On becoming basic and watching ‘Love Island’

I've had to come to terms with the fact that I am now mainstream when it comes to reality TV

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Hanna Preston is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. 

Riley Walsh | Cavalier Daily

We can all be a bit elitist at times — I know I can. For example, I do feel a bit special for being able to drink my coffee black — ridiculous, I know, but nonetheless, I do. I also take joy in the fact that I do not watch reality television — or rather, I used to, because that statement is no longer true. As a longtime loather of all reality shows, I have become obsessed with “Love Island.”

“Love Island” is a British dating show featuring “a bunch of gorgeous singles ... taking over the hottest villa in the world for eight weeks of sun, sea and smooching, in their quest for the ultimate summer romance and £50,000 prize!” If you asked a few months ago if that description was something that piqued my interest, I would have laughed in your face. But now I am obsessed.

My familiarity with “Love Island” started halfway through the school year last year after I walked into my suite and saw a bunch of young and super attractive men and women — most of whom had thick Essex accents — on the TV screen. A girl in a hot pink bikini was yelling at a guy in tiny swim trunks about mugging her off. I heard some variation of the words “mugging off” too many times to count in that one episode and had no clue what they meant — I soon learned that “to mug someone off” meant to blow someone off or make them look like an idiot.

For the next few weeks, I would watch an episode here and there with my roommates, and I started to become more interested. And then came spring break — I was back home with not much to do. I watched a third of a season — a season consists of 50 episodes — in that one week. I was hooked and ashamed.

I had always prided myself on not watching reality TV — not because I thought I was watching higher quality content than the people who did, but because it was one thing I hadn’t jumped on the bandwagon for. I had only ever seen one episode of “The Bachelor,” and aside from one-minute videos on Instagram meme accounts, I had never watched any shows with a Kardashian in it. I considered myself a little bit special for not being completely mainstream.

But clearly that was no longer the case, as I ended up watching all 50 episodes of that season in less than two months. There was just something so entertaining about watching a bunch of people in their 20s get into petty arguments, participate in absurd games and go on dream dates that only ever end in more drama. 

Once I began to tell people I watched “Love Island,” I tried to justify and qualify it. I would argue that it wasn’t as overtly sexist as a show like “The Bachelor” because “Love Island” always has a relatively equal number of men and women on the show. Then I would say I liked it because it felt more real to me — the British network ITV which airs the show does not censor nearly as much content as American networks do, so “Love Island” has a more raw and less-staged appeal. I kept coming up with excuses as to why I watched the show. But honestly, it was purely because I enjoyed watching it.

I had to come to terms with the fact that something I considered unique about myself was no longer there. I caved. I became — as some people would call me — basic. No one really hopes to be called basic by anyone other than themselves in a humorous self-deprecating manner, but here we are. 

There’s a very prevalent idea nowadays that if something is basic, it lacks deeper meaning or it is not special. Urban Dictionary says someone who is basic is “only interested in things mainstream, popular and trending.” But the truth is, things that are now considered basic became popular for a reason — people enjoy good content. My experience with “Love Island" has taught me to appreciate “basic,” rather than judge it. It is easy to get caught up in wanting to stand out from the crowd, but I shouldn’t demean anything enjoyed by a large population simply because I don’t consider myself a part of it.

Maybe I am a bit basic, and maybe I have a slightly ridiculous obsession with a completely unrealistic dating show. But I should not have to search for ways to defend and clarify my interests and what brings me entertainment and laughter — and I shouldn’t judge others for their interests as well. Being basic is absolutely fine, and just because something is popular and mainstream does not mean that it should be valued less. The next time someone brings up reality TV in a conversation, I will no longer roll my eyes. Instead, I will proudly state that I binged all of season five of “Love Island”  in the first month of this semester — which is why I am handing in this article a day late.

Hanna Preston is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily.  She can be reached at life@cavalierdaily.com.

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