It’s been a dramatic premiere week for the M-Net reality show Love Island. The reality shows whose premise is based on introducing good-looking singles and getting them to couple-up or pair off in a bid to win R500 000 has not faired well with South African audiences.
The main issue is that the reality show is seen as non-transformative. With only two black contestants Durang Atembe, 22 and 26-year-old Thimna Shooto, amongst the predominantly-white cast of 10 islanders. Most social media users felt the casting does not reflect the demographics of South Africa where 80% of citizens are black, and 10% are white. Today top sponsor Lotto Star announced that they would be pulling out of the production.
“Lotto Star has taken the decision to respectfully withdraw its sponsorship of Love Island SA. We wish the show and its contestants every success.”
“LottoStar has taken the decision to respectfully withdraw its sponsorship of Love Island SA. We wish the show and its contestants every success” – Director, LottoStar. #LoveIslandSA
— Lottostar (@Lotto_Star) March 2, 2021
No further explanation was given. The significance of Lotto Star sponsorship is that they carry a large portion of the R1 million cash prize winnings prize for the winning couple. The statement was posted by the company’s director. Twitter welcomed the loss of sponsorship saying ” A great move to protect your brand and acknowledge racism. Which other sponsors are still attached to #LoveIsalndOrania”
Great move to protect your brand and acknowledge racism. Which other sponsors are still attached to #LoveIslandOrania
— Joe Nkaxa Waka Mobane.ZA® (@Joe_Man_Joe) March 2, 2021
Salute black Twitter for making enough noise to even be heard by the international community.
Let them burn
— ⚖️village lawyer (@Malatjie_) March 2, 2021
International news agencies the BBC and CNN, caught wind of what could be seen as one-dimensional casting and wrote “As the Love Island reality TV franchise launches in South Africa, the show has come under fire from viewers who say it fails to reflect the racial make-up of the majority-black nation. South African media say just two contestants are black, and two are coloured – the official term for mixed-race people in the country. The other six housemates are white.”- BBC
CNN commented “The latest spin-off of the reality dating show-turned-cultural-phenomenon premiered on Sunday on South Africa’s M-Net network. However, the launch was subject to a wave of ridicule on social media after two Black contestants entered the luxurious villa – despite South Africa’s population being more than 80% Black African.”
M-Net has not commented on the loss of sponsorship but released a statement saying that diversity and inclusion are part of the upcoming plan and episodes.They have however released artwork for the upcoming episodes that includes Black cast members.
— Love Island SA (@LoveIsland_SA) March 1, 2021