own projections. They clock the appearance first, fill in the personality for themselves, and then have a go at her when it turns out she’s more interested in "grabbing their dick" than listening to them wang on about constellations.
As far as a show built upon the premise that it is totally possible to fall in love with someone after two weeks of tanning goes, Megan is incredibly self-aware. She seems to be quite cognisant of the fact that her "value", where relationships are concerned, is couched in her appearance. Which would be quite depressing if all the evidence didn’t suggest that she's fucking loving it. Dr Alex? Cucked. Eyal? Dumped from the island. Wes? Isolated. Dean? Pied! She’s serving blows left, right and centre. Her behaviour has earned her the label of "slag" – although, glaringly, this label has never been applied to Adam, who has bed-jumped a similar number of times, in addition to literally gaslighting someone and barely getting a slap on the wrist for it. Meanwhile, the tabloids are having a field day with leaked nudes and photos of Megan leaning over "suspicious white lines" in an effort to prove that she is Bad, and fans are tweeting things like "Megan is misunderstanding the rules… you’re not supposed to love the WHOLE island."
Alternate perspective, though: Dr Alex? Desperately trying to touch the hair of any blonde woman who speaks to him. Eyal? Definitely thought he was above the whole situation because he read a book about the zodiac once. Wes? Literally broke up with Laura because he thought Megan was better looking. Dean? Moved to her despite the fact she obviously tried to let him down gently by saying he was attractive but she’s more into Alex. If you ask me, the only thing Megan has been serving is… just deserts!!!! If she wants to get her snog on in the process, more power to her. Death is coming.
Basic slut-shaming aside, there are two types of people worth watching on Love Island: the people who are genuinely into each other in a way that captures the pure heart of the nation and drives the core narrative of the show, and the people who only need to arch their eyebrow to ruin a life. Megan is the latter. She plunges the universe into chaos, spinning everyone off their axis like Mercury in constant retrograde. If she is evil, it’s only because of the authority we ascribe to hotness. If she is a slag, then it’s only because she is tashing on with an ease that most of us could only ever dream of. There’s been a lot of chat about her crimes, about how she should be in prison or slapped with an ASBO, but if anyone should be locked up over this, it is, in fact, us. The British public, driven so mad by someone so attractive the only emotions we can muster are horniness or hatred. Personally, I think Megan just wants to a have a bloody good laugh with a man who can pull off a scarf but is also large enough to hold her above his head like a championship belt.
I could be entirely wrong, of course. Either way, she’ll still be the legend who dumped the most universally attractive man on the island with the phrase, "You're not exactly Jim Carrey."
This article originally appeared on VICE UK.