In Italy, the VIP edition of the Temptation Island TV program has recently concluded. It reuses an American (U.S.) format from 2001, in which some engaged couples decide to live separately for several weeks, usually in exotic resorts and exposing themselves to the “temptation of sirens” to test the stability of their relationships.
The reality show, which with few differences has been broadcasted in many European countries, has got an ever-growing audience, especially in Italy and in the U.K., where the latest seasons have obtained very high share percentages, making it a favorite of the youth and kids.
The Italian authors of the broadcast have defined it as a docu-reality, a sort of "sociological experiment" through which the participants have the possibility to trace the essence of the bond that unites them to the partner. There seemed to be very little reality; with reference to the couples, maybe they were not even real couples. In fact, often the viewers – the critics – wondered just how real those couples were, and how, instead, they are “actors” chosen to reproduce different types of relationships and situations, attracting the public’s attention.
Fiction or reality?
Are the couples real? Or, at least, are they serious? The dilemma is repeated every season and has yet to be resolved, because on the one hand, viewers insinuate suspicions, based on gossip, cross-searches on the lives of the participants before and after the show, and furthermore, the authors defend themselves, saying that it's all true. Well, it's all... true reality show. People become characters, as it goes for all reality shows, but the most obvious thing here is that the script is more than a plot for the characters, and the story is organized so that everything confirms a prototype, the idea of the character built at the drawing table: the Latin lover, the eternal little girl, etc.
What makes us reflect most is the supposed 'realism' portrayed. And above all it makes us reflect on the fact that young people consider these sorts of situations the normality and the norm. It makes you think that fans tweet and retweet, comment on the scenes, post jokes, quote the protagonists… making it all become a trend, during the hours of the program and the following days.
It is considered realistic that a couple’s relationship can be represented through accusations of rights and duties . It implies that the strength of the couple may waver only in the passage of a skimpy bikini; or that a strong bond like the one that should unite a couple, can be dissolved by a more or less hot massage, a sweet phrase whispered in one’s ear, an unexpected but accepted bunch of flowers, a tight hug, all 'allowed,' "because I'm worth it," "because I deserve it." This is a recurring expression that testifies what is there on stage, beyond what the format promises: not the couple, but the individual, the individual focused only on himself, on his needs and necessities , while the couple doesn’t even cross his mind. In the foreground, viewers see not the bond that unites two, but the tie that oppresses them.
Temptation Island: the single character “goes on stage,” not the couple
Everything worthy of a true relationship between lovers is lost in the representation of the couples: while the beauty of the relationship fades, jealousy, individualism, and selfishness emerge and are all held together by a hedonistic pursuit of individual happiness. All this is spiced up with beautiful scenes, landscapes, places, the set in general and the protagonists who are all particularly attractive.
At the end of the story, standing in front of the ashes and rubble, humiliated protagonists with hurt feelings let these feelings win. After having seen films that portray a partner with a tempter or temptress on duty, the couple often decides to separate. Usually, the end comes after the characters have made a real mess of things and said and done things out of bitterness and resentment toward the other person, despite a counselor’s actions to help repair things. Then “sharing” on social media further grows the conflicts with fights, tweets that act as little jabs and betrayals, with gossip and improper comments about each other to which the web is an unstoppable echo. Overall, programs like Temptation Island end up conveying a rather distant idea of the couple from reality, from what is in fact a couple’s relationship, but also from what should be a true relationship of love that can work and resist, in time and space.
It is fact, and a pity, that young people remain attracted to what is proposed in similar shows; moreover, as the analysis of the fans in the United Kingdom confirms, an audience with a rather high learned level follows the program. The reasons that viewers give for following this show are: pleasure and simple entertainment. But in the meantime 'passes' a certain image of the couple and the relationship and management of feelings and emotions centered on one’s ego and on the affirmation of his or her own needs. And everything is only made “spicier” with trash-talk and vulgar language, ridiculous behavior, and certainly not only for the clothes and glittery laptop cover that, in the Italian edition, is used to view the videos of the various partners.
Temptation Island: when the image of true love is falsified
It’s a program that is, creatively, plain and cheap to produce. But the winner of the program earns more than a young graduate professional, and the T.V. station makes a lot of money too thanks to commercials. And that just as simply, this reality show contributes, on a global scenario, to convey an idea of a couple based exclusively on emotion and pleasure. While true love – that should be the object of the research and is the main subject of the shows “Love Island” (in the U.K) and “True Love” (in Italy) – is casted fairly far away and sunk by selfishness and recriminations.
Meanwhile, the Italian VIP edition has also been archived, and new programming is already being considered. There is a rumor of a return of the program in the US and in a German version announced as a remake of the original American format.