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Since the dawn of Love Island, people have called for greater diversity in the types of bodies the dating show presents.
It’s easy to see why there’s a demand – the contestants on the show are uniformly slim, usually with well-proportioned breasts and a bum that they’re happy to show off in a bikini at all hours of the day.
But as tempting as it is to crow that Love Island should be more realistic, that it should represent the general public rather than just some perfectly toned, superhuman elite, I don’t want to see plus-size people on the show.
I’m an in between. Definitely not Love Island size, but I can still buy clothes from the high street (most of the time, and often in the largest size). My thighs rub, my stomach has rolls when I sit down, and an easy insult trolls can throw at me is that I’m fat.
I don’t want plus-size people to be excluded from Love Island because I hate bodies that aren’t a size 10, but because I have that body, and I know full well what it would be like to see someone who isn’t super slim on a show like Love Island.
The show is inherently shallow. It’s cruel, because people are cruel.
When you throw a bunch of attractive people in bikinis into a villa and ask them to express their sexual desires, there will inevitably be some form of rejection.
Someone won’t be another’s type on paper, someone will be dumped because another hotter person comes in, and there’ll be a contestant who – for reasons that just don’t seem to make sense – will be left single over and over again.
And because what’s considered desirable is societal, the little microcosm of our culture that is Love Island will reflect that same judgement.
If you throw a plus-size person in there, they are the one that will be rejected.
A sole plus-size contestant will experience all the rejection and judgement that anyone above a size 14 will tell you is part and parcel of the dating experience – but on TV, and in a group of other people considered the peak of physical perfection.
Look at the experience of Samira in last year’s Love Island.
Samira is objectively stunning. She’s an absolute catch. She’s also a black woman, making her part of the demographic that most men on dating sites deem as less attractive than women of other races and ethnicities.
Samira was picked last in the first week, then experienced a string of rejections and was placed firmly in the friendzone.
Writer Danielle Dash said it was ‘hard watching Samira’s time in the villa play out’, noting that she hadn’t been ‘equipped with the infrastructure to succeed in love like her peers.’
For black women, watching Samira’s treatment wasn’t an entertaining experience. It was a high-stakes representation of the same issues in dating they come up against in real life, played out on screen and in bikinis.
A plus-size contestant would go through a similar thing, and it would be awful to watch.
They would be left until last, picked apart by fellow contestants, and turned down not out of spoken fatphobia, but that lingering feeling that a woman of a certain size just isn’t someone’s type – because in our society, being plus-size still isn’t a widely accepted type of beauty.
Perhaps the producers would deliberately engineer some potential matches, throwing in an unchiseled man. But a token partner who likes curvier women doesn’t level the playing field when plus-size women are up against all of society telling them their body is wrong.
Watching conventionally attractive people going through relationship drama is entertaining in part because we know that if it doesn’t work out, they’ll be okay.
Anyone who enters Love Island will have gone in there because the producers have deemed them attractive. They likely have hundreds of DMs from people thirsting over them. If they don’t find love in the villa, they know that there will be people out in the real world ready and waiting.
Watching a plus-size person on Love Island wouldn’t be enjoyable. Being surrounded by slim women is the perfect breeding ground for major self-esteem issues. Throw in romantic rejection plus the knowledge that people on the internet are picking your body apart during your every appearance on camera and you’re placing someone in a dangerously vulnerable position.
If a plus-size person leaves single, they return to a world of dating they know all too well – one where men will accuse them of ‘fatfishing’ for using a flattering picture, where they’re not allowed to turn men down unless they want messages to quickly turn abusive.
Putting a plus-size person in Love Island would be damaging to the individual and to all the viewers who are living the reality of dating while fat. We don’t need to see the toxic, fatphobic environment of love played out on screen for the world to enjoy.
We don’t need to watch a woman’s crisis of confidence in high definition, or to hear men debating why exactly they don’t want to couple up with her. It’s just too painful when you’ve lived that experience firsthand.
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