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    Love Island: Where Is The Body Diversity?

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    She explains that the anxieties about body representation in the media tend to be attached to a certain kind of audience: “We’re not having these conversations about the women in the royal family who we’ve just seen displayed over and over again during the Jubilee weekend,” Professor Robinson explains, adding that these women, such as Kate Middleton, have a “very particular kind of classed, feminine thinness, yet we don’t worry about the impact they’re having on young women.”

    So why does Love Island in particular seem to elicit so many strong opinions about body diversity? Professor Robinson cites the format of the show, as well as assumptions about class, and “some snobbery around taste that seem to make reality programs like Love Island more anxiety-inducing.”

    She adds, “One part of the argument is that ‘Why would Love Island look any different from any other part of society?’ Parts of it are just showing us what society’s values are. But we critique it in a different way and we expect better from it […] Love Island doesn’t shame us anymore than the rest of society. It’s just doing it in a more condensed form.”

    At the heart of why we expect so much from Love Island, according to Professor Robinson, is it’s proximity to social media. She cites the Instagram aesthetic of the show to illustrate her point, adding that, “There’s a generational identity that has a slightly different understanding of the relationship between bodies and sexuality,” Professor Robinson explains. “Bodies are buyable, adaptable, and [they] perform – as opposed to being innately related to your sexuality.”   

    Slimness is not the only thing most Love Island contestants have in common; the popularity of Instagram has helped nurture a new beauty ideal, namely “Instagram Face,” which Jia Tolentino described in The New Yorker as “a young face, of course, with poreless skin and plump, high cheekbones. It has catlike eyes and long, cartoonish lashes; it has a small, neat nose and full, lush lips,” adding that the face is “distinctly white but ambiguously ethnic.”

    Crucially, Instagram Face is available to anyone, provided you’re willing to pay for it. When we watch Love Island, we may well be struck by how seemingly unattainable the contestants look, but another part of us is unconsciously making calculations: If I lost ‘X’ amount of weight, saved up for ‘X’ amount of cosmetic procedures, and invested in some ultra-posh hair extensions, perhaps I could go on the show…

    As Professor Robinson notes, “It’s the edited version of you on Instagram, animated into a Love Island contestant.” 

    She’s not the only one to spot this aesthetic on the show. In her newsletter Things Worth Knowing, Farrah Storr points out that it was noticeable when producers appeared to start recruiting contestants via Instagram, saying, “Suddenly the contestants were better-looking, more gym-honed and certainly more self-conscious about how they looked and what they said.”

    Of course, embodying an Instagram aesthetic only gets you so far. Once you’re actually on the show, you’re also relying on other contestants to find you attractive: a factor loaded with racial bias that Love Island is yet to eliminate. 

    Social media has been crucial to Love Island‘s success; indeed, half the fun of watching the show is refreshing your Twitter feed during the ad breaks. As Love Island‘s executive producer, Richard Cowles said on Sirin Kale and Pandora Sykes’ podcast Unreal: A Critical History of Reality TV: “Social media has grown alongside the show – we’re on air for an hour every night but the social conversation happens in the 23 other hours. People are talking about it.” 

    UPI

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