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The toxic love of Temptation Island

Everything that is harmful in the tv program

The toxic love of Temptation Island Everything that is harmful in the tv program

The latest edition of Temptation Island, a show broadcast on Mediaset that has been keeping us company for several summers now, is going strong. The concept behind the program is simple: couples who want to test their relationship agree to separate and spend some time in a Sardinian resort with tempters (or people) of the opposite sex, there specifically to stir things up. Thanks to providential footage, they will see how the other behaves. Then they can clarify things in person during the confrontation at the bonfire, in the presence of host Filippo Bisciglia. At this point, they will decide whether to leave the program together or break up for good (or almost).

Temptation Island couples are an ode to toxic love

In short, Temptation Island repeats what has always been the winning formula of C'è posta per te, in a less extreme and more mediated form. People - and the more they are perceived as rough and old-fashioned, the better, because it makes for better entertainment - are placed in an environment designed specifically to trigger their worst instincts, with the result being sold as entertainment. What’s worse is that in this case, the relationship dynamic examined (and exacerbated and exaggerated) is that of the heterosexual couple, with all its idiosyncrasies and negative traits. Jealousy, possession, control, patriarchy, gender roles. Consequently, the women on the show, whether they are the girlfriends or the temptresses, are framed (and treated) as pieces of meat, as poor cuckolds, as submissive women to be pitied. How did they not leave these boors earlier? The men, on the other hand, are considered little more than apes. In short, these are dysfunctional couples perpetuating toxic dynamics, and there’s not much else to add. The real question is: are we all capable of understanding and distinguishing what is real from what is fake? Who is responsible for putting these things on TV?

The pursuit of scandal and "revealing" TikToks

The formula works great, but we had no doubts. The audience enjoys commenting on these exaggerated schemes, perhaps without realizing that these are the most common schemes of all, impacting our lives every day. The exaggeration makes them seem distant, even though they are not. In some cases, a bubble system comes into play. We don't feel like them, we feel superior: observing them then becomes permissible, ridiculing them too, getting angry even, but never too seriously. As if that weren't enough, many people - and it’s impossible to determine if they are sincere or not, anything goes these days - jump on TikTok claiming to be friends of the participants, ex-boyfriends of the tempters or someone from the couples, bringing as "proof" screenshots of conversations and photos that could easily be altered. And the circus expands, and so does the pursuit of scandal. It doesn't matter what is true, what matters is creating a stir (and views).

A question of media literacy and responsibility

Does it make sense to keep bringing these dynamics to television without any further clarification, turning violent actions and outbursts of anger, attempts at possession and control, into entertainment? In our opinion, no. Just as it doesn't make sense, and could prove harmful, to assume that everyone understands these are artificially constructed situations, fomented and dramatized to be televisual. Especially if much of the marketing for Temptation Island talks about a journey through feelings and true love, real couples' fates, in short, pushing the concept of reality TV. There is, in this country but also in the world, an issue with reading comprehension first and then with media literacy. We struggle to understand that what we see on TV or social media is not necessarily true, that sometimes it is exaggerated, that influencers are not our friends but professionals of indirect sales. Imagine, then, what broadcasting toxic loves could do - to young and inexperienced people or to people who lack the means to separate fiction from reality.

The arguments in defense: Is Temptation Island a cautionary tale?

Among the comments - which, for the record, are not a pretty sight, between victim blaming the girlfriends, slut-shaming the temptresses, and body-shaming aimed at just about anyone - there are also those who defend the show, saying it is a lesson, a parable, in short, a cautionary tale to warn boys and girls, to show them everything that is wrong and thus push them to seek something else. The history of Temptation Island tells us otherwise, with couples shown as dysfunctional happily getting back together and with tearful confrontations mediated by Bisciglia, who too often tends to minimize even the gravest affronts in the name of true love. Again, the ways of the show tell us otherwise, as they explain nothing nor contextualize certain mechanisms as products of our times. So, what are we talking about?