VICE Roundtable: Hey, How Would You Do On 'Love Island'?
You’re thinking it, and we’re thinking it too.
(Photo via ITV)
If you watched last night's Love Island curtain-opener, you will know the most important dramatic moment was this: Alex, A&E doctor and the monster who wears human skin, was cucked not once but twice in the process of the first-round pick. The first cucking was when not one of the five women in the process stepped forward for him, immediately rendering him terminally unfanciable to a record 2.95 million viewers at home. The second was when he did pick a partner to couple up with, Laura immediately left him for Wes – a man she doesn't even fancy, at all – eliminating Alex to the subs bench, where he had sit and think about what he’d done until being partnered up with an even more reluctant Samira. Go home, Dr Cuck! Go back to fucking work, you weird idiot!
Point is, it was a very human moment: out of all of this year's islanders, Alex has the least game of all of them. He exudes the exact vibe of a lad in a shirt in a nightclub who has been pestering his more confident mate for hours to go and introduce him to you, and when you finally say hello he has nothing to say in return. "Yeah, wow," Alex is saying, nervously moving his beer bottle around in his hand. "So what do you— do you? Like? Uh. What’s that, you’re—? What’s that you’re drinking?"
This had us wondering: what would we – we normal people who work here – what would we do in the villa? Would we do bits, or would we do unbits? Would we fight or would we fuck? Would we leave, tanned and healthy, to a lucrative career as Instagram influencers? Or would we have to make a statement apologising for our behaviour in a sombre interview on This Morning? So hard to know. So hard to know. We do know, though:
I have a terrible personality and I look fantastic after a wavy blow-dry, so in the grand tradition of awful brunettes before me, I would either be voted off at the first opportunity given to the public, or I would win the fucker. Regardless of my eventual fate, I would be an early underdog (and therefore a viewers' favourite) after being rejected by all of my initial choices and quipping self-deprecatingly about it in a confessional scene, wearing hoodie-and-winsome-topknot to denote that I am Just a Normal Girl. The tide would turn on me, however, during an opinion-dividing Week Three argument, probably with a man who has announced "I don’t do that, me," RE: performing oral sex, at which point Dark Fruits Twitter would agree that I had "gone too far with the feminism". At this crucial juncture, I would either win back favour by Being There for the wronged girls (i.e. doing little plaits in their hair and saying "he's not worth it, babe" 70 times a day while nursing a burgeoning 40-a-day fag habit), or be evicted, vowing to stay true to my sham relationship with an influencer from just outside Manchester. After the show, I would dump the influencer and design my own eyeshadow palette, which would be of better quality than largely expected.
Hey, so I'm a black woman, which means I think I know how this would go. If someone as beautiful as Samira still ends up rejected, then I – a journalist who doesn't do nearly enough exercise and has never once put in a weave for the sake of not terrifying white people outside of London – would be immmmediately benched. There's just too much unconscious bias masked as personal preference on this show. See: Rachel Christie going on the subs bench right away in series one, and how often non-white contestants end up benched at the start, too.
Quick thing: if you’re of the "racism will end, just stop bringing up race/preference is preference" camp, then please kindly have a read of this OK Cupid data about black women’s experiences, thanks! :)
The literal only asset I have that would do well for me on Love Island is the fact that I am tall, and then after that I am on my own: I do not shave any of my body hair, or have any sleeve tattoos, or have any of the kind of personality that holds opaque plastic wine glasses in a clawed hand while leaning close to girls and saying, "So what you saying?" And I have entirely normal teeth, and I would also be the one isolated lad – like Jonny before us, like Jack this year – who has to wear an unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt to hide the sort of sausage roll-shaped midriff he has, instead of perfectly sculpted abs, and also I get very nervous, and also I go deeply red and slap-face sunburnt when exposed to any kind of direct sunlight.
So, I mean, essentially, my Love Island experience would be this: last lad in who is reluctantly paired up with a dancer against her will; one five-minute attempt at grafting that I have to dash out of to apply a second factor 50 layer of suncream to my entire body; talk to no further girls for the duration of my stay in the villa; become a matey confidante to all the laddier lads in there, who lower their voices to whispers and describe in violent detail all the sex they are having two beds over from me (by this point my dancer bae has found love with a personal trainer called Greg, and I am sleeping in a double bed alone: quite often the camera catches me there, green–black in the low light, eyes open and reflected like a cat's are, just staring, silent and alone, at the ceiling); succeed in some sort of game that wins the house some alcohol and they all half-mockingly pretend to like me for a bit for exactly one evening afterwards; viral footage of me sobbing in a shower; evicted on day eight after one girl chooses to leave the island rather than couple up with me.
At the Aftersun interview people keep mistaking me for a runner and giving me their coffee cups to dispose of. Caroline Flack forgets my name on live TV. Tinder releases a press statement saying they are pre-emptively banning me to "save Britain’s women from his peculiar brand of anti-game". One year goes by. Five. Ten. Viral footage of me sobbing in a shower. Twenty years go by. Nobody has spoken to me in months. I die alone.
First off, you can't have two contestants called "Jack", so we'd have problems from the start. The show would be forced to bill me as "JC", immediately tarnishing me as a wanker and making me sound more like a bloke who sells pens for a living than the guy on the show who actually sells pens for a living.
I'd be coupled up with either Dani or Samira, who'd step forward desperately trying to avoid the big sad doctor. The most airtime I'd get would be locked in a "deep" chat with Eyal where he demonstrates the correct and proper procedure of a drum circle, with me visibly broken but being far too polite to escape.
I'd last about a week before getting knocked out in a dramatic elimination rap battle with Adam, who rhymes every single word with "babe".
Please welcome your stock 7.5/10 IRL TBQH (2/10 for Love Island S4) character: Hannah Ewens. With an arse that looks like jelly after it's been squeezed through teeth, I'm de facto matched with the pasty lad from the subs bench. Projecting Women In Club Bathrooms vibes, I'm tentatively labelled "bubbly, bit mad". Two b2b Prosecco cocktail nights on the veranda later and irritable under the Balearic sun, I am ostracised from the group for bringing down the vibe with mental health discourse. Dani Dyer is my only friend.
After scraping through the first public vote, Eyal "Very Spiritual" Booker happens to see my crystal collection and I proceed to "do his birth chart" under the covers to some disbelieving commentary from Iain Sterling. Against all odds, I accidentally come a respectable fifth due to proximity to Eyal’s locks and an alliance with sweet baby angel who must be protected, Dani. Metro's Lifestyle Section publishes an article about Eyal and I entitled "Has Love Island Shown Millennial Men Aren’t As Shallow As Other Generations?" I disappear into obscurity.
In theory, I'd make a prime candidate for Love Island, because I have a cracking arse and the requisite psychological balance of massive ego and absolutely no self-esteem. On paper, I’d like to think of myself as a very white, very poor man's Montana – a sociological commentator who manages to retain an air of distance from any genuine emotional involvement at all times. But in practise, I am what Niall is going to turn out to be: a previously ugly loser who is gassed to have blossomed into a hottie, but whose formative years of rejection now colour all their interactions with an overwhelming sense of insecurity that mostly reveals itself through Rik Mayall-esque facial expressions.
Like Niall, my VT would be loaded with premeditated banter and faux humility like "my chat is my best attribute". Unlike Niall, I would need a special room to cry in because I don’t know how to talk to humans. Truly good looking people render me a mute or a liar. If Niall hit on me I would probably just stare at his lovely hair and monologue about how much I love Harry Potter (I absolutely fucking loathe Harry Potter). All Eyal would have to do is blink and I would shove my fists in my mouth and scream.
All of which is to say: I'd spend a single night there lying entirely awake next to someone who got stuck with me, desperately trying not to fart, and then have to be collected by my mother.
The odds are firmly stacked against me: I'd spend 95 percent of my time there, covered, indoors, and covered in hives, because I'm literally allergic to the show's two main components: sun and cum.
That is if I ever actually get picked. Black girls pretty much never get picked on dating shows (see: every awful episode of Take Me Out, and this series' initial coupling). So I'd end up with creepy A&E doctor, Alex. Plus, all of them say things like, "Can we go for a chat?" and, "Where's your head at?" and you just can’t ask me that because it’s way too intense. So, the audience definitely wouldn’t like me and I’d probably leave at the first dumping. But being the first one out, I'd be given a sponsorship deal with PrettyLittleThing and survive on sponsored Instagram posts and This Morning appearances for the following six months, so it's not all bad.
Here are some basic facts about me: I am 5"1'. Very queer. Small fringe. Tiny hands. I can’t remember the last time I interacted with a straight man that wasn't at work via Slack. The last time I had any kind of romance with one was in 2013 (?), and it ended in him crying outside the Amersham Arms in a pleather jacket while saying, "You and your friends are very horrible, I am moving back to Brazil." My favourite topics of conversation are astrology, vitamins and cryptocurrency. I am 25 years old.
And so, if some glitch in the system forced me to take part in Love Island – AKA straight culture personified – there is no situation in which I would last longer than a week. Honestly, I don’t even think I’d appeal to the ones who "like a quirky bird, me. Someone a bit weird, a bit different." Because what those people really mean is that they like a girl who wears a toe ring and says she drinks beer. Not a girl who rarely shaves, looks like Snookie if she got into ketamine and writes for VICE.
"I know who we should send in to help smooth things over," an executive producer will say six weeks into the series, the morning The Mail runs the headline, "Did Last Night's Episode of Love Island Finally Go Too Far" and Theresa May is asked about the incident at PMQs. "The calm lad from the interviews who looked like he was about to cry when we only asked what he thought about his parents watching him have sex."
"No!" everyone in the meeting will shout in unison.
"Our reputation wouldn't recover," a producer will add. "We don't have a choice," the exec will counter. "If Alex's trial doesn't end the show, they're going to cancel us for sure after last night. We need neutral. We need him."
Minutes later, a phone is hesitantly picked up: "Hi Dipo, it's Chris from Love Isla—"
"You promised if we needed you..." A single tear runs down my face. "Well, I did promise."
Forty-eight hours later, I'm on the This Morning sofa after being voted off. "Coupling up is a lot harder than you think, mum... er... Philip!"
The fascinating thing about Love Island is the unbelievably limited vocabulary the contestants have to describe their feelings. Whether or not these people are truly as preoccupied with finding "true love" as they say they are, they have signed up to what is effectively a very nice hetero-romance-prison for up to eight weeks, with Caroline Flack as some sort of cupid-cum-prison-guard, and nothing to do or talk or think about beyond the true nature of attraction. So it should perhaps be slightly surprising that the only expressions they have are about physical attributes. Someone is either "my type" or "not my type", and for women that type tends to be "tall, dark and handsome", and for men "blonde" or "brunette". If pushed, they might admit to being a "bum man".
Of course, it’s not all the fault of the individuals. The format explicitly encourages this, for instance in the first moments of the first episode where contestants are made to judge each other and pair up before having met.
As the show develops, so do the contestants' feelings, but not so much the vocabulary they use, and these clichés become bizarre euphemisms for the gamut of human emotion. He has an enduring but ultimately superficial physical appeal, which isn’t quite enough to sustain your attraction when he’s droning on about how much he can bench? "I thought he was my type, but I don’t know if he’s my type anymore," etc. etc.
As you will have sussed from the above pretentious drivel, for £50,000 I would enter the show arrogantly assuming I’m clever enough to game the system, mimic the tropes, feign attraction with someone while maintaining enough emotional distance to keep my eyes on the cash prize, and become some sort of tabloid anti-hero for trolling everyone.
In reality, I would certainly be relegated to the subs bench on the first week for not being attractive enough on any level, fall hard for Dani Dyer in the period before the first elimination, get cucked by a more handsome man and get sent home, Flack dragging me out by my ankles, become some sort of tabloid pariah for being weirdly clingy and spend the rest of my life lost in a fog of resentment. A true lesson in hubris.