Love Island is toxic and hollow – after Sophie Gradon's death, we need to ask ourselves some tough questions about reality TV

Will Gore

The world of Love Island has been left in turmoil by the death yesterday of Sophie Gradon, who was a contestant back in 2016.

Police said they believed there were no suspicious circumstances. And, while an inquest will determine the cause of death, a fellow contestant on season two of the show, Malin Andersson, suggested that Gradon had struggled (as had she) to deal both with the attention that being on Love Island had brought, and with the subsequent decline in the work she picked up immediately after her appearance.

Andersson has also claimed that contestants should be offered more psychological support to deal with the pressures that come with being an Islander. Gradon herself had spoken publicly about being trolled on social media.

Plainly – as if it were not already obvious – being on a reality TV show does not bring only fame, glory and joy. For those hoping for love too, Love Island may not be the best place to find it.

Indeed, the show has also been in the spotlight this week because of the behaviour of one this season’s stars, Adam Collard.

Collard, one of the ️handful of identikit buff boys who inhabit the villa alongside half a dozen or so bronzed, bikini-clad women, caused a furore over the way he diverted his “romantic” attentions from Rosie to new arrival Zara. He had, said many observers, emotionally manipulated Rosie, forcing her to feel at fault for his egotistical manoeuvres.

Supporters of Adam – mostly men of course – hit back, arguing that he was doing no more than “playing the game”. That, judging from the arguments raging on Twitter, is a matter of debate. Even within the peculiar environment of Love Island there might indeed be some rules of etiquette which ought not to be broken.

Nevertheless, when the broad basis for the show involves regular coupling, uncoupling and recoupling – with £50k at stake for the winning partnership – having a pop at Adam (unpleasant though his actions may have been) does seem a bit like shooting the messenger.

Am I, despite this apparent prudishness, glued to the TV each night? Well, I confess I am not. It’s not for a lack of trying however.

Such has been the buzz around this year’s series that I tuned in eagerly to understand what my life had been missing since 2015. Episode one’s utter inanity left me baffled. Episode two (or at least, the next episode I watched) involved a guessing game in which there was a lot of rather artful snogging.

I was reminded of teenage house parties, when you might see x getting off with y at 11pm, only to see x sticking their tongue down z’s throat come the early hours. Lucky x you might think, and perhaps you’re right. And what consensual people get up to with each other is fundamentally none of anyone else’s business.

Still, the overt gamesmanship of Love Island places it on a different plane to drunken teens pashing on a Friday evening. What’s more, it taps into more than simply the sexual emancipation and empowerment which – in theory – has enabled people to be masters and mistresses of their own destinies. Rather, it promotes – under the guise of good fun under blue skies – the kind of libertarianism that is big on personal choice and personal advancement; and less bothered by the moral foundations of community and society (and, dare one say it, of love). It’s not unlike Donald Trump’s presidency in that regard.

For those attracted by the prospect of fame – and, if you’re lucky, some fat endorsements and personal appearance fees – “reality” shows like Love Island offer an opportunity to jump the queue. Never mind what future partners, children or employers might make of it; living in the now, if you can make now last forever, has no consequences.

Fans of Adam may think their guy is just playing a game. It might be a game they like to play themselves, not on the telly. Rosie supporters may be on the receiving end. Love Island – and the psychology which underscores it – is not a recipe for happiness. On the contrary, if Malin Andersson is right, it’s anything but.

After all, if the old saying is to be believed, no man – or woman – is an island. Yet the paradox of Love Island, with its supposed focus on intimate relationships, is that in fact it is premised entirely on the primacy of the individual. Indeed, the denouement of each season revolves around the question of whether the winning couple will split the prize pot – or whether one partner will sneakily try to keep the lot.

Love? Rubbish. This is a story in which it is each man, or each woman, for themselves.