America loves its reality television. From “The Bachelor” to “Jersey Shore,” you could spend an entire summer with drama, romance and debauchery filled binge-watching. Recently the British dating show, “Love Island,” has joined the ranks of hot television.
“Love Island,” a 2015 reboot of an earlier series with the same name, promises all the usual components that attract positive and negative attention in droves. Contestants inhabit a cabana in gorgeous Mallorca and must couple up in pairs to avoid elimination and to have a shot at the cash prize.
Games and challenges imitate the competitive structure of “Survivor” but with more fake nails, fake tans, fake boobs and fake romance. Most importantly, each participant is Barbie doll beautiful and must manipulate, flirt and cheat their way to avoid being dateless and consequently booted.
Other than the harmful concept that those without a romantic partner are “losers,” and that same-sex couples were not included until just this year, the series also struck a cord with online viewers when advertisements during streaming had a common, concerning theme. While streaming “Love Island” on ITV Hub, expect to be berated by advertisements for MYA Cosmetic Surgery, breast enhancement and “Skinny Sprinkles.”
Advertising 'Skinny Sprinkles' in the middle of #loveisland is so wrong and damaging! 😡😠😡
— Abi Pearson (@abipearson94) July 1, 2018
In response to Twitter backlash and campaigning by feminist group Level Up, ITV simultaneously admitted there was an issue while also defending their advertisers. The chief executive of ITV, Carolyn McCall, explained that\ only “tiny number” of ads were “not quite right,” and that ITV is seriously “regulated for advertising content and for all our content, so we have done nothing wrong.”
McCall also accredited “Love Island” for a massive hike in ITV revenue and viewership which has increased the network’s share of 16-to-34-year-old viewers by 20 percent in the first half of 2018. The majority of these audience members are female, and it is not a coincidence that plastic surgery advertisers and diet products have targeted this particular audience. Watching unnaturally beautiful people on television, interrupted by brief commercials for ways to achieve a more “desirable” figure is brainwashing.
In an interview with the BBC Douglas McGeorge, former president of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) said that spectators of a show like “Love Island,” especially those under 18, are “vulnerable” and “impressionable” and that advertising these procedures is “totally inappropriate.”
In light of issues with body image and eating disorders, the BAAPS has suggested a ban on all cosmetic procedure advertisements under their jurisdiction, but their request has not yet become law.
NHS England’s mental health director, Claire Murdoch, also addressed the problem in a letter to the ITV that read, “Not only are there clear risks associated with cosmetic surgery but placed alongside the body image pressures that can be inherent in many online and social media interactions, adverts such as these could pose a risk to mental health.”
Reality television has never been the shining example of body positivity, healthy lifestyles or healthy relationships, but as experts have pointed out, allowing advertisers to target the young audience of these shows, especially one as popular as “Love Island,” is unethical.
The UK’s call for laws limiting the range of plastic surgery advertisement should also be a warning to the U.S., where in 2017 70 percent of consumers considered a form of non-invasive cosmetic procedures according to the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery. Cosmetic treatments and diet plans also frequently advertised on Instagram, where young people are already exposed to an overflow of photoshopped images.
Cosmetic surgery alone is not the problem, as it can drastically benefit lives and better a person’s self-esteem. The issue at hand is the deadly pairing of unrealistic beauty expectations with the suggestion that satisfaction with one’s appearance has a price tag.
Mental health issues related to body image and plastic surgery addictions in young people is a growing problem that must be faced proactively. Body positivity cannot be bought, and nothing substitutes a healthy lifestyle and self-love.