Temptation Island (7 February 2001)

by Amy Sidwar



Guinea Pigs

Temptation Island is not a show, it’s an experiment. The producers sat down and created a fantasy island to test the hypothesis: can we make our subjects—the show’s participants—forget their reality? Ironic, isn’t it, that this show is included in the class of “reality-based” programming that America has come to know and love? Essentially, Fox has paid people, drugged them, and placed them in a wonderland where nothing feels real. This is not a test of relationships. It is designed to destroy relationships destroyer and Fox knew that going in.

cover art

Temptation Island

Director: Jean Michel Michenaud, Chris Cowan
Creator: Chris Cowan
Regular airtime: Wednesday, 9pm EST


Not only is this not reality, it’s completely plastic. The trees might as well have been planted, the water colored, the fish purchased (much like the tempters), and the warm breezes produced by fans. It’s the Truman Show, except that the contestants haven’t figured that out yet—at least not that the camera has revealed. Does Billy realize that his favorite date Vanessa probably lives in a different part of the country, and that any relationship between them is not viable? He seems to be falling in love with this woman, whatever the hell falling in love means in this environment. I think that Billy is honestly debating whether or not he should break up with Mandy and date Vanessa, or stay with Mandy and in some weird way break up with Vanessa.

The women are also experiencing a lapse in reason, especially Shannon, which both shocks and appalls me. Her dilemma involves Tom, the sexy single whose designated “occupation” is “Ivy League Graduate.” Where does he live when he’s not swimming off the coast of Temptation Island? I am amazed that these couples have so quickly—remember they’re only on the island for a couple weeks—formed these intense bonds with people they don’t even know. It’s almost as if they’ve been brainwashed, tricked into thinking that what’s happening is real. I repeat the obvious: this is not real. Who knows? Maybe Shannon and Tom will get together and make a million babies (all of whom will grow up to go to Ivy League schools) and this experience will be the best thing that ever happened to them—but I’d bet against it.

I predict that all the couples break up and that six months later they all get back together again, realizing how foolish and manipulated they were by the show. The only character (and that’s all I can call them now—characters) I feel sympathy for is Valerie. Even though I think her personality is lame, she clearly loves Kaya. Or at least she knows that she wants to stay with him. I wonder how she’ll feel when she watches this week’s episode and sees the cruel edit, from one frame where she is saying how she wants to be doing all these things with Kaya, and in the next frame Kaya is tonguing Meagan on a pier. But, I can’t really feel too sorry her. No one forced her to go to this island. Fame, I suppose, has its price.

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