Indo col 59:
Friends, come with me now as I chart a course directly into the all-consuming cultural maelstrom that is Love Island. It shames me to admit that up to this series, I had never seen a single sleazy second of it, but this year I couldn’t avoid it. A co-worker who spends much of his time rhapsodising Ken Burns documentaries declared it to be the best TV he had seen in years. And so it was that I sat down with a cynical sneer across my face, ready to archly tell anyone listening of how the tricoteuse of the French Revolution knitted while heads rolled down from the guillotines. This is the death of the intellect, I mused, as I attempted to navigate the uncharted, shallower channels of my Sky box. ‘Here be ITVs’ I chuckled to myself. Except, of course, I was soon high on Love Island’s heady mix of social awkwardness, emotional frailty, and a cast that looks like it was designed by Mattel. They have Barbies, they have Ken dolls, and they had Kendall, who looked like a Bratz doll and cried like a Tiny Tears, and thus was marched off the show for bringing everyone down.
Love Island is like a soap opera set in an Irish college – people with varying degrees of competence at their own native tongue attempt to get the shift, with mixed results. It’s ‘I’m A Celebrity’, only instead of eating kangaroo anus, they are eating each other’s faces, and it is almost as horrifying. High points so far include the reveal that Alex – who looks too perfect to be human – is actually 22, despite looking thirtysomething. It would appear that he has been cursed by the gods with incredible beauty and the lifespan of a mayfly. And who can forget supremely woke Eeyore (not his real name) whose then-soulmate forgot his name and said the sound of his breathing made her sick. His reaction upon being told this caused his zen facade to fall asunder and he became most unchill. What a show.
Love Island is every sad and joyous thing about humans distilled down to a few godlike bodies clad only in tiny swimwear and the bang of want. But like all reality shows, the best part of it is the schadenfreude. It is a show that makes me glad to be old, doughy and married, and thus ineligible for residency on Love Island, or any landmass associated with love, be it peninsula, promontory or landfill.
As with all reality programmes, pundits are queueing up to tell you that Love Island is a symptom of our cultural decline, as though up until Endemol vomited the first season of Big Brother onto our screens we all sat around reading Ulysses and listening to Rachmaninoff. Love Island is as intellectually stimulating as you make it – you can watch it for swimwear tips, to ponder on the human condition, to laugh at the contestants or with them, or to just kill an hour in the evening after a long day of worrying about your deteriorating finances and health. Sure it’s bubblegum TV, but as the doomsday clock ticks closer to midnight, it’s nice to have something to wash away the bitter taste of fear.
Of course much of that fear is now obviously unfounded, as this week the real Love Island was Singapore, where the will-they won’t-they Mexican nuke-off between Trump and Un came to a bromantic conclusion. One is a deranged egomaniac who controls the media and propagates lies with every breath, the other is a North Korean, what on earth could they have in common, apart from crazy hair, crazy ideas and a penchant for bizarre pet names for each other – dotard and little rocket man being two. Hey you two, get a room – perhaps in the five star Trump Hotel Pyongyang that is no doubt looming in our future.
Speaking of the end of life on Earth, it appears Mars is back on the agenda as a potential home for us. NASA’s rover Curiosity has discovered organic compounds, an indication that there may once have been life on Mars. However, the compounds aren’t the only news from the red planet – Curiosity has also recorded seasonal methane patterns, in much the same way we see seasonal methane spikes the day after Paddy’s Day. Mars does seem to be our best chance of starting over once we are done murdering this planet, but we might want to bring a jacket – another NASA rover, the Opportunity, is currently facing an end to its 14-year trek across the planet as it has been engulfed in a dust storm. We hear ‘dust storm’ and think of Saharan winds dumping red dust on your car. Dust storms on Mars are slightly different – this one covers an area 18 million square kilometres and is so dense that it has blocked out the sun, bad news for the solar powered Opportunity. But it’s still be best shot we have at a new home, so here’s to the cast of Love Island 2525 coming live from Mars, where a gaggle of emaciated humans who attempt to procreate in boiling heat. So not that different really.