“Love Island” Got Homophobic on National TV

UK dating series Love Island may not be featuring any gay contestants in the foreseeable future, but at least we can look forward to casual and antiquated homophobia. You know what—we’ll stick to Fire Island.

During Sunday’s airing of Love Island: Aftersun, the weekly recap of all things Love Island, British rapper Stefflon Don jumped in on the gossip train over contestant Mehdi Edno. Mehdi is currently coupled up with Whitney Adebayo, but that didn’t stop Stefflon Don from speculating on his sexuality.

“I don’t know if he even likes females, I’m not gonna lie,” she said. “I’m not sure if he’s, you know… or he likes both, he’s giving a bit of both.”

Although host ​​Maya Jama tried to move the conversation along, saying, “Oh no—he can do whatever he likes, but…,” the damage had already been done. And on Pride, no less.

Viewers lambasted the fact that this speculation seems based solely on notions of traditional masculinity. In other words, the classic stereotypes we’d hoped we’d left with low-rise jeans back in the 00s.

Scrutiny over a cast member’s sexuality is unfortunately nothing new to the series—though usually Twitter is the culprit. Previous contestant Will Young faced constant speculation over his sexuality for similar stereotypical reasons—essentially by being uninhibited and goofy. Following the season’s end and his pairing with Jessie Wynter, Will looked back on the speculation in a conversation with the Daily Mirror.

“I was 100% myself in the villa,” he said. “I’m happy with myself and I’m happy with Jessie. My brother is gay, and so I’m all for it. I don’t think anyone can say that to me in a negative way. As a person I’m very outgoing and charismatic, and I’m not going to change.”

What might help Love Island and its viewers get over the casual homophobia is some actual out and proud contestants. But given that producers have characterized such contestants as a “logistical difficulty,” that seems unlikely. “In terms of gay Islanders, I think the main challenge is regarding the format of ‘Love Island,’” ITV commissioner Amanda Stavri said in 2021. “Although Islanders don’t have to be 100 percent straight, the format must sort of give [the] Islanders an equal choice when coupling up.”

In the meantime, there’s always queer-specific dating shows like The Ultimatum: Queer Love and I Kissed a Boy.

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