An unfair comparison?
By Vernon Sankey
16th May 2018
Completely by chance, I was faced with the possibility of watching two different programs on the TV as they had both been recorded and were both at the top of the list! One was ‘Love Island’, one of the most popular programs in the UK with enormous viewing figures. The other was ‘My family and the Galapagos’, a ‘critic’s choice’ program. Having heard so much about ‘Love Island’, I decided to watch it first and ‘My Family in the Galapagos’ second.
I would then draw some comparisons, even between such obviously very different programs, to see whether anything useful could be gleaned. ‘Love Island’ is an immensely popular program with some of the highest viewing figures ever recorded. It is a ‘reality’ program where young, physically attractive males and females are sent to a beautiful sunny resort and, over the course of a few weeks, choose a ‘partner’ or, if more serious, a ‘boyfriend’ or ‘girlfriend’, in order to win the contest for the most ‘attractive’ couple, as voted by the public.
During the course of the weeks, more ‘contestants’ are introduced to the group and individuals have the opportunity, after spending time with a partner, to acquire a new partner or ‘ditch’ a previous one as they move towards the final; if they are not ‘eliminated’ first, that is.
‘My family and the Galapagos’ is a nature program with a difference in that a husband and wife, the husband being an accomplished biologist and broadcaster, live in a modest bungalow on one of the Galapagos islands for several weeks together with their two small daughters, aged five and three, a courageous adventure! During the course of the program, which also lasts several weeks, there is the opportunity not only to see the extraordinary wildlife of the islands, but to see it through the eyes of the children and the wife. In many respects the program, with its many adventures, is taken over by the children’s experiences and this is a key aspect of the series. They have a unique opportunity to go to school locally, to experience the wildlife up-close, to exchange thoughts and ideas, to ask many questions and to learn from their parents, from the friendly locals and from their contact with strange, beautiful, gentle, curious, playful, peace-loving creatures.
The locals jealously protect their islands and the animals. Animals have precedence over the human population in many ways (if, for example, a sealion decides to settle down on your front doorstep, there is nothing you are allowed to do to make it move on!) In spite of the highly protected nature of the islands, unscrupulous ‘outsiders’ still find a way to steal and kill. An outside fishing boat is caught illegally fishing several tons of an endangered local shark species (the sight of the carnage of the fish in the hold is awful) and there is evidence of widespread pollution and beaches covered by plastics and litter coming from other countries on the currents that crisscross the islands or discarded by boats.
Is comparing these two widely differing programs unfair?
‘Love Island’, popular though it is and filled with ‘beautiful’ people is harmless enough. That is the case for people with some maturity who smile at its obvious voyeuristic nature, take it all as a bit of fun and laugh at the extremes that people will go to make themselves look attractive, only to dissolve into rude, ugly and unkind people when they don’t get their way, are ‘ditched’ or eliminated. Not much grace or compassion is evident at any %me.
The program brings out the most competitive aspects of the participants, is very much focused on external beauty and being fashionable in dress and speech and is very shallow.
There are no meaningful lessons to be drawn from it, other than to understand that, without a moral compass, human beings are not very nice. The program is of immense appeal to the young, however, so needs to be taken seriously as an expression of what matters to them!
On a superficial level, and the program is very superficial, it seems harmless enough! Or is it? To a young teenage audience, the bulk of the target group, it is potentially devastatingly harmful! As it is all about external appearance rather than character, all about looking good rather than being good, all about winning external approval rather than understanding human nature, it teaches young people nothing positive or helpful.
What it does though, is instil in the minds of the naïve and unwary, the belief that, to be successful, you have, above all, to be physically beautiful, to be prepared to swap and change partners if someone ‘cooler’ turns up, to be prepared to hurt someone at will, to be disloyal, to be untruthful, to scheme, to plot and to mislead, all in the name of winning.
Some of the contestants are clearly only interested in being a finalist and do practically anything to ‘attract’ the person of the opposite sex who will help them to win. If young people view the contestants as role-models, they will learn nothing of value. On the contrary, the desire to look like the heavily made-up contestants creates expectations and aspirations that are not only completely false but can never be satisfied. There will always be someone more beautiful! And this is entirely the wrong aspiration anyway!
The pressures on the young are already massive and the incidence of depression, self-harm, anorexia and suicide is at all time high levels.
Instead of learning how to build internal self-esteem, self- sufficiency, character, resilience, self-assurance, authenticity, an appreciation of self and others, loyalty, mutual-support, empathy, compassion and love, children, teenagers and young adults only learn from such programs (and the ‘games’ that are spawned by them), selfishness, the illusions of external appearance, unreality, fantasy, shallowness and deviousness. They are led to believe that this is the ‘dream’ to aspire to. They do not realize this is a path to a false world that can only end in disappointment, disillusionment, sadness and unhappiness.
There is nothing authentic about the program, and whilst the adults who have created it know this and are only ‘doing their job’ which is to entertain their target audience, which they do very well, the children, regrettably do not understand it and risk being highly damaged by its message.
The program is not intended to have any moral value and in that it succeeds brilliantly.
The only saving grace of this series, to my mind, is that the couple who did win the contest deserved to do so in that they were the most authentic, kind, friendly, humorous and uncomplicated of the finalists, even if not the most ‘externally’ beautiful. Maybe the public did ‘get it’ after all!
‘My Family and the Galapagos’, on the other hand, is filled with fun, humour, kindness, gentleness and learning in an environment that is caring, compassionate and uplifting. It does not have the (mild) titillation of Love Island, if that is what the viewer is looking for, but it has so much more of value.
Viewers will learn about the stunning beauty of the islands and the abundant and unique wildlife, their characters and their habits. They will learn about marine biology, diving, strange fish, protecting our world, caring for our fellow creatures and the wonders of the universe.
They will learn about the mind of lively five and three- year-old children and how they view the world, often very differently from adults.
We learn with the children as they learn how to appreciate and care for nature, how different places and different people are just as important and have just as much to offer, if not more, than those we are normally accustomed to.
Above all, they learn to be real, to be authentic, to be themselves, to gain self-esteem from their liOle triumphs, to show kindness, to appreciate the love and warmth of their parents and to love their lives in happiness and harmony.
What a wonderful experience and what an opportunity for them to grow up to be well-adjusted citizens of the universe. We certainly need them.
Is it an unfair comparison?