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From What not to Wear to Blind Date, television has adopted a culture of nastiness. 1.15:: Laura Jane Macbeth
hen pop idols. presenters and politicians try to convince us of their
virtue. they're barking up the wrong celebrity tree. Because what
we want — or are given. at least — are celebs we ‘love' to hate — the
nasty Nicks and Nigels happy to gratify our desires with a mean look. hooded wink or barbed retort. in the name ofentertainment.
It all used to be so straightforward. Cowboy movies. cartoons. comic books
— to say nothing of the Good Book — established the easy—to-follow pattern of
nice-guy-good. bad-guy-bad. The signs were all there: one angelic and clean- cut in white: the other wily and swanhy in black. We knew where we were.
Was it Big Brother‘s Nick who kicked off this culture of rudeness and recalcitrance‘.’ Strangely for a show billed ‘the ultimate popularity contest.‘ it is the unpleasant types who have triumphed: Nick. Jade and bitchy Brian have maximised their microcelebrity. making a virtue of their viciousness. We barely remember good guys Craig or Dean. and the latest winner Kate has been notable only in her never-presence. ln media-land nice guys finish last . . .
Winners of identikit shows Pop Idol, Pop Stars: The Rivals and Fame Aearleniv might cling to a squeaky-clean image as tightly as their finite brand of fame. but the shows‘ carping creators have made the real money with their unpleasant personas. Be—mulleted Nigel Lythgoe milked his nasty image on The lineniv Within. but stayed behind the scenes as producer on Pop Idol. where heir apparent Simon Cowell took the role of teen tormentor all the way to the USA on American Idol — now in its second series.
Gameshows have gone the way of the wicked. Besides acidic Anne‘s asides on The l'Veakesl Link. Dag [fat Dog. Without Prejudice.” et al demand contestants deride and distrust each other throughout. Even Saturday night staple Blind Date has followed suit. With its new ‘date or ditch‘ philosophy firmly in place — to say nothing of the contestants' bitch—offs — the tone has perceptibly shifted from good—humoured to gladiatorial.
And if stage-school wannabes merit little sympathy. the shy and retiring are no more immune. Armed with a predilection for three-quarter length jackets and an unnatural obsession with breasts. What not to Wear‘s Trinny and Susannah invade your home with a self-avowed right to deindividualise and make bland. Vulnerable. semi-naked women are stripped literally and figuratively. their body scan broadcast to the nation while we laugh at their sartorial ineptitude.
And this is the worst of our new culture of rudeness. With every eviction. elimination and judgement cast we form an interactive part. every bit as culpable as the bullies we celebrate. And what have we to show for it? Anne Robinson is an established presenter, (‘owell is on the rich list and these shows dominate our viewing schedules. So who are the real losers here?
Vulnerable, semi-naked women are stripped
literally and figuratively
10 THE LIST 16—30 Jan 2003
Sllli Ht. 3H rm
‘éwhat I Loved
1 Daniel Kitson
Comedy The Perrier winner returns to bump into furniture and spill hot drinks onto his trousers with more self-debasing hilarity. See The Big Picture, page 8. The Stand, Edinburgh.
Film David Cronenberg makes a cool return after the damp eXistenZ with an autistic scream into the dark (apparently) aided by a grandiose performance from Ralph Fiennes. See feature and review, pages 18 and 23. Selected release.
3 Jim Lambie
Art The Glasgow boy goes from psychedelic floors to creating with everyday objects for solo show Kebabylon. See feature, page 12. Inver/eith House, Edinburgh.
Clubs Scotland’s drum & bass innovators celebrate their seventh birthday with the first of four nights. Peshay will be burning up for the opener. See preview, page 65. Sub Club, Glasgow.
5 The Lost Prince
TV Stephen Poliakoff tells the moving and faintly disturbing tale of George V and Queen Mary's youngest son. Prince John, an epileptic who was hidden away from public life. See review, page 89. BBCT.
6 NME Awards Tour
Music The Datsuns, the Polyphonic Spree, Interpol and the Thrills (pictured) make up one of the hottest NME line-ups yet. Unless you hate them all, of course. See page 42. Barrow/and, Glasgow.
7 The Man Without a Past Film Aki Kaurismaki‘s latest starts off with a mugging and follows the victim’s tortuous journey to recover his memory. Laugh a minute stuff as per usual. See preview and review, pages 20 and 21. Fi/mhouse, Edinburgh.
8 Siri Hustvedt
Books One half of NYC's most glamorous literary couple (Paul Auster being the other) makes you laugh, weep and crawl terrified in a corner with her third novel, What I Loved. See review, page 90. Sceptre.
9 The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Comics Volume 2, number 4 sees Martian tripods causing merry hell in London while unhappy fornication goes on in the countryside. See review, page 92. America’s Best Comics.
10 Celtic Connections
Music Evelyn Glennie, the Rambling Boys and Sinead O’Connor (pictured) help make up of one of the hottest CC line-ups yet. Unless you hate them all, of course. See listings page 50. Various venues, Glasgow.