Holding reality stars accountable online isn’t trolling – we need to stop blurring the line
Telling people they can’t call out Luca’s behaviour is not #BeKind, it’s tone policing
One of the greatest things about reality TV, at least for me, is how social media comes alive. In Drag Race terms, Twitter is Untucked – and in the hallowed words of RuPaul, “If you’re not watching Untucked, you’re only getting half the story.” I would not enjoy Love Island if I didn’t have the nation tweeting along besides me, a collective sharing of our thoughts, feelings, laughter and fury. It’s a collective outpouring of the nation’s opinion – like sitting in a huge virtual episode of Gogglebox. I will not pretend that it’s always pretty. Sometimes it’s ugly, but it’s honest. As we grow in our online presence, we take more care in the legacy that our comments leave behind – but this has often fell into a world muddied by meaningless echoes of #BeKind, as people excuse behaviour like that we’re seeing on Love Island as trolling.
My thoughts on this stem urgently from Love Island. Namely, that of what the families of any boys who have been called out for their behaviour towards the girls on the show have said. Jacques and Luca have been called out throughout the season for their behaviour, and time and time again their families who are running their social media accounts whilst their lads are in the villa have jumped to their defence. I accept that it must not be nice to see the nation not being best pleased with the behaviour of their respective golden boys, but like… come on.
I do believe that trolling happens to Love Island contestants – it obviously does. Families from this season have shared the kind of disgusting messages the Islander accounts have received and it’s not okay that anyone thinks they can wish death to people from TV. That clearly should go without saying. But this defensiveness when Twitter calls it like they see it is tone policing – you can’t run to a #BeKind every time you don’t like what you see.
Last night, Luca spat his dummy out during the air hostess challenge – yet again coming across as overly protective and jealous of Gemma. Twitter wasn’t having it – I particularly wanted Gem to cut and run when Luca said the words “I expect you to behave.” Interestingly, Luca’s family posted on his account’s story saying “9/10 weeks of no contact with family. It’s a crazy intense environment where emotions are heightened. First to admit if he’s being a little f*ck, but really don’t feel he’s done anything wrong here at all.” They’ve since deleted the story.
This is a wider issue
I’m a huge Drag Race fan. I write about it a lot, watch it a lot, tweet about it a lot. This was the case before and after it became my job to share my opinion on it as a professional writer and TV journo. During season two of Drag Race UK, I tweeted that I thought it was a wrong that a queen said “She shouldn’t be so shit then” about another queen when this particular queen had not yet won a challenge or placed any higher than safe. That was it. A comment on the competition I was watching on TV.
I then walked past this particular queen in the street by chance and smiled at her. The queen went on Instagram live and said she’d come face to face with one of her most disgusting online trolls and that I didn’t have the balls to face her in person. I was honestly gobsmacked. This queen did receive trolling messages, I’m sure – the Drag Race fandom is rampant – but the line that differentiates sharing opinions online and targeted trolling harassment was clearly lost on her.
I write a lot about Drag Race, and do a lot of rankings. I’ve had people really come for me on social media, saying I have no right to write anything about drag because I don’t do drag and I should only share positivity (see how I don’t call this trolling?). This is a waste of breath, in my opinion. I can’t make a cake but I can still pick my favourite of the week on Bake Off. I’m not a pop star but I had many opinions on X Factor winners.
We have to draw the line between trolling and opinion
Look, we only see an hour of television. We are at the mercy of what producers want us to see – and I think any viewer with half a brain is aware of that. Sharing our opinions and live streaming our reactions is what makes reality TV one of the best and most social forms of entertainment. We can’t lose that sense of everyone coming together to revel in its chaos. I think going on these shows in the first place takes a hardy character capable of blocking out the white noise if social media opinion is not something you can contend with. It also takes some informing to whoever is looking after your account what exactly they’re signing up for.
Love Island trolling is a big issue, and no one deserves death threats. Keep that line drawn between trolling and opinion sharing, and don’t blur it to suit your own narrative.
Love Island 2022 continues on ITV2 at 9pm tonight. For all the latest Love Island news and gossip and for the best memes and quizzes, like The Holy Church of Love Island on Facebook.
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