Watching Love Island for six hours every week can take its toll. Once, the idea of getting the TV on in 30-degree heat sounded offensive—akin to having a bath in summer or eating a mince pie in April. Now, you’re lugging your laptop to the beach or into the garden, and giving yourself a migraine from squinting to watch fit people inexplicably take eight weeks out of their jobs to neck on in the sun. You’ve seen 14 Danny Dyer films in the last two weeks. Superdrug is your new home.
Another consequence of Love Island? It makes you think twice about your body image. Watching a bunch of beautiful, skinny people swan around a villa, while you (an average-looking human with body hair) wedge your laptop against your belly fat as you eat a Twix is an experience that can shake even the most confident among us.
In light of this, television broadcaster ITV has announced that it will be reviewing the diet and plastic surgery adverts shown during Love Island. The company’s chief executive Carolyn McCall announced this week in an interview on BBC Breakfast that the organisation needs to work on its “judgement,” after backlash from the NHS and feminist groups.
Many have criticised the commercials during the massively successful reality show, which garners on average 30,000 viewers a night, for putting additional body image pressure on young women. Among the ads deemed particularly damaging are those for a diet bar called “Skinny Sprinkles” and plastic surgery clinics specialising in breast enlargement surgery.
“There were a tiny number of ads where I would have thought the juxtaposition was not quite right, so we’re very sensitive to that,” McCall told BBC Breakfast. “We are highly regulated [...] It’s more about our judgment, so we are monitoring and working on that.”
“My judgment, and that’s my judgment, is that the juxtaposition of a tiny fraction of what we did—on [the ITV] Hub only, not on our broadcast channel—may not have been quite right,” she continued. “We are looking at that and we will take our own action.”
The chief executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens, chastised ITV earlier this month in an interview with BBC journalist Andrew Marr. Stevens explained that the channel’s “explicit ads aiming at young women around breast cosmetic surgery” played into “a set of pressures around body image that are showing up as a burden on other services.”
Rebecca Field, head of communications at eating disorder charity Beat told MUNCHIES that while adverts aren’t the sole cause of eating disorders, TV producers should be wary of which adverts are broadcast during shows like Love Island.
“Eating disorders are mental illnesses with complex causes, so it is unlikely that advertisements idealising a particular body image would be the sole and direct reason for someone developing one,” Field explained over an email. “However, adverts that encourage the stigmatisation of weight or promote the idealisation of thinness are likely to cause distress for people suffering from an eating disorder and could be triggering for vulnerable people.”
“We urge TV producers to consider the impact the content they show has on vulnerable people.”