Love Island introduced Danny Bibby as the latest in a string of new bombshells last week, but the show wasn't prepared for just how much damage was about to be done.
Not long after his slo-mo entrance played out on-screen, reports emerged showing the 25-year-old Islander using a racial slur on his Instagram page in 2019.
In response to calls for Danny to be removed from the villa, Love Island first shared a statement from his father. While it acted as a defence for Danny, it didn't address the wider issue – that a white person should never use the n-word, regardless of intent – and nor did it place ITV in a position of culpability over the situation.
The hit show later broke with previous tradition and issued a formal response from Danny Bibby himself – from inside the Love Island villa. The statement said that ITV had "raised our concerns with Danny regarding a historic social media post" and that he had, in turn, wanted to share the following:
"I'd like to take the time to apologise to anyone that may have taken offence to my inappropriate remark. I never meant anything malicious by this comment at all. I am not a racist person and it's unacceptable language and ignorant. I meant no offence and feel like I have really learnt from my mistakes and will never use that word again. I am a kind loving person and hopefully you get to see that in the show."
This once again placed the narrative solely back on the contestant. Of course only Danny is responsible for his language, and the event did occur prior to his involvement in the dating show. But it was ITV that plucked him out of obscurity and placed him on our television screens, inviting living rooms across the country to pass opinion.
After Danny's name was released to the public, it took viewers only a matter of hours to unearth the public post. This raises legitimate questions as to how it could have been missed by researchers and produces as part of the casting process, and whether he should have been put in the spotlight in the first place.
With a newfound focus on the duty of care for reality TV contestants, and a recent pledge from ITV to do better, it's disappointing to see the show once again divesting itself of any involvement in the events that have unfolded as a result of its production and format.
To be clear: we're not defending Danny. But his inclusion in the 2021 series does feed into the wider discussion around where the line of responsibility begins or ends with the broadcasters.
Not only has Danny now become the villain of the piece, but ITV's duty of care also extends to those sharing air time with him. The episode which followed the headlines showed Danny going on a date with Kaz Kamwi – the only dark-skinned Black woman in the villa.
While the scenes would have been filmed prior to Danny's knowledge of the situation that was unfolding on the outside, viewers had that context and many were – quite rightly – asking whether Kaz would have later been told that the man she dated had previously used racist language so casually. It's unclear whether any of Danny's fellow Islanders have been notified off-camera, and the issue has not been addressed on screen as part of the show.
At this point it's no secret that, historically, Black women have had a hard time on the dating show – routinely being picked last in the initial recoupling ceremony, and often being seen as 'undesirable' by the male Islanders. It's a troubling trend that has once again played a part in the current series; Rachel Finni has just been sent home, having failed to draw the attention of anyone in the villa, and Kaz remains in a friendship couple.
In an environment where "blonde hair and blue eyes" is a repeated demand from the lads (and you shouldn't need us to de-code this for you), calls for Love Island to create a more organically diverse environment, that allows for its Black and non-white contestants to thrive, are nothing new. But this has to start from the ground up, and be taken into consideration during the casting process and background checks.
By allowing Danny to stay in the villa, and to allow legitimate concerns about his involvement to be explained away, ITV is sending a message – whether inadvertently, or not.
As former contestant Sherif Lanre – who was removed from the villa following a "play fighting" incident a few years back – recently argued: "A white guy has been allowed to apologise from inside the villa for using the N word and carry on filming, whereas I was removed for play fighting and doing something by accident."
Until some of the double standards of the show are addressed, Love Island faces being overshadowed by its own toxicity.
Love Island airs on ITV.
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