Former ONE chairman Jason Micallef was absolutely right.
“The farce of the buying and selling of sex currently ongoing on the national TV station should make us blush… This country has truly lost all sense of what the national station should be… Is this what we’re paying €6.3 million a year for?” he said in a social media post.
Micallef was referring to Love Island, a reality show where several young men and women prance around scantily dressed and jump into bed with complete strangers immediately upon getting to know them on national TV.
This was nothing but an exercise in titillation, a massive mass distraction. It was despicable exploitation of those young people for profit.
It was the sexualization and objectification of a group of desperate young people ready to engage in lewd behaviour for weeks in public view for the gratification of a voyeuristic nation depleted of all respect for the dignity of the individuals exploited.
As Micallef so accurately and succinctly commented, this was the shameful buying and selling of sex on national TV. What was certainly in no doubt was that the content of that reality show was of an adult nature – the behaviour, the conversations, the casual irresponsible attitude towards sex, and the activities in which the producers compelled the participants to engage. Everything in Love Island was strictly adult material.
But Malta’s prime minister invited the whole team of participants in that programme to have lunch with his daughter at his official prime ministerial summer residence at Girgenti Palace.
The prime minister’s daughter just turned 11 in February. She is a child. Yet her father and mother invited the participants of an explicitly sexual reality show for lunch with their young daughter.
That was bad enough. Even more shocking was the wide distribution of photos of the prime minister’s daughter wearing only a bikini in various poses with the participants who had jumped into bed with their housemates within hours of meeting them.
The prime minister’s wife was photographed embracing participants of that same reality show. The lunch didn’t happen by the poolside. There was no reason why those attending lunch should have been in their swimwear. But that was one of the objectionable messages disseminated by the show.
From the very start, whether they were swimming or not, participants were filmed in their swimwear. Introductions of female participants to the show took place in their swimwear. Even during conversations away from the pool or while engaged in other activities, the skimpiest of clothing was the rule.
There was only one reason for it. It was pure unadulterated sexual objectification of those participants purely for the financial gain of the producers. Indeed there was nothing else to the show.
Conversations were often shallow, misogynistic, disrespectful, manipulative and disturbing, even for adults. The impact of that despicable exploitation of those young persons’ bodies is evident in the choice of clothing of the prime minister’s young daughter for the lunch organised by her father.
The child is not to blame here. It is her parent’s bizarre and unsettling decision to allow their young daughter to meet those participants, be photographed with them and disseminate photos of herself in a bikini being embraced by one of the male participants that is in question.
Which parents of a pre-teen would organise a lunch for their child to interact with adults who have publicly engaged in lewd and suggestive behaviour on national TV in the hope of winning prize money?
What sort of values do those participants promote? Those participants are adults. They’re responsible for their own choices. But Robert Abela’s daughter is not even a teenager. Why is a child exposed to Love Island and its participants at such a tender age?
Those participants’ only claim to fame is that they were ready to humiliate themselves publicly for weeks on end, revealing their shallowness, as well as their most personal issues, to the whole nation while revealing as much of their bodies as possible.
There was nothing stylish or glamorous. It was just tacky, trivial and cheap.
From the set to the tasks to the narrator’s comments – it was just sordidly appalling. Whether such rubbish should be aired on national TV is debatable. What surely is not debatable is that Love Island is not the stuff of children.
That Robert and Lydia Abela allow their only daughter to be contaminated by enabling her inappropriate contact with these pseudo-celebrity purveyors of sex is nothing short of irresponsible.
Why would they do it? That child needs protection, not VIP access to a world of perverted adulthood.
Was it the huge popularity of the reality show that made Robert Abela let his daughter be used for more publicity for the show’s potential sequel?
Why did Abela allow his daughter’s photographs to be widely distributed on social media? Why were inappropriate photos of the young girl allowed to be uploaded by those participants?
Why was the prime minister’s wife posing with those indecent participants at the prime minister’s official residence? Why did she allow her photos and those of her daughter to be taken, let alone circulated?
Is Abela so desperate for popularity as to exploit his own daughter? Is he jumping on the bandwagon of Love Island’s ‘success’?
As parents, Robert and Lydia Abela have a duty to protect their underage daughter from undue publicity and exposure, from unnecessary loss of her privacy and inappropriate contact with those prominent exponents of tawdriness.
The Commissioner for Children, former Labour Mayor Antoinette Vassallo, should wake up from her long stupor. This isn’t normal.
It’s not acceptable for an 11-year-old child to have any access to an X-rated adult world. Robert and Lydia Abela must realise they are role models for many young parents. What they’ve done should not be emulated.