Why Roxy Bourdillon wants lez/bi cast members on her favourite reality TV shows
BY ROXY BOURDILLON
Imagine a Love Island for ladies only. A Wonder Woman’s Island, if you will. Sue Perkins would host. She’d slow-mo sashay her way into the villa in a no-nonsense power suit defying the sweltering Mediterranean sun, then make hilarious quips about “mugging off” and “doing bits”, and chuck in a few pastry puns for old time’s sake (“Islanders, tell us who you fondant fancy and who’s giving you the cream horn”). You know lez/bi contestants would bring the drama. After all, we have a seemingly inexhaustible supply of it. (Seriously, I was in the middle of some high level lesbian drama just now, but I had to tear myself away to finish this article about high level lesbian drama.) I want to see fuckgirls sticking it on each other, having bantz in high definition, grafting, grinding and grunting under a twitching duvet in grainy night vision.
I can picture it now. There’d be androgynous babes making goo goo eyes while discussing the Bechdel test. There’d be exes snogging exes, who are friends of friends, who got with exes, who got with friends… Then everyone’s periods would sync and all hell would break loose. It’d be TV dynamite! Naturally, all the couples would be racing to get hitched after their first date spent drinking bubbly in a carpark. The more I think about it, the more convinced I am. We’d be perfect for Love Island! The show is mostly just sitting around talking about feelings, right? Well, guess who’s spectacular at sitting around talking about feelings! It’s literally how we spend 95% of our romantic lives. And, even more suitably, we fall for each other quicker than you can say, “My place or IKEA?” Never mind the dick sand, Love Island should be all about the clit sand.
This year alone, the reality TV phenomenon received over 95,000 applications, before whittling them down to around 32 islanders. For Flack’s sake, would it have been so outlandish to include even just a couple of queer hopefuls at the horniest pool party in town? So many lesbians and bi women are obsessed with this show. Like dyke David Attenboroughs, we study the bizarre mating rituals of straight specimens in laboratory conditions… ok, a villa in Mallorca. But don’t we deserve a chance to find lasting love too? Or, at the very least, a cheeky fumble under the covers and a fleeting post-island career flogging teeth whitener on Instagram?
A lack of lez/bi visibility isn’t just a Love Island issue, as I well know thanks to my proclivity for “structured reality TV”, where everyone’s skin glows with tangerine confidence. Which brings me onto The Only Way Is Essex. Oh, I know I shouldn’t be into it. I know it subtracts like 25 points from my feminist driving licence, but I adore it. The Kylie Jenner lip jobs, the barnies in Sugar Hut, all that emotional processing over Prosecco-soaked brunches. It’s glitzy, camp, escapist heaven. But, and here comes the big, twerking, liposculpted butt, where are the lezzas in Loughton and bi baes in Brentwood?! Maybe a woke LGBT chick could mellow out all that toxic masculinity. Oh TOWIE, how I long for a queer Essex gal with an East End twang and a penchant for fanny.
Before we go any further, let’s check out the stats for these shows I binge-watch so compulsively, shall we? The Only Way Is Straight Sex, oops, I mean Essex: 22 series, not one lez/bi Essex girl. Made In Chelsea: 15 series, zilch in the way of lez/bi posh birds. Celebs Go Dating: three series and, you guessed it, not a single queer female celeb on their books. The Real Housewives Of Cheshire: six series, zero lady-loving ladies who lunch (although I am optimistic about Esther – she does seem her happiest when grabbing the other wives’ boob jobs). Yet every one of these programmes features gay guys. True, they’re usually relegated to the palatable BFF supporting role to dish out moral support and innuendos, but there is, at least, evidence they exist. We, however, are entirely invisible. I can’t help but suspect it’s because they don’t think we fit the hyper glam, hyper hetero version of “reality” they’re pedalling. These shows are aspirational and, sorry chicas, there ain’t nobody aspiring to be us.
It hasn’t always been so dire for queer girls who dig bubblegum telly. In 2007, there was the bisexual Bachelor rip-off Shot At Love With Tila Tequila, The Real L Word managed three raunchy seasons from 2010 and the ill-fated Candy Bar Girls ran for one brief series in 2011 (shout out to Shabby!). Back then, we were a novelty. Now, we simply don’t fit the script of waxed-to-oblivion, straight-centric relationship drama.
On a more serious note, I want to acknowledge that there were two bi women on Love Island back in 2016. Sophie Gradon and Katie Salmon made TV herstory, and won my little gay heart, by becoming the first same-sex pairing in the villa. At the time of writing, we’ve recently learned that Sophie has passed away. The cause of her death hasn’t been confirmed, but we do know that she spoke out about her struggles with mental health online. It’s a stark reminder that LGBT visibility isn’t the only area these programmes need to address. As more and more people climb aboard the reality TV conveyer belt, producers have to provide better support systems and aftercare for present and past contestants.
And sexuality isn’t the only area where diversity is lacking. I dream of a trashy TV paradise, where people of all races, body types, gender identities and sexualities are properly represented, proving that none of those things should stop you finding love or being seen or becoming an online influencer with a clothing range at Pretty Little Thing.
You might wonder why, when there are so many more pressing problems in the world, I’m preoccupied with getting queer folk on reality shows. But the fact we have so much other crap on our plate is precisely why we need some frothy, glossy, brain-numbing nonsense to relieve our sapphic stress. And think on this: Love Island is the most popular programme on ITV2. This year’s premiere garnered a staggering 3.4 million viewers. It dominates news cycles and water cooler chats. It provokes national debates about what is and isn’t acceptable relationship behaviour. Likewise, TOWIE, MIC and Real Housewives continue to pull in massive audience numbers and hit the headlines. Including queer female characters in shows like these would be a pretty bold statement, a wide-reaching, potentially boundary-smashing statement for our community. It’s about normalising us, normalising our love, and showing we aren’t that different after all. You don’t have to be straight to be superficial, gobby and wildly entertaining.
So let’s raise a glass of cheap carpark fizz to Lez/bi Love Island 2019, a new gay Essex girl and a Made In Chelsea minx as devoted to lady-loving as she is to designer labels. Bigwigs, stop being muggy. Give us TV that actually reflects the world we live in, in all its trashy splendour.
This article originally featured in the August 2018 issue of DIVA – grab your digital copy here!
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