It wasn’t meant to go this way. For it was written that a pure-of-heart boxer would meet a pillow-lipped influencer who “does Instagram,” they would get to know each other, go on a journey, jump into a swimming pool fully-clad, win a £50,000 cash prize, and leave the Love Island villa to at least a year’s worth of endorsement deals, magazine photoshoots, and endless Daily Mail pap shots of them frolicking on a beach in Dubai.
Tommy Fury and Molly-Mae Hague did everything right: they declared their love for each other, had a child (Elly Belly), even discussed moving in. Coming to their aid, the producers laid it on Factor 50 for them to win: Fury and Hague were consistently given the most airtime of any couple in the show, with Fury’s stammering declarations of love (“I’ll literally … pay a guy to send a thousand roses to your door”) depicted in gruesome detail, night after night. Instead, in the biggest national upset since Britain voted to leave the European Union, Greg O’Shea and Amber Gill – who have been a couple for only two weeks, have not had sex, and remain charmingly level-headed about each other – beat Fury and Hague to take the £50,000 prize money.
The only way to explain O’Shea and Gill’s upset is simple. They won not because they are the better couple – they may be in time, but it’s clear that Hague and Fury’s relationship is more established. They won because Love Island is no longer a show about genetically blessed people finding love, shagging, and raking acrylic nails down each other’s backs under the beating Balearic sun.
Love Island is post-love. It’s now a show about who deserves to be famous, with all the trappings that fame brings. (It’s telling that nearly all of the show’s contestants – with the exception of the lovelorn romantic Amy Hart – were cast by producers, and most were signed with management agencies, including Off Limits Entertainment, which represents Fury and darksided agent of chaos Maura Higgins, and The Social PR, which represents Hague, prior to entering the house.)
If we’re judging the contestants not on love, but on who most deserves that Boohoo endorsement deal, then Gill – who won the nation’s sympathy after being wooed then brutally dumped by hulking firefighter Michael Griffiths (“CHALDISH,” he shouted at her, jabbing his finger, as women across the country spontaneously combusted in righteous rage) – is the clear winner. Their hand-of-God victory can also be explained by the fact that it wasn’t a fair fight. O’Shea should have been given a handicap of +13 for Irish charm, and made to compete for Gill’s affections by video link. Men like him shouldn’t just be sent into the villa to chastely kiss girls on the cheek and ask neanderthalic men what their thought process was behind that and twerk against wooden decking like regular contestants – it isn’t fair!
And besides, the British public loves to be contrary – how else do we explain Piers Morgan’s career? The more we were nudged by producers towards voting for Hague and Fury, who clearly modelled themselves on season four winners Dani Dyer and Jack Fincham, the more we chafed against the bit. Because – although Fury is immensely lovable, particularly when he’s pouring a can of Coke down his pants, or professing his terror for triangles – Love Island’s central conceit was flawed. Watching people fall in love is intolerable! Which is exactly why the final episodes of the show, where contestants go on elaborate dates and talk about their “journey” together, are universally derided by viewers online.
We don’t watch Love Island to see Instagram models simper insufferably at statue-like men. We watch Love Island for the pure pleasure of seeing sweet prince Ovie Soko talk about how much he loves Training Day, before taking his bucket hat out of the freezer and calmly popping it on. We watch Love Island to see award-winning snogger Anna Vakili storm across the villa garden, her kaftan billowing behind her like a gladiatorial robe, and eviscerate Jordan Hames with the surgical precision of a woman who has done this many times before. (TWO DAYS!!) We watch Love Island for its appalling pre-scripted banter – I remain convinced Lucie Donlan was sent home early by producers because she was so lousy at making her lines sound convincing. We watch Love Island for the toneless intonation of noted serial killer Curtis Pritchard (“I’ll … make you a coffee I will”), and the way Higgins rolled her eyes every time he came near, but stuck it out until the final like a champ.
This year’s Love Island gave up the pretence of being a show about love, and in so doing exposed the British public in all its headstrong, obstinate glory. The more we were pushed to vote for Hague and Fury, the more we #resisted. Because you can over-engineer our reality TV, but you can never take away our liberty. (If the Love Island producers are reading this, please, for the love of Ovie, bring back the lie detector test.) My God, this game is brutal. I love it.