There Is No Room For Made In Chelsea's Sexism In Our Post Love Island World
The Debrief: After six weeks of Love Island, it seems unwatchably uncivil, sexist and cruel.
Six weeks ago, the nation was having a positive, progressive conversation about feminism thanks to a country wide addiction to an ITV2 reality show. Millions of Love Island fans cheered when Camilla schooled Johhny in the science of equality, bill splitting and not being a bellend. (Arguably she didn’t succeed at that last one, but she hooked up with Hot Jamie, so she had the last laugh.) It felt as though we had all passed a watershed. Feminism could no longer be dismissed as a niche, academic interest, or something that people could opt out of. It was unignorable, wearing a bikini and smelling of Hawaiian Tropic After Sun. It couldn’t be separated from our day to day lives, and I think we felt optimistic. Feminism in Love Island meant more feminism on the street, in the supermarket, and all over the internet.
We took a bold step forward, and then last week, we shuffled backwards thanks to a brand new series of Made In Chelsea. Pseudo New Spencer Harry Baron, a cast member who looks less like a human man, and more like a 19th-century propaganda cartoon captioned ‘Women! Watch your bloomers!’ has been behaving badly. He’s been sleeping with Emily and making her believe he wants a relationship, while openly lusting after Frankie - and lying to everyone, saying what suits him and behaving in a slightly more entitled and obnoxious way than Jeremy Clarkson after he’s been denied a steak dinner.
Watch: We Spoke To Lucy, Proudlock And Binky From Made In Chelsea
Then we have Sam, on a break from long term girlfriend Tiff, who is clearly sobbing somewhere in Fulham while he drops his trousers in the middle of Pacha and shouts ‘Who’s for some penis?!’ And the other Sam, who stormed off in the middle of a party because he isn’t ‘getting anything’ from Toff, as if dates are stamps and she’s a Caffe Nero barista who is refusing him a free sex coffee for a completed loyalty card. And Liv, with her long and inglorious history of wounded slut shaming, who says that Emily is putting herself ‘on a plate’ for Harry. Mimi, who is well up for a snog with Sam even though she’s well aware that it will hurt Tiff more than brain surgery performed without anaesthetic. And Alex Mytton, who said that ‘no girl on the island is safe’ now that Sam 1 is sort of single - it’s not definitely a rape joke, but it’s not not a rape joke, either. This behaviour is par for the course in Chelsea (and especially on the many occasions in which the gang find themselves breathless with relief to be ‘out of London’.) But
Love Island wasn’t perfect, but it struck a chord with millions of viewers in a way that no-one expected or predicted. I think it’s because it felt so timely. The Islanders were having the same conversations and experiencing the same issues as the rest of us, albeit around a pool. Sex wasn’t a big deal - it was fine for Gabby and Marcel to decide to wait until the cameras had been switched off, and fine for Kem and Amber to have sex in every room in the villa. It wasn’t fine to ‘mug people off’, or to be bitchy, manipulative or unkind. Of course, it happened, but there were consequences. The Islanders were fundamentally polite to each other. Conversations about expectations were transparent, and the bitching was minimal. However, MIC is packed with so confusing subtexts, snideness and double standards that it makes a Henry James novel seem straightforward.
Watching the first Ibiza episode made me realise that the most recent series Love Island was incredibly progressive because it usually held men and women to exactly the same set of standards. It shouldn’t be shocking, but perhaps this is what made it feel so modern. Conversely, this is why MIC has started to feel so dated. It’s not just offensively, frustratingly sexist - it’s started to seem like a programme that was conceived in the seventies. If a woman has sex with someone she’s not in a relationship with, we’re made to sit through at least 40 minutes of different glossily blonde women pursing their lips and muttering ‘Well, I never.’
The men are promiscuous in a way that isn’t just tolerated but rewarded. When they do cheat, the women they cheat with are vilified, slut shamed and made to seem entirely disposable. Arguably, the programme is simply holding a mirror up to some of the worst, and most sexist behaviour that society is capable of. However, I think it’s bringing us all down. The crash is especially painful after Love Island raised our hopes and showed us humanity at its best.
Love and sex are part of human life. Admittedly, they make things fraught, complex and occasionally painful, but they are supposed to bring us happiness and joy. I think we all loved Love Island because it reflected that joy. We rooted for these people. We cared about their happiness. However, MIC makes love and sex seem entirely joyless, and it fixes the odds so that women always lose the game. In 2017, I expect more from TV. Now that the Islanders have set the standard, I want to see better, kinder, more feminist behaviour on my screen.
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