What Love Island really needs is sexy, nebbish Jews

Who wouldn’t want to watch Saul Bellow on Love Island?


LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 10: Megan Barton Hanson, Wes Nelson, Georgia Steel, Dani Dyer, Jack Fincham, Laura Anderson, Paul Knops, Samira Mighty, Josh Denzel, Kaz Crossley and Alex George during the 'Love Island Live' photocall at ICC Auditorium on August 10, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images)

August 18, 2022 12:20

This summer, on TV, I have been mainly watching Love Island. Whenever I mention this on social media, I get some pushback from people who tell me they are disappointed. It has turned out of course that the greatest thrill social media has provided is not speed of communication, or unusual interactive networks, but the ability to tell other people off. I get told off a fair amount, and when tweeters or Instagrammers tell me they are disappointed in me, I make the point of letting them know that inside them, clearly, they have the soul of a minor public school headteacher from 1953. Either way, there is no need to be disappointed in me for watching Love Island, as I would say it is a small mark of intellectual confidence that I don’t feel the need insecurely to confirm my intelligence by telling everyone I only ever watch BBC4.

I started to like it soon after I realised that the whole show is both a confirmation of and assault on the idea of monogamy. It couples people up and then puts temptation in their way, trying to break them down. There was a moment in the last series when a ripped gym bunny called Andrew had to tell Tasha, his couplee (not a word but hard to say exactly what their status was at this point) that he’d succumbed to another woman, and the way he decided to express this was to say, “So I licked her tit or whatever”, which collection of words frankly I am still laughing at. I don’t love the internet in general, but I did briefly soon after this moment went viral and I saw someone had made a cake with those words in icing on the top.

When I say ripped gym bunny, this would describe any of the men residing in the Majorcan villa all this plays out in. Love Island has an incredibly old-fashioned idea of what constitutes male (and female) attractiveness. I had a chat, whilst it was on, with a high-up person at ITV and said: “Have you ever thought about having a man on it whose attractiveness was less about their body (and hair and teeth), and more about, say, how funny they are?” He said they had tried that, and it hadn’t worked.

I should say they do have people on who think they are funny and say things like “I’m the King of Banter” — this year it was someone called Billy — but obviously nothing is less funny than people who think they are funny and say things like “I’m the King of Banter”.

But I wonder if I should’ve have cut to the chase and just said, “have you ever thought about having a Jew on there?” Because despite the slight phonic similarity between them, I don’t think the word Jew and the word gym really go together. Generalising even more, I’d say I don’t think I’ve ever met a Jewish man who hasn’t relied principally on his wit, rather than his looks, for sexual success. I remember talking to a Jewish TV producer once, a man physically very removed from the men on Love Island, and agreeing heartily when he told me that, even when he was young, he hated nightclubs — because they were too loud and he knew his only chance of getting with a woman was if he could talk to her.

There is of course a Jewish idea of sexed-up maleness (also old-fashioned), of machismo, and it’s invariably linked not to the body, but the intellect. It’s Norman Mailer and Philip Roth and Saul Bellow, all of whom were hyper-obsessed with sex and attracted enormous amount of beautiful partners.

It’s Arthur Miller, who attracted at the time the most beautiful and sought-after woman in the world. I can’t see any of them (or whoever their modern versions are) on Love Island. Point being, Jewish men — well, some Jewish men — know that it is possible, with the right words, to be a sexy nebbish.

This is not by the way a plea for me to be a contestant next year.

I am, of course, another thing not allowed on Love Island: too old. But it is a plea that there might be a world in which even the most basic forms of entertainment promote the idea that connection — something everyone on the show talks about finding — is understood as involving, in the end, the brain.

Having said all this, a Jew has been on it. He was on the fourth series, and he was called Eyal Booker. He got dumped after 25 days. So there goes that theory.

David Baddiel’s Q and A show, Jews Don’t Count Live, is at The Lowry, Salford, 12 -17 September

August 18, 2022 12:20

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