Friday, 13 February 2009

The World's Biggest Dickheads and Me

So what have I watched on TV this week?

Masterchef of course! By far the most amusing snippet of this week's "bring back last year's losers" round was John Torrode saying "Who's going to stay? But more importantly, who's going to leave?". Brilliant.

A rather less hilarious documentary called The World's Biggest Family and Me. I'm not really a fan of Mark Dolan - the guy who does this series of shows, mainly because he has a far more brilliant, interesting and well paid job than me (imagine Googling something, saying to your boss "Give me some dough, and I'll go halfway round the world to chat to them" and they just happen to be really up for it). But more seriously, I also don't feel he takes enough advantage of the opportunity he's given to really lay into some of the people he comes across, because some of them are complete idiots.

The last episode I watched, The World's Most Enhanced Woman and Me, was basically an expose - among others - of a despicably controlling man and his wife, whose mutilation of her own body through plastic surgery was entirely his doing. Dolan's awkward feet-shuffling around the uncomfortable truth behind this woman's ridiculously over-sized assets was rather frustrating for me. I was left hoping that the woman would be granted a bit of luck and inadvertently smother her husband in his sleep with her massive boobs.

Anyway, at the top of the programme, Dolan insightfully notes that the propensity to have a very large family was going to inextricably linked with religion. Hmm, kinda like every other thing on the planet deemed unreasonable, impractical or outdated. This is what gets me about religion - certain eshcelons will always use it to facilitate and justify what most of us consider to be extreme wrongs. Particularly among groups who - ironically - are most in need of a bit of the kind of support religion should be all about.

But any good feeling about religion wanes in me when I come across something like this. Seeing absolutely knackered women, having spend 17 out of 24 years pregnant is a real peep into what life could be like if you allowed yourself to be governed by religion, or a particularly stoical man...and its truly horrifying. The women were largely silent, and looked like they were scared of saying this wasn't what they wanted. Or just couldn't be bothered.

The blinkered belief and unwavering insistence of some evangelical groups is what makes it impossble to hear their argument objectively. Any assumption that we were dealing with a logical bunch of people was quickly quashed when one father of thirteen said - seriously - that there was more evidence to suggest the Bible's version of creation than there is to back up evolutionary theory. Not sure where he's getting his evidence, but certainly not from Darwin.

Why should it be that compassion for the mother and obeying religious instruction in procreation seemed to be mutually exclusive concepts. I was left wondering why they couldn't just stop having sex - it could only be a welcome break in the hectic mating schedule of the mothers.

Jessica's gone all normal - and we don't like it

Is this woman fat? The answer to that question above should be a resounding “ no”, of course. According to reports, Jessica Simpson’s recent weight gain has pushed her dress size to a positively mammoth UK size 10, and provided evidence that she might – once in a while – eat. Hold the phone!

I went more than a little bit nuts when I heard a colleague of mine say “She’s got a bit fat, hasn’t she?”, my feminist high horse now resembling that wooden beast at Troy. But later I had to admit, with some amount of shame, that I’d thought along the same lines when I first saw the photos. It’s clearly wrong, as the woman is categorically NOT fat (anyone unfortunate enough to catch Two Ton Son on More4 recently can testify to this) that I personally or any other should think otherwise, but we do and if you’re really honest you will admit it too.

This always happens when a woman in the public eye goes through any discernible physical alteration. I haven’t bought Heat magazine for years, but when I occasionally go beyond the cover I am always sickened by the levels of hypocrisy contained within. Insincere pleas to certain celebrities to gain weight are featured pages away from features consisting of pointing out sweat patches, ridiculing broken heels or laughing at tan lines. Criticising someone who’s skinny seems to be more acceptable, with intrusive photos under incredibly patronising headlines (“LINDSAY WE’RE WORRIED ABOUT YOU” etc)

Disclaimers like “we think she looks great but…” or “we think she looks much healthier but…” are used by publications like Heat as carte blanche to slate women who aren’t Cheryl Tweedy (modern day slang for “perfect”). Also there is definite sourness to the amount they asset their love of curves and If they thought women looked great as they are, why draw attention to the reasons others might disagree? These kinds of magazines sell copies by drawing attention to flaws in women. The reasons why are complex and various. Naomi Woolf believed media’s treatment of women being a new kind of control with which to manipulate them, this being the natural system of existence for us gals. Navigating such a read is like travelling through a particularly nasty and thorny maze and the end point is a mess of confusion.

So is it any wonder our idea of body image is so ridiculously perverted, with these mixed messages being bandied about by the magazines we have read since our teens? Is it any wonder I thought Jessica was looking a little plump when I am assaulted with more images of Victoria Beckham everyday than I’m presented with my own face in the mirror? The last time Jessica Simpson was featured significantly in the news was when she was flinging herself over a car bonnet in a bikini and heels, and that was presumably normal….Christ. In this topsy turvy world of body image, I’m not sure that we’ll ever be able – as women – to entirely disassociate ourselves from the image promoted in the media as normal. But realising its existence as something abnormal, unreasonable and more importantly – unreal – is surely the first step.

Lastly – don’t buy Heat. It’s crap