Love Island: With four potential partners, Longford's Maura Higgins is breaking records

The Longford lass has become the fleshfest’s have-a-go hero. Sorry, but we are loving it

Love Island's Maura Higgins shuts down fellow contestant Tom Walker after over hearing comments he made about her. Video: Virgin Media

 

Love Island’s Maura is completely thirsty, and I am, as they say, here for it. Like a horny Corr, or the filthiest Kardashian, or the boy at the teenage disco your mum warned you about, Maura Higgins has become the televisual fleshfest’s have-a-go hero. And having a go she very much is. Sorry, but we are loving it.

After doffing her, uh, cap at Tommy with some choice phrases, Salty Spice then saddled up with Tom. (We all know how that went. Anyway, he’s gone now, in a noxious cloud of insecure energy.) This week at Casa Amor – a sort of parallel playground to the villa proper – six new identikit bros were parachuted in. Life-support systems for their six-packs one and all, but still. Maura has found herself in the role of pursuee, not pursuer. Twice over, if you don’t mind.

After Dennon cut Maura off mid-conversation, repeatedly – insert your own “all mouth” joke here – she has decided to see what another potential suitor, Marvin, has to say for himself. He had the wherewithal to bring up not only his own beloved mum but Mammy Higgins, too, effectively shunting himself right into Maura’s affections.

In today’s swipe-right culture, perhaps Maura reminds us of ourselves when we date: happily on the lookout for a good guy but willing to dust ourselves off if it doesn’t work out

With four potential partners and counting, Maura is breaking all sorts of records on the show. It’s the double acts that stick together through thick and thin whom viewers usually favour, but Maura’s Tinder approach is earning her fans. And with more than 20 contestants vying for airtime, each more Instaready than the last, standing out on Love Island takes some doing.

Maura has her detractors – the usual sanctimonious trolls who woke up in 1950 – yet for the most part she is being hailed as someone who knows her own mind, calls out sexist pigs and doesn’t mind doing the chasing. Even Lena Dunham can’t get enough of the Longford lass, tweeting that, “like Maura, I want a partner who can match me, not a coward who thinks I’m OTT, cringey and an attention seeker! Team Maura!”

In today’s swipe-right culture, perhaps Maura reminds us of ourselves when we date (or even how we’d like to be when we date): happily on the lookout for a good guy but willing to dust ourselves off if it doesn’t work out. Even after getting burnt by the ghosters, the breadcrumbers and the cuffers, we remain hopeful, and ready to go back into the fray.

Maura has said many times that she is looking for love. I prefer to believe she’s playing Love Island’s game with all her might, with a view to snagging that £50,000 prize. All she needs to do now is find love, or at least persuade the rest of the villa and the viewers that she has.

Yet such is the show’s format that it could all change overnight, once the denizens of the villa and Casa Amor are reunited. The couplings are entangled in all sorts of “it’s complicated” scenarios.

I’ve tried to figure out exactly what the appeal of Love Island is; why it’s so addictive and elicits such a huge reaction every night. Even people who say they abhor reality TV get sucked in. But how? After all, the only conversations these people are having is about who fancies whom. It’s like a school disco, but with better tans. Yet the show was Twitter’s most-talked-about TV series in 2018.

So why is a series that’s a blood relative of such middling fare as Made in Chelsea, The Only Way Is Essex and Big Brother such an on-the-zeitgeist hit?

Ultimately, Love Island’s strength is that it gives a very human side to a cache of gorgeous people who seem to have it all

Well, the format is a bit Stanford Prison Experiment, for a start. Contestants are pitted against each other, and sod the consequences. In fact, the more histrionics the better. Hooking up with a fellow beauty is a doddle; staying together after enforced recouplings, sexy “tasks” and ongoing doubts and double-crossings is another matter entirely. The whole stew of beauty, vulnerability, emotion and sex is bewitching.

Love Island is a sun-drenched slice of escapism at a time when escaping the political and social climate is more alluring than ever. With its fairy lights and infinity pools, it’s slickly produced and highly watchable, even without the cornucopia of drama.

Half the fun is trying to figure out how the contestants will act next, of course; what their strategies are. Bonds form and loyalties fall at breakneck speed. Sheets rustle in the glow of the nightcam and the audience goes wild.

Ultimately, though, Love Island’s strength is that it gives a very human side to a cache of gorgeous people who seem to have it all. You can be the most photogenic, popular, charming person in there – or, in Maura’s case, the most earthy and funny – and you’re still not inured from the slings and arrows of the game. Is it any wonder we’re invested?

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