Last year, I trusted a Black woman enough to lead me into the dark world of The Bachelor franchise. I survived, but with my eyeballs sore from rolling them at Nick Viall; nearly dead from boredom at the men Rachel Lindsay had to choose from when she became the first Black Bachelorette; and extremely offended when a sexual misconduct narrative with a Black man (DeMario Jackson) and a white woman (Corinne Olympios) wasn't given nearly enough attention after an investigation found no evidence of misconduct. I left the experience swearing off predominantly white dating shows forever. Then, my roommate made me watch an episode of the U.K.-based Love Island with her… and I slowly, but surely, realized I was obsessed. Now, the public have voted (not really, but Love Island fans will get the joke), and the dating show from across the pond that I love so dearly has been greenlit for an American version on CBS. You'd think I'd be thrilled by the thought of a potentially better competitor for ABC's stalwart franchise. But I’m not happy about it, because America is undoubtedly going to ruin it.
Here’s the deal: Love Island is good precisely because it’s a British show. You have not had a cozy Sunday unless you’ve listened to shirtless men with English accents discuss whether or not they will “crack on” (hit on) with “birds” (women). [Insert heart eye emoji] I still don’t know what a “bellend” is, but I know it’s a fighting word thanks to the show. And I am currently trying to transition my own vocabulary so that I only refer to sex as “shagging.” Every time someone says “journey” on one of The Bachelor shows, I want to throw up. But I swoon every time one of the Love Island contestants dreams about transitioning their burgeoning relationship to life “outside of the Villa.”
Watching Love Island on Hulu a whole season behind its airing schedule has introduced me to a whole new world: one where evening gowns have been replaced by club clothes that can be easily duplicated on Fashion Nova, and thong bathing suits are seemingly part of the dress code (with your highest wedges). And unlike the “Fantasy Suites” on the Bachelor and Bachelorette, I don’t have to image what happens in the Love Island “Hideaway” because there are cameras inside!
Don’t get me wrong, Love Island is not without its problems. It, too, has a troubling history of casting very few people of color, and women of color fare particularly poor when it comes to lasting in the villa. (However, the people of color they do cast look like snacks — Marcel, if you’re reading this, slide in my DMs!) The New York Times even published an op-ed about Love Island essentially trolling Britain with its regressive views on sex and gender. It is heteronormative to a fault.
But for all of the things wrong with Love Island as it is, bringing it across the pond is almost guaranteed to make it worse. First of all, Shameless and The Office are basically the only U.K. shows to ever successfully cross over into the American market. MTV's Skins? Bad. NBC's Coupling? Really bad. Not to mention, broadcast networks play it extremely safe when it comes to “adult” content. I don't think that the puritanical audience that has kept The Bachelor on the air for so long is going to be okay with women traipsing around in skimpy bathing suits and being forced to sleep in the same bed as a man on the first night they meet him. We can probably kiss the thong bikinis and the raunchy group games goodbye. I highly doubt they are going to show us couples having sex (under the covers, but still) in the Hideaway. And it’s likely that we are still going to have to beg them to make the cast diverse. But most importantly, Americans don’t have British accents. So with all that being said: I’m good luv, enjoy.
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