Reality shows depict people and situations which are supposed to be relatable. However, it is near impossible to name a reality show in which there is not an ‘on-off’ couple, one person yearning for an established relationship, while the other refuses ever to name the situation, which can only be called a ‘situationship’. And despite the unfulfilled, unhappy half, the audience will remain gripped to this ‘couple’, cheering them on. In this way, we risk romanticising toxic relationships and normalising harmful behaviour.
Love Island, for example, promotes disposable relationships. Individuals couple up, but the mentality is: ‘keep your options open’. Afraid of being ‘mugged off’, the contestants fail to commit and are always ready for pastures new. Audience tweets show that they encourage re-couplings, shuffling the deck of kings and queens, and normalising a disposable mentality.
Relationships in the villa often come with the labels removed. As a result, contestants never know where they stand. Those in a couple will witness someone try to change the mind of their ‘partner’. Instead of leaving the situation, they rise to meet their competitor. How would you feel having to compete for your bae? Would you fight or flight? Actually, it seems that millennials are becoming more tolerant of non-committed relationships. Few escape the ‘what are we?’ predicament and many are happy to settle for an almost-relationship.
Yes, sometimes these ‘situationships’ become something more, but what about the side that television programmes don’t illuminate—when both individuals are in fact on different pages and one never intends to commit. There can be many reasons for this. Some people are scared of getting hurt because of past relationships. Some want to keep their options open. Some just do not want to settle down.
TV shows present unlabelled relationships as the result of a lack of communication, yet they are glorified all the same. The message being conveyed seems to be this: tolerate an unhappy ‘situationship’ in the hope that, one day, the feeling will be mutual. Our society should not treat people so disposably.