Alex Casey went speed dating with some Heartbreak Island contestants and things got real serious, real fast.
Everything around us is slowly sinking. Foot Island. The Tropicana Bar. Even Auckland’s hottie factory The Lula Inn, where I have returned to my favourite booth to do my favourite thing – date a bunch of young, attractive people who terrify me to the very core of my being. It’s crazy to think that less than a year ago I sat in the same spot and speed-dated eight different Heartbreak Island contestants in one go. It was a fun afternoon, all Harry Jowsey banter and dating tips, but this time I have some different chat in mind.
Basically, I want to know if the contestants are stressing about the future as much as I am. As the internet tears us apart, the sex robots get ready to murder us, the insects die out and we prepare for the environmental apocalypse, fun, silly shows like Heartbreak Island have become my only brief reprieve from our crushing reality. Except now, they’re not even that. As the sexy singles arrive to their tropical island getaway in the hopes of winning $100,000, all I can think about is how Fiji is on track for a sea level increase of one metre over the next century.
Lucy, the most coveted contestant in episode one, applied for the show after a dramatic health scare last year. Contracting a staph infection in Rarotonga, she came close to losing her arm after the infection made it into the bone. In hospital, she binge-watched the first season of Heartbreak Island, and applied for season two after seeing a casting ad on Instagram. “I really believe you have to do everything you can do before you die,” she says, gesturing to the gnarly scar on her shoulder, “because you just don’t know how long you’ll be here.”
She’s been reading a book about plant-based living called How Not To Die, and is more than happy to talk about the big, scary issues. But first, some wisdom on how to get the perfect running shot on Instagram – film yourself then take a screenshot at the right moment. Then onto artificial intelligence. “Honestly, I’m scared. Obviously technology isn’t human, so it doesn’t know if you make a mistake if you accidentally programme it to attack or something. I don’t like to think too much about how technology is literally smarter than the human brain.”
“Ooh, I love this yarn,” says six foot tech entrepreneur Vaz, rapping the table with his giant gold rings when he finds out we are talking about robots and the apocalypse. “I’m absolutely not worried about AI,” he assures. “There’s got to be some kind of love and sympathy there, they aren’t going to wipe us out.” Sam, cheeky Birmingham geezer of the island, is more suspicious. “If it was me versus a robot, I’d back me 100%. But I do watch what I say around Alexa because she’s a naughty one. Picking up all my secrets and sending it back to the cloud? Sod off.”
Perhaps nobody puts their feeling as succinctly as ‘The Sweeheart’ Rosie, who simply throws her hands in the air and declares that AI is “hectic”.
If AI is hectic, then global warming is pure chaos. “I definitely feel like, given the direction we are travelling in, it’s just going to happen and there’s nothing we can do about it,” says Lucy, who has stopped eating meat and limits her dairy consumption. “Global warming is definitely a big thing on everyone’s mind,” says Vaz, who considers himself a “mad” recycler. “It doesn’t keep me awake at night, but if someone drops rubbish then I’ll pick it up after them and put it in the bin. If enough of us just took that extra minute, maybe we wouldn’t be where we are.”
Unlike Vaz, both Sam and Rosie have lost sleep over the future of the planet. That might explain all the tossing and turning under the covers in the nightcam shots. “We just need to think hard about what are doing,” says five day a week vegetarian Rosie. We are all on this earth together and we need to respect it.” Sam is worried for his offspring – three kids, none of which exist yet. He’s also got another pressing concern, delivered with a cackle. “I have to spend more time at the gym because it’s getting hotter and I have to spend more time without my shirt on.”
“It’s really annoying because I feel like can’t win,” says Lucy. “At the end of the day, we can’t fight big industry like farming and dairy, or stop the gases produced from cows, boats, planes and cars. We do what we can as humans, but I don’t think we are ever going to override the effects of global warming. Sea levels are rising, ice is melting, polar bears are going extinct because there’s nowhere for their young to sleep.” She gazes out the window at her castmates taking selfies in the afternoon sun.
“It’s just heartbreaking.”
Heartbreak Island airs Tuesday to Thursday at 9.30pm on TVNZ 2, and is available on TVNZ On Demand
The Spinoff Daily gets you all the days' best reading in one handy package, fresh to your inbox Monday-Friday at 5pm.