The history of including queer people in television is something that is littered with weak excuses, harmful stereotypes and quite frankly, a sh*t ton of outdated bigotry. Now that we’re halfway through 2021 however, you would think that TV bosses would have left all of that in the past and done whatever they can to make their shows as inclusive as possible, right? Wrong.
Recently speaking with the Radio Times, ITV commissioner Amanda Stavri commented on the rumours and demands for contestants of different sexualities in their hit reality series, Love Island. She said: "It goes without saying that we want to encourage greater inclusivity and diversity.”
A good start! If it “goes without saying”, we should expect to see some queer members of the Love Island cast later this month when the series makes its highly-anticipated return, right? Wrong again.
Stavri would go on to say that including "gay Islanders" would be a "challenge" because of the show's format, explaining: "There's a sort of logistical difficulty, because although Islanders don't have to be 100% straight, the format must sort of give [them] an equal choice when coupling up.”
She added that another ITV dating show - The Cabins - had “much more sexual diversity”, which is great! But what about Love Island?
The comments came just a month after the BBC was privy to similar remarks made by Love Island executive producer Richard Cowles, who said bringing in LGBT+ contestants was “not impossible and it is not something that we shy away from… but there is a logistical element which makes it difficult.”
So, what we’re getting from all of this is that it is simply too much like hard work to include queer contestants as part of the Love Island format. Something that gay, bisexual and transgender people have been told time and again throughout the decades when campaigning for equality.
Though the show has in the past seen a same-sex coupling up in Katie Salmon and Sophie Gradon, this was completely by chance rather than by design. A nice slice of diversity in the 2016 series, but one that was fleeting and an anomaly.
Bisexual former contestant Megan Barton-Hanson, who appeared in the show's 2018 season, said that putting one or two queer contestants on a regular season wasn't good enough as it could be seen as a novelty or tokenism. She has instead called for a "whole gay season" and honestly, we agree!
Here’s an idea: why not bring in three homosexual men, three homosexual women, three bisexual men and three bisexual women to kick things off? There are a whole plethora of different directions the couplings could go in, making for one heck of an exciting series which would undoubtedly be packed full of drama and intrigue.
Sure, a few people may end up not wanting to be in a couple at all, but perhaps it’s time for Love Island to show that it’s absolutely okay to be on your own too, even whilst actively looking for a significant other?
It’s high time that ITV stopped making flimsy excuses and made the LGBT+ community an equal priority when casting their shows, sitting alongside the ‘traditional’ heterosexual applicants rather than beneath them. Making small changes to the show’s “format” should be seen as less important to series bosses than the representation of the true reality of the British dating scene.
Love Island returns later this month (June 2021) for its seventh series on ITV2.
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