Comment: Outraged in Chelsea
Should enjoying bad telly ever become a moral issue?
If we were to declare a winner of the great scripted reality civil war of this decade it would surely be Made in Chelsea. There are only so many times you can watch Arg grease his nipples with Vaseline or Joey Essex adjust his bulge. Give me Caggie's pout, Proudlock's pointless earring and Rosie's hammy bitchfest any day. Of course the premise is empty, vacuous and ridiculous but its good, clean, escapist fun, right?
In this 'current economic climate' we need to know that Londoner's are fleeing to Dubai for the weekend and that their country piles are still standing for everything to be right with the world. Ollie! Let me live vicariously through your flippant purchase of a union jack embossed Jaguar. Spencer! Take me to your airfield. Mark Francis! Let me nuzzle into your smoking jacket!
But, get down to the brass tacks and the things MIC affirm clash wildly with what I like to think I stand for. So does that make me a big, fat hypocrite?
There is minimal to no gay visibility in the show, Ollie Locke is the only queer scripted-real-person. Ollie is perennially unlucky in love and forever attracting stalkers, Top Shop heiresses or men that back away from his affections. This series Ollie decides to 'go gay for the summer', implicit in this remark is the damaging notion that gayness is a phase or stage to opt in or out of, a lifestyle choice.
Ollie goes to Soho and lands himself a date. Ollie and Chris meet at a roller disco, Ollie leans in for a kiss (a difficult manoeuvre on roller skates) and gets a 'Not now' in return. He retreats to the safety of Chelsea and the arms of Binks and Cheska. In a date de-brief he admits to feeling 'lonely'. Now all this is very upsetting, but I find it hard to suspend my disbelief long enough to possibly believe that Ollie has never dated a man. He has nipple length hair that glosses like a puffin in an oil spill and hardly lacks confidence. The roller disco debacle was likely a storyline dreamt up by the producers.
What is depressing is that they decided to portray being gay as something that leads to unsuccessful romantic outings and ultimately loneliness. It would have beensoeasy to manufacture a different outcome to Ollie's 'first' foray into same sex dating.
MIC doesn't fare a lot better with sex and class. The women mostly care about how the men perceive them. Though in fairness the men are equally concerned with the same thing. In two series' we've had storylines involving love triangles (Hugo, Millie, Rosie) (Jamie, Louise, Spencer). In both instances the cheating man has emerged untarnished, the woman blamed.
The majority of episodes feed off women bitching about other women. Bitching is a competitive sport in Chelsea. Watching Rosie and Victoria trying to outbitch each other for more airtime is sort of satisfying, sort of sad. Getting women to hate themselves and more importantly to hateother womenis the oldest trick in the book of patriarchy.
I know all this, but still I tune in every Monday. I take it for what it is, a window into a world of money, privilege and shiny hair few of us know anything about. The ideals are a little iffy, but as a spectator sport MIC is unbeatable.
Made In Chelsea, Mondays, 10pm, E4
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