In a shocking twist on this year’s Love Island, controversial former contestant Adam Collard is returning to the villa as a new bombshell – but with him being condemned for emotional abuse on season four, what does the decision say about the way we treat women?
As any dedicated fan of ITV2’s Love Island will know, every weeknight episode of the hit reality TV series can always be relied upon to set Twitter alight with hilarious commentary. From cringe-inducing challenges to the ultimate relationship test of Casa Amor, the dramatic plot twists never fail to get people talking. This year has been no exception, with viewers marvelling every night at how the producers of the show have engineered “violence” and “chaos” under the Mallorcan sunshine.
Perhaps the most shocking twist of all, though, is the announcement that controversial series four contestant Adam Collard will be returning to the Love Island villa tonight as the “ultimate bombshell”.
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For those in need of a reminder, Collard gained notoriety in 2018 for jumping from love interest to love interest, coupling up with four women during his time in the villa. But it was his treatment of fellow islander Rosie Williams that would spark a heated backlash.
Collard, who was originally coupled up with Williams, was famously accused of gaslighting in the wake of pursuing new contestant Zara McDermott.
When Williams confronted Collard about his treatment of her following McDermott’s arrival, Collard told her that she was on the “defence” and suggested that her jealousy over his flirtatious behaviour had “pushed him away”.
The episode drew a strong response on social media, with viewers condemning Collard’s “manipulative” and “controlling” behaviour. What really pushed the moment into headline news, however, was when national domestic abuse charity Women’s Aid issued a statement of their own warning about unhealthy behaviour in relationships.
“On the latest series of Love Island, there are clear warning signs in Adam’s behaviour,” said Katie Ghose, chief executive of Women’s Aid. “In a relationship, a partner questioning your memory of events, trivialising your thoughts or feelings and turning things around to blame you can be part of a pattern of gaslighting and emotional abuse.
“Last night, Rosie called out Adam’s unacceptable behaviour on the show. We ask viewers to join her in recognising unhealthy behaviour in relationships and speaking out against all forms of domestic abuse – emotional as well as physical. It is only when we make a stand together against abuse in relationships that we will see attitudes change and an end to domestic abuse.”
After being picked up by major news publications, the charity’s statement brought the term ‘gaslighting’ into mainstream discourse. Here on our screens was an undeniable example of toxic behaviour – and the online commentary made it clear that there was nothing entertaining about watching a woman’s spirit be crushed on national TV.
Four years after the backlash, though, it seems as though all has been forgotten. At the end of Sunday night’s (10 July) episode, commentator Iain Sterling declared that the 26-year-old personal trainer and influencer from Newcastle was back on the scene to “ruffle a few feathers”, alongside a brief clip of Collard turning around to smile at the camera. Not only is this the first time that Love Island has brought back a former contestant, but Collard is now being celebrated as the “ultimate bombshell”.
The announcement instantly drew a wave of criticism from viewers over the decision to send Collard, the “pioneer of gaslighting and heartbreak” and “master manipulator”, back to the villa.
The backlash shows that Collard’s behaviour has left an indelible impression upon viewers, especially women who have experienced emotionally abusive behaviour in a relationship. It is a bitter pill to swallow, then, that the man heralded as a “mass manipulator” is now being celebrated with a victorious return to the Love Island villa.
It’s also a damning reminder that our culture frequently rewards men’s bad behaviour, while women who bear the brunt of sexism and misogyny are simply collateral damage. Love Island can be hilarious, fascinating and endlessly compelling television, but there is nothing entertaining about watching women being chewed up and spat out for entertainment.
Stylist has contacted ITV for comment.
Are you or someone you know caught in an abusive relationship? Seek help and support with Refuge or via the National Domestic Abuse Helpline.
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