Has the entertainment industry only just begun to realise the devastating effects of pitting people against each other, publicly shaming them whilst still humiliating others all in the name of ‘good’ television?
Shows such as Love Island and The Jeremy Kyle Show have been scrutinised in the last few weeks following the suicides of a few of their participants. Regardless of your own standpoint, it is clear something needs to be done. While The Jeremy Kyle Show has been cancelled permanently as a result, some of the public are signing petitions calling for Love Island to be cancelled too.
Just take a look at Love Island where two contestants have taken their lives shortly after appearing on the show. Yet, the show has not been cancelled and instead improved aftercare and certain measures have reportedly been ensured to protect future contestants. While it is unknown to what extent the show impacted the individuals mental health, the competitive environment where contestants pit themselves against each other to stay in the show and compare each other based on their appearance all for public entertainment remains. Lie detector tests prominently featured on The Jeremy Kyle Show and were partially blamed for the death of the participant Steve Dymond. Yet, lie detector tests will also continue to feature on Love Island despite the upset and controversy it has caused. The Jeremy Kyle Show and Love Island are both shown on ITV which relies on revenue from adverts to produce shows. The higher the viewing figures, the more expensive the advert slots become. Yet how do TV executives strike a balance between revenue and safety of contestants? Do we need a code that they need to abide by for other reality shows? Is it the case that if people want this type of show, should they should be produced regardless of their cost to the contestants?
The most shocking aspect of this is those directly involved in these reality shows who have opened up about the true reality of the entertainment industry. Jonny Mitchell (a fellow contestant and friend of Mike Thalassitis who committed suicide), started a petition for Love Island and other reality shows to give more ‘real support to all contestants’ calling the industry ‘toxic and it costs lives’ with producers us[ing] you for their own agenda’. An improved aftercare is said to help contestants with their readjustment to their new ‘normal’ future, as contestants in previous years have been subject to hate and ‘trolling’ on social media upon their return and have had little help to equip them. Mike Thalassitis also appeared on another dating reality show Celebs Go Dating, which Nadia Essex (a dating expert on the E4 show) took to social media to write “[d]on’t see anyone calling for Celebs Go Dating to be axed when that did more to hurt him social media wise than Love Island ever did. Trust me, I think when the country finds out exactly what was going on behind the scenes at CGD the industry will change forever”.
These are just a few examples of what has been happening behind closed doors and surely this will not be the last. The entertainment industry has taken a daunting and devastating turn for the worse, where entertainment has a whole new meaning and has been misconstrued but at what cost? Will improved aftercare help to change this and focus on the contestants mental health or will another tragedy act as a final wake-up call for the end of such ‘entertainment’ shows?