Head’s gone? Why Love Island is the answer to voters’ fatigue

The ITV2 reality TV smash hit might be the most fun democracy has to offer

Shortly after Caroline Flack announced Amber Gill as the nation’s sweetheart and Greg O’Shea as Love Island‘s luckiest late-stage entry – just as Maura Higgins screeched “luck of the Irish!” over the bouncy Love Island credits, her final words of the series she was the real hero of – I turned to a friend and said in earnest: “You know, this goes some way to restore my faith in the democratic process.”

I turned 18 in 2012. Since then, I have suffered the emotional whiplash of 2014’s Scottish independence referendum; what seems in retrospect like fortnightly general elections, each leading us further and further down the darkest timeline, (other than that 2017 exit poll. That was fun, wasn’t it?); a Brexit referendum that sent hate crime soaring and put those not already buffered from austerity’s impact even more at risk; and, in the extended display of incompetence in its aftermath, a European Parliament election won by Nigel Farage.

And those are just the votes most of us got to take part in.

By this point it’s tough not to approach voting as an act of collective masochism. I’ve never really known what it is to vote for someone and see them come out on top (Will Young’s Pop Idol triumph aside). Voters further to the right than I have tasted what they interpret as victory time and time again, and seem to feel vindicated by their electoral domination. What must that be like, I wonder? The left is busy in-fighting, all split votes and ideological battles. Voting and pessimism, for many of us, now go hand in hand.

But like a beacon of hope, Love Island has made it all seem possible again. Despite all those abs and neon bikinis, the plastic wine flutes and inexplicable Craig David appearances, could democracy have come out on top as the real winner?

We met Amber Gill, a 21-year-old Geordie who stole the moment of the series when she turned down manipulative firefighter Michael for just-arrived Greg from Limerick. At the beginning of the series, she was easily one of the least popular contestants, considered abrasive and rude. But we went on a journey – us, and Amber, and World’s Coolest Man Ovie. An emotional rollercoaster, as she told Caroline Flack moments before she and Greg were crowned and forced to go through the farcical twist of deciding if they would share the £50,000 prize money.

It could so easily have been Tommy Fury and Molly-Mae. Together from near enough the start, one explosive episode put well behind them. In fairness to them, they were great – Tommy wore his heart on his sleeve in the most endearing of ways, long-winded though he tended to be. He wrote ‘impregnable’ in his speech for Molly-Mae, then asked the other lads what it meant. He brought Ellie-Belly to the fire pit at the recoupling post-Casa Amor, and Molly-Mae made us all cry. This year’s Dani Dyer and Jack Fincham, first in line for charcoal toothpaste endorsement deals, most likely to have their faces on ‘it is what it is’ socks sold in Primark.

Bit boring though, wasn’t it? While Amber and Greg got more votes, Tommy and Molly-Mae were the couple of the establishment.

It hasn’t always been perfect. Josh and Kaz, Love Island‘s best looking, coolest couple ever, were robbed last year – it was hard to get mad at Laura and Paul placing second, as she’d been on a journey of her own, but it felt like something had gone wrong along the way.

But last night, the British public came together to vote and they did it right. The only injustice came from our inability to have producers give out special individual prizes, to Maura and to Ovie, forever in our hearts. But after going to the ballot box, the Love Island app on my phone, Caroline Flack said, you’re right. Everyone agrees. This country wants the best for itself.

This year’s Love Island might have lacked some of the soul of previous seasons, the producer’s hand more noticeably present than usual. But next time you enter a ballot booth, filled with dread and futility, think of Amber and Greg. Vote for who you like. There’s hope.

Image: ITV