I am not afraid to admit to my guilty pleasure… reality TV shows. Not all of them though, and I’m sure many would say that I actually like the worse of the worst. As a sociological study, I find some of these thoroughly entertaining, but I also feel I’m probably going to burn in hell for it. My husband calls it “car crash TV”.
My particular favourites are the Real Housewives of Orange County and Big Rich Texas. In large part as I find all the glamour very intriguing (I couldn’t be glamorous if I tried!), but more than that I can’t help but note that many of the women on these shows are running their own businesses.
In the vast majority of cases, the income these women enjoy, and indeed the whole family in some cases, is delivered by them. Under the false eyelashes and tans there are designers, writers, insurance managers, entrepreneurs, gym owners…even doctors.
Now it’s also true that despite expounding the need to be independent, successful business women, they do appear to invest a huge amount of time in their appearance. Perhaps this isn’t surprising if you’re going to be seen my millions every week in all the wonder of Technicolor and HD TV. Personally, I don’t for a second want to be me in my fifties and desperately clinging onto my youth with injections and surgery. For one, I suspect that it’s a huge waste of money, as well as a waste of time…time which could be spent nurturing talent and developing skills…especially when you look like you’ve had work done. I’m looking forward to old age in some respects and I fully intend to make the most of it, cycling around in a tweed suit like Margaret Rutherford. That said, if you are doing it for yourself, then I don’t have any particular objection, and I’m not going to judge you for it – after all, who doesn’t want to look their best. Hell maybe I’ll even have a freshen up at some point, you never know.
It’s fascinating to compare the women on these US shows and those of the UK versions …TOWIE, Geordie Shore et al. I find it very sad that some of these young women, many still in their early twenties, are already under the knife, injecting themselves with botox, wearing shoes which cripple them irrespective of the activity (I’m sure five inch heels aren’t appropriate footwear for a farm) and frankly looking about ten years older than they already are. Admittedly, some have managed to launch modest careers from these shows, be it clothing lines or tanning products, but I also understand that many of the show’s participants earn next to nothing for parading their lives before us…presumably to just worship at the foot of the Celebrity God.
Of course, there’s around a 20 year age gap between many of these “celebrities” and their American counterparts, and accomplishments are therefore likely to vary. However, ultimately, many of these US participants seem to be selected because they are already successful – we want to sneak around the velvet rope and see what life is like for the wealthy. Why, in the UK, do we prefer to make shows following the girl who lives down the road who spends an inordinate amount of time getting ready, and who may just scramble together some sort of living as a result?
For me, this disparity begs an important question about the UK at the moment. Do we define success by fame or by concrete accomplishments? Why aren’t we making programmes about the wealthy and successful? And I don’t mean “Made in Chelsea”, I mean actual people, older women – or indeed younger ones – who have worked hard and made successful careers? Entrepreneurs who have made a success of a really good business ideas? They don’t have to be multi millionaires; I’m not looking to see the next Bill Gates. Where does the UK TV which shows successful people at a level that we can actually aspire to be, and quite possibly achieve with a bit of hard work?
So, I’m going to ask you to think about this……Who are going to be our role models for the next generation of girls… and boys for that matter? Who do we want them to be?