It’s that time of year again when nine to ten O’clock becomes the silent witching hour when the majority of millennials sit back and indulge their guilty desire for reality television. I will be the first to admit that for the most days, this is my favourite time of the evening. To live vicariously through the happy, beautiful couples, to scold the misogynistic playboys and have fast-fashion companies shoving their merchandise down my throat. Yes, Love Island is back again. The drama is still as juicy, the tears still ever-flowing, but, the one thing that has changed, is viewers response to it.

In recent years, thankfully, mental health awareness has come to a place
where it is at the centre of almost all of our conversations.”

Reality television had its hay day in the early 2010s with the famous scold of Simon Cowell, the destructive and indulgent antics of the Jersey Shore and Geordie Shore cast. We used to love to watch people be rejected, get so drunk to the point of verbal and physical fights. We loved to hate people on our television screens, reminding ourselves that we are living a life more moral than the youngsters of reality television.

In recent years, thankfully, mental health awareness has come to a place where it is at the centre of almost all of our conversations. Abusive behaviour is more easily detected, bullying is less tolerable and we have become sensitive to the public downfall of reality television stars. We can see this in the responses from both the press and the public to this season of Love Island. People are still glued to the television screen every night at nine, but people’s mentality towards the vulnerability and exploitation of the emotions of the contestants has become more aware

This is clearly seen in the public response to Amy, one of the original five girls of the show. Blonde, pretty, girly and in a relationship with unarguably, the most likeable man in the show, Curtis. Amy seems to be the leader of the pack of girls, offering relationship advice to those more vulnerable and proclaiming to prioritise her relationship with the girls in the villa to the same extent as her romantic relationship. However, Amy’s reputation as a nice girl came to a standstill with her sudden turn on Lucie for being too invested in her own relationship. Amy began talking about Lucie to other girls, who then seemed to turn on Lucie as well, excluding her from the tight-knit group of girls.

“It is not only that we do not tolerant toxic behaviour, but we receive more gratification from seeing people genuinely happy on our screens.”

Lucie, with her girlish giggle, beautiful smile and having the affection of three men on her fingertips within one day, she is an easy target for jealous hate from the audience. However, Amy is at the centre point of peoples’ disapproval. Her excluding, childish behaviour has been deemed toxic and reminiscent of the actions of bullies from schools. People note her inability to be happy for others being branded a ‘toxic’ person. One might think that Maura with her ruthless pursuit of Tommy, would be the most hated girl from the show. However, we have become more in-tune with what makes a person toxic or unlikable, and it sinks ​deeper than fighting over a man. The arguments between Amy and Lucie which have left both of them in tears, has proven more distressing for the audience than entertaining. The vulnerable state Lucie has been reduced to has sparked many concerns within the public, rather than indulging in the drama that seems to follow Lucie every way she turns.

Similarly, Joe, Lucie’s “boyfriend” in the villa, has become a target of much online abuse. His controlling behaviour over Lucie after just one day of knowing her sparked comparisons between him and the psychotic, murderous and controlling behaviour of the character Joe from the Netflix series You. If Joe’s turn on Love Island was televised ten years ago, his dominating and territorial behaviour would have been viewed as authentic feelings for Lucie, combined with his curly locks and boyband face, he would have been the heartthrob of the series. However, 2019 is a new dawn and toxic male behaviour is as easily detectable as a bellybutton ring in an airport. People are no longer tolerant to controlling behaviour in relationships which lead to Joe’s early dumping from the show by the public.

It is not only that we do not tolerant toxic behaviour, but we receive more gratification from seeing people genuinely happy on our screens. Our very own Yewande has proved to be the most liked girl in the villa with her minor appearance in arguments or drama, maintaining a composed, genuine and good-hearted demeanor. It seems as though our usual “love to hate” tendencies have been eradicated and we now wish good things for good people. Similarly, Amber, who exhibited brattish, selfish and narcissistic attributes at the beginning of the show, received major backlash. She has since ditched the diva persona and has proven to be a great ally to her fellow women and thus becoming an audience-favourite.

There is no arguing that reality television remains to be a place where the virtual world is more important than the real world, where looks are held to a position of more importance than personality. However, the people at the centre of it have become more transparent and the backlash that people receive has become more justified. People are now rooting for the right people, wanting good things to happen to them and being aware of their mental wellbeing. Love Island as shallow as it can be, is a reminder that our attitude towards mental health, social behaviour and emotional abuse has become more clued in and better understood, which will hopefully becoming more widespread and more integrated into our lives when the television is turned off.