reality tv

"It was heartbreaking." Love Island's casting highlights the problem with modern dating in Australia.

I’m not ashamed to admit I’m a diehard Love Island fan, but this week the new Australian season stopped being just a guilty pleasure.

Instead, it just left me feeling a little guilty.

Monday night’s episode started out on a real high with promise of a more diverse cast than the one we were presented with in 2018.

This time around the line-up included Cynthia, a West-African woman from Brisbane.

Watch the trailer for the new season of Love Island Australia below. Post continues after video.

As soon as the show kicked off Twitter lit up with positive tweets from people watching, some black and some white, who were all rooting for Cynthia and applauding the show for being more inclusive after last year’s very white cast.

But then the coupling-up portion of the episode started.

The first coupling ceremony of Love Island is based on looks and looks alone.

One by one five single males enter the villa and select the woman they would most like to couple up with, without any conversation, based purely on their “type”.

One by one the number of un-coupled islanders dwindled. And then it happened. The black girl got picked last and it was heartbreaking.

More than that, it was triggering.

Triggering because it mirrored my real-life experiences and what it is like dating as a person of colour.

After facing backlash last year, Love Island has attempted to diversify its cast, but how did they get it so wrong? Laura Brodnik and Kee Reece discuss on The Spill.

There is no hiding the fact that Cynthia being picked last on the show relates to her ethnicity, and the reality is that dating in Australia, a predominantly white country, for people of colour is challenging.

More often than not you have to figure out whether or not a suitor even “dates black girls” and this means the pool is often very limited.

I’ve had two long-term boyfriends in my life, both of whom are white.

Before meeting each of their parents I distinctly remember asking if they would be OK with their son dating a black girl. It sounds crazy, but this is a genuine concern.

Off-hand comments from people I have met who are in interracial relationships or married talking about their future children and the disappointment they feel about the “muddying” of blood and the likelihood of them not having blonde hair blue-eyed children, stay with you.

There is also this idea of people wanting to “dip”, not date, black. They are down to hang out and hook up one-on-one but nothing more than that because it doesn’t fit in with what their ideal is for the long term.

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In another case of “you just can’t write this stuff,” when I was in my early 20s, I received a call from my best friend regarding someone I had slept with.

I hadn’t shared this information with anyone so I was immediately confused as to how she knew we’d slept together. It turns out she knew because the friends of said boy found out about it and his response was to tell them that I had given him AIDs.

You know, because I’m black.

 

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It was humiliating, devastating and the worst form of rejection you could ever feel. At the time I’m not even sure I processed the enormity of what happened. We had been intimate and apparently I had been so disgusting and black that he caught AIDs off me.

I immediately called him out on it and demanded an apology. But making him apologise for how wrong he was did not really fix anything. Again, these things stay with you.

Seeing a gorgeous black woman on screen like in this episode of Love Island not getting picked is triggering. It reminds me of all of the times I was rejected by someone new or unfairly treated by someone I had been intimate with because of the colour of my skin.

Ultimately, it comes down to representation and beauty standards and what is perceived to be desirable, which in Australia is being white.

Diversity cannot stop unconscious bias. So while I appreciate the effort from the network to be inclusive, it reads as tokenism with no afterthought about what her experience might be.

Watching someone for weeks on end not find love because of their personality or the way they look is heartbreaking. But watching them not find love due to the colour of their skin is unbearable.

New contestants are introduced to Love Island throughout the season so we don’t know who else is set to enter the villa, but I truly hope Love Island producers are listening to the feedback from the audience and bring in suitors who are open to dating all types of people and that includes ethnicities.


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