We’re All Complicit In Love Island’s Toxic ‘Good Girls’ Vs ‘Bad Girls’ Narrative

Photos Courtesy of ITV.
As Iain Stirling bellows that a 'bombshell' is on their way to the Love Island villa, the story and editing is usually the same, regardless of how different each individual woman is. We get close-ups examining every inch of their poreless, hairless, size 8 body as they flick their hair, smize and seductively blow a kiss to the camera, as if to say to the viewer: "I’m so horny, I’ll be going after you next and all." The bombshell’s VTs all tend to follow the same pattern: sharing a scandalous sex story, a sordid love affair and the insistence that they’re 'not here to make friends' but to find love. They won’t hesitate to break couples up and delight in stepping on other people’s toes.
Advertisement
Although there are technically both male and female bombshells, Love Island’s format and editing style has, time and time again, painted a clear narrative of the fresh-faced girl next door versus a seductress so outrageous, so sexualised, she might as well have the letter 'A' sewn into her bikini. We saw it with Megan Barton-Hanson, whose pre-surgery pictures and disparaging comments about sex work flooded online after she 'broke up' Laura and Wes. We saw it with Maura Higgins, whose candid approach to sex was seen as disgusting and uncouth when compared to Molly-Mae and her beloved cuddly toy Ellie Belly. When Lillie Haynes was invited back to the villa especially to come face to face with Millie Court and tell her about all the ways Liam let her down, she was ultimately painted as just a difficult chapter in the Love Island winners’ love story: a bunny boiler who couldn’t leave poor Liam alone.
Reality shows have their roots in real lives, real relationships and real conversations but when all is said and done, it is down to the producers to go through hours of raw footage and cherry-pick the parts that best suit whatever narrative they want to tell: which couple to root for, which islanders are the 'goodies' and which are the 'baddies'. We all like to say we’re feminists but we also love a good story. When Love Island presents us with the perfect villain archetype to shake things up for the couple we’ve grown to love, it’s just too easy for the latent misogyny we’ve tried so hard to unlearn to bubble up in a bitchy tweet or two.
Advertisement

Love Island producers manipulate this discussion by choosing to air clips like Ekin-Su crawling across the terrace to kiss Jay while other girls like Tash get a much more sympathetic treatment, all heartfelt hideaway moments and crying shots.

We can all agree that what makes Love Island what it is isn’t so much the show itself but the sheer amount of discourse that surrounds it. The only thing better than a water-cooler chat about your favourite show is a countrywide water-cooler chat, with people tweeting out their snap judgements night after night. If hundreds of people on Twitter are saying they don’t like a certain bombshell, then surely it must be true. The guilty pleasure and sense of camaraderie that comes with this kind of gossiping can be addictive — but it is also incredibly toxic.
Love Island is by no means passive in this process. The makers of the show manipulate this discussion by choosing to air clips like Ekin-Su crawling across the terrace to kiss Jay while other girls like Tash get a much more sympathetic treatment, all heartfelt hideaway moments and crying shots. Most recently, rumours have swirled that Danica, who appeared in the villa as a 'bombshell', plotted with producers to 'steal' Luca from Gemma in order to create suspense. That rumour has been denied but there’s no doubt that ITV got the desired effect. With the camera constantly panning to Luca glaring at Danica with discontent, it’s clear that we’re not meant to like her – especially when we consider how frosty the islanders’ reception of Danica was compared to whimsical, innocent, Taylor Swift lookalike Antigoni. Both are 'bombshells' but while Danica is posited as the bad girl, Antigoni is the quintessential girl next door. Only one is presented to us as a threat.
Advertisement

Following in the footsteps of Megan Barton-Hanson, Maura Higgins, Chloe Burrows and many other 'bad girls' who came before her, Ekin-Su has found herself falling out of favour not just with the men but with the other girls, too.

Whether you like it or not, the show’s editing is designed in a way to prod us towards certain conclusions. The 'good girl/bad girl' dichotomy especially is intended to spark critical conversations about women because, quite simply, it’s an easy way to drive up views, discourse and headlines. We can act like we’re above it all but slut-shaming sells and we’re all complicit in engaging with it, whether intentionally or not.
This series, the islander who has arguably been the biggest victim of Twitter and the producers’ wrath is Ekin-Su Cülcüloğlu. Following in the footsteps of Megan, Maura, Chloe Burrows and many other 'bad girls' who came before her, she’s found herself falling out of favour not just with the men but with the other girls, too. As she provides the girls with a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on, they’re the first to agree when the man they couple up with joins in with the pile-on and blatantly disparages and, in Jacques’ case, even shouts at Ekin-Su despite not being involved in the argument at hand. When Luca Bish changed his mind on three girls in three days, he was just finding his feet. When Toby Aromolaran did the same, he was a hapless, loveable rogue. When Ekin-Su changes her mind and decides to pursue multiple people at once in a dating game show, she is told she is 'playing a game' and has her profession used against her, with Davide calling her a 'liar' because she is an actress. In the same way as Danica, the boys have decreed that Ekin-Su is undesirable and made it popular to dislike her. Naturally, their partners have followed suit, leaving the 'bad girls' as the outcasts.
The worst part is that the 'bad girls' don't just face these double standards from the men. You can see it with other women on the show, too. It’s interesting to note that, in terms of changing her mind and regretting who she coupled up with, Tasha Ghouri isn’t acting dissimilarly to Ekin-Su. The difference is that while Ekin-Su is direct and transparent about her intentions and actions, Tasha keeps her cards close to her chest, acting as the palatable 'good girl' around the villa while making her real intentions known on dates and in one-to-one conversations. By doing this she’s avoiding a lot of the unpopularity that Ekin-Su is experiencing right now, and is more than happy for the 'bad girl' to remain a scapegoat if it means her 'good girl' image is untouched.
Ultimately, misogyny is written into the DNA of Love Island. It is up to us, as viewers, to decide if we want to be part of the problem or if we want to fix it. #BeKind, anyone?

More from TV

R29 Original Series

Advertisement