Last night I spent my evening filming impressions of the Made In Chelsea cast with my flatmate. Doubtless we made fools of ourselves, and the fun only stopped when my excited companion suggested going to our rooms to “dress up” as Millie and Caggie: here I was forced to draw the line.
Many of you will have no idea what I’m talking about. You probably have been doing much more wholesome and improving things with your time, like watching documentaries on the breeding habits of otters, while knitting and eating falafel. The rest of you know what I’m referring to. I, unfortunately, am completely hooked on Made In Chelsea, one of the most recent manifestations in a long line of “constructed reality” TV shows blighting the nation.
It follows a group of young, fashionable twenty-somethings, filming them in staged scenes as they trot around London doing – well, nothing much. The show’s producer describes it as “aspirational” when compared with its counterparts like The Only Way is Essex and Geordie Shore, and attributes much of its success to a current public fascination with the elite London world of the royals and their friends.
This is only the first thing I loathe about the show: I know Britain continues to be class-obsessed, but what ever happened to all the underdogs? Perhaps I’m wearing rose-tinted glasses, but the stories I couldn’t get enough of back in my childhood and teenage years were peopled by those of the poor-but-plucky ilk. Generally these heroes, heroines and role models were up against the odds, and their enemies were the vacuous, rich people I now can’t stop watching. Where are the Matildas, the Jo Marches, the Anne Franks, Frida Kahlos and Anne of Green Gableses? What does our generation’s love of Gossip Girl, The Hills, 90210 and Made In Chelsea, where the characters are deemed worthwhile by dint of being wealthy and good-looking, say about us?
Secondly, who are these people? Many reviewers describe them as Sloanes, the name made up in the eighties for posh young people aspiring to Diana and Charles. But this isn’t quite right. These men and women might still study art history and have staged conversations while shooting and playing polo, but they’re a completely new type of elite, one for whom flying monthly, blogging, modeling and running a diamond company might be all in a day’s work. The stars of this show seem to do everything and nothing – their fame is their identity and they’re constantly self-directing so that the lines between life and the “reality” of the camera blur.
Three. I am regrettably easy to influence. Peer pressure? Worked like a charm on me back in primary school. Got an interesting accent? Watch out, because I will start sounding like you. So what happens when I get addicted to a show where everyone has bland conversations and expressionless faces and only talk about who is shagging whom? Yup, I am slowly turning into a grade-A bitch. Perhaps this impressionability is my own personal misfortune.
Perhaps it’s because this genre constitutes the ultimate lazy viewing. The characters think that Winnie the Pooh was written by Charles Dickens; they don’t create anything; they don’t even seem to love. Forget anything serious, this show doesn’t even have a real plot to follow: it’s like very trendy, well-groomed and sophisticated white noise.
So I’m going to put myself under some new influences. Documentaries, knitting and falafel, here I come. Last week I went helped the Art Society host a panel discussion featuring Richard DeMarco, a prominent figure in the theatre and art worlds. Well into his eighties and clearly well past worrying about other people’s opinions, he strode around the room expounding on art and the language of love.
Listening to him was like remembering some old truth that you knew was there all along but that you’ve been taught to forget. His message was simply this: seek out the sacred moment when you actually connect to another human. You don’t need to be famous, or reach a mass audience, or entertain. Don’t feel you must do what constitutes being “successful”, and most importantly, create.
Good plan. Once I finish the season finale.