UCC team uses Love Island to showcase 'toxic behaviours'

UCC team uses Love Island to showcase 'toxic behaviours'

Love Island contestants Faye and Teddy. A new initiative will use clips from the show to depict toxic behaviour. 

The hit reality TV show Love Island is being used to showcase 'toxic behaviour' as part of a UCC-developed initiative which empowers students to challenge sexual harassment and violence.

UCC graduates Maeve McTaggart and Alana Daly-Mulligan have been using clips from this year’s show, which finished this week, as case studies and conversation starters as part of the university’s groundbreaking Bystander Intervention programme.

Directed by Professor Louise Crowley of UCC’s School of Law, the bystander programme is part of a strategic response to the issues of sexual misconduct and violence among university students.

Through a range of online training modules, the programme highlights the danger of normalising and accepting abusive behaviour, and it empowers participants to intervene safely as “pro-social bystanders” and to challenge and call out unacceptable behaviour.

Ms McTaggart and Ms Daly-Mulligan, who are members of Bystander Intervention team along with  Clíonadh O’Keeffe, began using Love Island clips on the team’s social media channels to prompt discussions about the interactions between the show’s participants.

More importantly, they challenged students to critically evaluate what they had seen and to discuss how they might respond if they or their friends found themselves in similar situations.

Prof Crowley said the series provided the perfect platform to shine a light on unacceptable behaviours, and brought to life the issues that are discussed on the bystander training programme.

“We found that parts of Love Island demonstrated exactly the kind of behaviour we were often talking about in the bystander programme,” she said.

“But when viewed through the critical ‘bystanding lens’, we feel it has given students a different perspective.

“We hope it has opened students’ eyes to the fact that it doesn’t have to be like this.

“People now see the show, not as a route to celebrity, but as how to spot certain 'red flags'.

“We hope using it has helped shift their focus, to open their minds.

“And for all its toxicity, it certainly provided the perfect platform to shine a light on these behaviours.” 

Ms McTaggart and Ms Daly-Mulligan covered a range of topics in the bystander programme to prompt and facilitate discussion around the Love Island case studies. 

The topics included how Love Island can start and normalise conversations surrounding relationships and red flags, how to make an effective intervention by calling out problematic behaviour; the impact alcohol consumption has on intervention and how it can make situations a lot more volatile; what slut-shaming and victim-blaming are; how to identify gaslighting and how best to intervene; and how to identify relationship 'red flags' like negging — a form of emotional manipulation where one person makes a deliberate backhanded compliment or remark to another to undermine their confidence and increase their need for the manipulator's approval.

Ms McTaggart said they may use other shows or films such as Promising Young Woman to generate more discussion around these issues.

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