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Love Island: Dating Show or Platform for Male Narcissists?

A summer of love or a summer of misogyny?

contestant in video diary room on Love Island
Credit: ITV

It’s not summer without a new line-up of conventionally attractive singles bursting onto our screens and giving us a daily dose of drama and gossip that we all secretly indulge in. People couple up, stand around the firepit, and people.. show alarming red flags to their partner within days of being with them. Who knew the honeymoon stage of a relationship now involves casual gas-lighting?

With every new season of Love Island comes a wave of public complaints concerning the behavior of its contestants. This year was no different, as male contestants were accused of emotional abuse and manipulative behavior toward their female partners. This year was primarily focused on the interactions between Jacques O’Neill and Paige Thorne as complaints began to flood after Jacques’ reaction to the return of the notorious Adam Collard. However, it started much earlier than this.

Credit: ITV

Pulses and Tensions Rise

After the infamous heartrate challenge, Paige confronts Jacques about his heart rate being raised the most by his ex Gemma Owens after he asked Paige if there was something wrong. Jacques responds by swearing at her and calling her ‘pathetic.’ The immediate aggression is highly alarming and appears to shock Paige just as much as the public. What makes this reaction even more concerning is that a week after this episode was the drama of Casa Amor. Jacques blatantly states that he wants to start thinking about his feelings instead of Paige’s while he is meeting the new girls. What is the most notable thing about this relationship is the handling of the situations between Jacques and Paige.

The Return of Adam Collard

Despite his behavior in Casa Amor, Jacques completely flies off the handle after ill-famed bombshell Adam Collard displays an interest in Paige. Jacques’ behavior is aggressive and confrontational, particularly with Paige rather than Adam, who is the one he has the issue with. His treatment of women speaks volumes in this episode and the Casa Amor episodes, even stating that he likes girls to be ‘more reserved and a bit more quieter.’

‘He’s such a hot-head’

After learning that Adam has said things about him, Jacques loses his temper. He demands to speak to Paige, telling her, ‘Come here, I need to speak to you’ while she is mid-conversation with other contestant, Billy, who is also subjected to his aggression. Jacques tells Billy he can stay for the conversation and not even ten seconds later tells him to ‘F**k off’. When Paige tries to calm him down, he tells her, ‘You know what I get like.’ This episode received an unsurprising amount of Ofcom complaints, and his attempted justification of his behavior speaks for itself. Even in the voiceover, show narrator, Iain Stirling, says Jacques is behaving like a ‘petulant child’. Jacques makes a dramatic exit within the same episode and Twitter began circulating what had been heard.

Credit: allforrules/ Twitter

Jacques’ departure was linked to his mental health. Yet, his behavior outside the villa had seemingly not changed as videos surfaced of him mocking the contestants and his previous partner Paige on Instagram Live. Though the mental health of contestants should be taken seriously , people couldn’t help but hold Jacques accountable for his behavior, putting his exit down to the fact he was unsure he would get his own way.

A Repeat of Narcissists

It seems the show chases these male contestants to cause the stir that is caused every year. Season one had Josh Ritchie, whose consistent slut-shaming of his partner Jess is shocking to watch back. Scott Thomas’ treatment of his partner Kady in season two is one which gained notoriety for his controlling behavior and unpredictable outbursts. The list continues, yet the most famous is Adam Collard from season four, but his reappearance on the show this year speaks volumes about the way that reality TV feeds into the promotion of male narcissists. Women’s Aid complained about Collard after his treatment of his partner, Rosie, deeming his behavior ’emotionally abusive’. Collard is seen smiling and rolling his eyes when Rosie is expressing her upset over his actions. With his return to the current season, the charity has issued a statement hoping that producers will intervene if the relationships appear unhealthy this year.

Are We Responsible?

There have been age-old debates about the ethical side of reality television, and it remains a sticky topic. Are we active in this popularization of accepted behavior simply because it is ‘good’ entertainment? To a certain degree, the consumption of such media is what keeps the cycle going. Looking at the success of shows such as Made in Chelsea and The Only Way is Essex depicts the rate at which the public readily ingest such content, despite characters such as Spencer Matthews and James Lock being extremely unnerving in interactions with their previous girlfriends.

We can point fingers at producers and reality television in itself, but we must ask ourselves, are we giving narcissists the platform?

Written By

Hi, my name is Emily Marsey, I am twenty one years old and an English Literature graduate from Hartlepool living in Liverpool.

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