We’re a few weeks away from the beginning of a new series of Love Island, and the buzz surrounding it has begun. If you aren’t familiar with reality TV show, Love Island is a dating show that takes several sexy singles into a villa with hopes of finding love (or at least some new Instagram followers). The show is set to start on 3 June, with the first batch of contestants announced, and rumours about potential others.
Amid speculation, it looks like this series of Love Island will be more diverse than ever. So far two black women are on the line-up, and apparently this series is set to feature more women of colour, and non-binary and plus-sized contestants. Most people will think that this can only be a good thing (after all, shouldn’t dating shows should reflect society?) – but I’m a bit hesitant.
When you see someone who looks like you on TV, you can often identify yourself with them, which can either be a good or bad thing. Last year we saw Samira enter the Love Island house, and as I saw her walking in, I was conflicted. I was happy to see a black woman on screen, but deep down I knew it wouldn’t end well. A few minutes into the first episode someone asked her if she could twerk and I realised that this kind of racism was what I’d be watching for the next couple of weeks.
For many black women, watching Samira constantly being turned down was also a painful experience. When it comes to the dating game black women are often deemed as the least attractive. In 2014 the dating website OkCupid found that black women received the fewest messages out of all its users. The study also found that men were less likely to respond to “likes” from black women. Though Samira had difficulty on the show, the black men were more popular, but maybe not for the right reasons. Last series, housemate Georgia stated her type as “mixed-race”, which opened up a debate about preferences and fetishes.
For many black girls (especially the ones who grew up in predominantly white areas), Samira’s time on Love Island was a throwback to our own awkward and uncomfortable dating experiences. We weren’t able to watch the show aimlessly without being irritated by how many men ignored Samira. It was painful watching her cry as time after time she wasn’t chosen by the men she was interested in.
It was also frustrating as it seemed as if she couldn’t see the racialised aspect of why they didn’t want her. It would be simplistic to say that all the men who entered the villa didn’t find Samira attractive because she was black. But it would also be foolish to ignore how race plays a huge role in the dating world. Half of me wanted her to leave the show and the other half of me wanted her to press on and find love. As well as this, I remember seeing tweets by white men comparing Samira to black footballer players who were men. It’s exhausting to see, especially when all I wanted to do is watch something light-hearted and fun.
When we talk about which representation black people deserve, respectability politics is often at the forefront. I don’t think black people are above being on trash TV. In fact, I think it’s necessary to have different types of representation to highlight the fact that black people aren’t one dimensional. Over in the States we have trash TV shows for black people in abundance – like Love & Hip Hop, Real Housewives of Atlanta, and Basketball Wives.
When it comes to shows like Love Island, representation isn’t what I seek – I’m looking for pure, overdramatic trash TV. I would be more than happy to see black women on Love Island if the fellow contestants were open to dating black women, but as we’ve seen time and time again most of the men on the show go for blonde, blue-eyed girls.
If we’ve learned anything from the disaster that was the OhPolly Inclusive page, we know that getting diversity right is harder than it might initially seem. Though representation is important, it’s not the hill I’m going to die on. Not seeing myself represented on Love Island doesn’t affect me in the slightest. I understand why people want to see more women of colour on Love Island, but I don’t need validation from white men to know that black women are worthy of love.