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First impressions count but redemption is even better

After a very poor first impression, we still watched Love Island SA. We complained (a lot), but we watched… and the show has gone from almost 'cancelled' to one of the hottest on TV right now
Author: Tutu Zondo
Thu, Apr 01, 2021

I believe that first impressions count. When you meet someone for the first time, that image of them stays with you for a while. I've never been great with names but I can always remember what the person was wearing, down to the colour of their t-shirt. If they had a distinct scent, good or bad; if they smiled or not; I will always remember how they made me feel during our first interaction.

If Love Island SA were a person, I'd say our first interaction was less than ideal. They had come across as someone with funny politics, a person prone to making irrational mistakes, dressed in the most underwhelming outfit and definitely a little sweaty. Not the best first impression.

We all sat at home, switched on our TVs, laptops and other watching devices and endured the first episode. I can only compare it to watching a very large ship heading very quickly towards an iceberg. From the moment the images of a mostly white cast came out, to the actual premiere which had sound and production issues, there was just overall lack of excitement and flair.

It looked like South Africa's first season of Love Island was going to end like Titanic, only without the chemistry of Leonardo and Kate.

But, even with that first impression we still watched. We complained (a lot), but we watched. And almost like magic things started improving and within a week we had more black islanders. The sound and production issues that plagued the first few episodes were smoothed out and the show began trending for the right reasons.

By the second week everyone let out a collective sigh of relief because the improvements weren't just a fluke and it wasn't just a quick PR cover up. The producers were really going to try give us the show we deserved.

So yes, first impressions do count but a good redemption story is even better.

Since the rise of social media, audiences have a larger, more opinionated voice. We're quick to point out if we're unhappy, disappointed or outraged. We'll log onto our Twitters, Reddit and TikToks and explain in painstaking detail how we feel.

But, we are just as quick to let the world know when we love something (#TeamThimnaxLibho), or when a moment on our favourite show excites and brings us joy. In real time we've seen the contempt and confusion turn into love and obsession.

What makes Love Island SA even better is that not only did they listen and make changes, but they made audiences feel like their voices and concerns actually matter. They took the criticisms and made the show so much better, and that's just one of many reasons why I can say the show is a certified hit.

And that isn't to say it's a perfect show – far from it. The show can be used as a case study of how dating and desirability politics work in 2021. You can take a look at the show and speak about the relationship people have with gym and exercise – how it's more about aesthetics and being hot than it is about health and wellness.

You could take a deep dive into the language used and how it perpetuates misogyny and other unconscious biases... I could go on forever, but the point I'm making is that, while it's not a perfect show, it's still exactly what we've needed these past few weeks.

In another article I wrote about how Love Island is the perfect guilty pleasure and the kind of show we need to help us forget about some of the more intense things happening in the world. Even if it is just for a few hours a day. We need that.  

  • Watch Love Island SA, Sunday to Friday at 9.30pm on M-Net, DStv Channel 101