Jess Harding being called ‘fat’ shows how underrepresented ‘normal’ bodies still are on TV
Trolls are still talking about her weight
It’s no secret that Love Island has a body diversity problem – and the trolling that’s directed at contestants as a consequence is sadly neither novel nor surprising. This year’s target? Jess Harding: “I mean, how can Jess be both fat AND slim,” wrote one viewer. “She’s the most out of shape size eight I’ve ever seen. Like an out of shape Gemma Collins,” added another. “Jess is actually the reason why i’m fat phobic,” claimed a third.
Judgement has continued since Jess left the Love Island villa, with endless headlines emerging about her reportedly having a “tummy tuck” before entering the show, and questions around her weight flooding in during every Q&A she does on her socials. It’s exhausting. “I love my body as should we all,” she responded to speculation.
To be clear: Jess Harding is not fat and the trolls comments claiming otherwise are disgusting. The hate directed towards her (a woman who’s several dress sizes below the women’s UK average size 16) is symptomatic of an on-screen culture that has allowed us to think anyone whose body creases and curves when they sit down is morbidly obese.
ITV execs decided against plus sized contestants in 2019 because they ‘want to be as representative as possible, but we also want them to be attracted to one another’. Hm. Jess isn’t even a plus-sized contestant. But without proper body inclusivity (note: not tokenism) every year, the largest woman is invariably attacked for existing.
While the online trolling about Jess’ body are blatant, unashamed and vile, there are micro mentions of the topic on the show, where “petite” is a “type”, too. “[Is] Sammy going to keep commenting on Jess’ weight and then call her lazy?” questioned one viewer on Twitter. “Hate dudes like this.”
In another instance, viewers accused Molly of digging at Jess’ body after she suggested she should come to the gym during a particularly tense day between them in the villa:
But regardless of how many comments were made about Jess’ body inside or outside the villa, one hateful word is enough to show the truth: There’s a vast majority of people with a veritable disgust for seeing anyone who isn’t showbiz thin or reality show lean anywhere on television or in the public eye—and that’s, frankly, horrifying.
When Jess first walked into the Love Island villa, there were hundreds of comments on TikTok videos from girls celebrating a woman who “looked like them” being visible on the show. But since Jess has started getting trolled, this positive impact is reversed: Girls who see themselves in her on screen start to question if there’s something wrong with them, too.
On Love Island, where there’s never ever been a single “fat” contestant – or even a year where the majority of women were above a size ten – petite (read: skinny) is determined as attractive. It’s the only body type on view. And when it’s not? The reaction is unjustifiably cruel and negative.
We need more real bodies on reality TV if we want this treatment to stop.
Love Island 2023 is on ITV2 and ITVX. 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.