Deborah, Tim and Cherish Too: Temptation Island 2018 and the enticement of hyperreality
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This thesis investigates how Temptation Island 2018 participant Tim Wauters became the media phenomenon ‘Timtation’: the loyal boyfriend who traded his upcoming marriage with Deborah for a short-lived, open affair with seducer Cherish. This is done through a multimodal discourse analysis of the show’s complete tenth season using the framework of Baudrillard’s theory on simulations and hyperreality, and placed within critical literature on reality TV and the immediacy of unequal power relations. The analysis points out that the show generates its reality through a feedback-loop and becomes a representation without origin. As a consequence, a new moral order informed by only the information the island provides overwrites the participants’ understanding of good and evil and legitimises deceit on the seducer’s side. Ultimately, individuals on the island are transformed by this mechanism. But the premise of the ‘ultimate relationship test,’ which has the privileged ability to reveal one’s true self, makes the island-reality seem realer than real and disguises this transformation as revelation. While other participants perceive ‘Timtation’ as the underlying truth of Tim, it is in fact the product of a hybrid media-reality formed once Tim has embraced the simulation as the ultimate reality, which eliminates the possibility that Cherish’s feelings are acted. For its lack of consequence and its offer of freedom in exchange for privacy, the hyperreality of Temptation Island itself is as enticing as the seducers on it.