Love Island was back this year after a Covid-induced hiatus which left viewers across the UK (and the rest of the world) eager for the provocative reality show’s return to our screens. However, with the re-introduction of the show came the annual onslaught of media critics that condemn Love Island for its portrayal of toxic relationships, as well as its lack of sexual, racial and physical diversity. The 2021 season of Love Island received a record amount of criticism by amassing more than 33,500 Ofcom complaints, the majority of which were issued after an explosive fight between Faye Winter and her boyfriend, Teddy Soares. Yet again Love Island finds itself in the spotlight for the intense environment it creates and the lack of mental health support it provides, leaving the public wondering; is there a silver lining for the contestants who miss out on the cash prize?
The short answer is yes…potentially. The saving grace for the 2021 season can be found nestled between the scenes of sexy challenges, couples’ drama and emotional turmoil: the female friendships.
The 2021 season of Love Island broke away from the precedent of the past in which the male friendships or ‘bromances’ sparked the most attention from the public (think Season 4’s ‘Do Bits Society’ or Chris Hughes and Kem Cetinay’s single that was released after their stint in the villa). Instead, this season saw the close relationships between the girls of the villa brought into the limelight from the very first episode when Liberty Poole and Kaz Kamwi strutted hand-in-hand into the villa.
This was just the first of countless heart-warming moments of support shown between the girls in the villa, marking a turning-point for the show in terms of the presentation of female contestants. In previous years, friendships among the women have splintered, often due to the competition for male attention. A particularly volatile relationship comes to mind in the form of Maura Higgins and Molly-Mae Hague, who competed for the affection of Tommy Fury in the 2019 series of the show. However, throughout this season, the girls of the villa have shown remarkable camaraderie, praising and supporting each other for their relationship triumphs and offering comfort when things go awry.
The graduation ceremony is a testament to this. Where Liberty Poole, Faye Winter, Millie Court and Chloe Burrows received graduation caps for progressing sexually in their relationships whilst the other girls looked proudly on. This empowerment and friendly support is a far cry from the backlash that Zara Holland received from fellow Islanders in Season 2 after sleeping with Alex Bowen. Instead, the girls are seen to empower each other in an environment where their bodies and choices are closely scrutinised, becoming each other’s support system in the hot-house villa.
Whilst the increase in airtime of touching moments between the girls could be because of a change in the editing structure of the show, the connections that this year’s female contestants have formed are hard to question. The very nature of Love Island pushes for fast and intense bonds to be formed within the villa so, it is unsurprising that the girls become such integral parts of each other’s Love Island experience. Combining this with the context of a global pandemic where friendships are valued more highly than ever, it is truly touching to watch the women share in the happiness that comes from the success of their friends’ relationships, but also watch them band together when times get tough.
If anything, the friendships formed in the Love Island villa mirror those formed in the outside world. My close group of friends have rallied around me countless times after yet another boy drama, similar to the way in which the main villa girls supported Millie Court after the Casa Amor postcard arrived. Understandably, the friendships are questioned due to the rapid nature of their formation, the volatile and intense environment causes the normal conventions of both platonic and romantic relationships to go out of the window but despite this, true friendship seems to prevail.
So, whilst some of the so-called ‘connections’ from the Love Island 2021 villa are certainly questionable (Hugo and Amy, I’m looking at you), the closeness between this year’s female contestants is a testament to the positives of the otherwise controversial show. Sharing in a common experience, as well as baring their raw emotions to each other has allowed the girls to form a tight-knit friendship group that champions each other’s successes and becomes their pillar to lean on. Therefore, it is safe to say that the true winners of this year’s show are the girls who have made life-long friendships, irrespective of who won the 50k.
– Phoebe Ovenden
Featured Image Source: Header via Love Island // Twitter