everything

UK PEOPLE

[[Apologies for a not-really-thought-through post, as I try to keep the content here vaguely less incoherent and disorganised as the normal stuff I spew out on social media. However, I feel like I should post this wherever I can, as it’s the least I can do seeing I won’t be there Saturday.]]

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terrified of 5 years of heightened unnecessary austerity measures?! know shit all about what you can do to help?!

on the 20th of June a hopefully huge demonstration, organised by thePeople’s Assembly Against Austerity, will be taking in place in London. Convening at 12pm at the Bank of London, (Bank is the nearest tube station) followed by a march to parliament, this demonstration will be bringing together tens of leftist and austerity political groups, and thousands of individuals standing up against the Conservative party’s sickening callous plans for the next five years, and campaigning for a future with an end to the hardship bought by needless austerity measures and cuts to the public services, for funding for our NHS and a reversal of the mass privatisation policies the Tories have planned. sounds good right!!!!

You can go as a supporter (or member, if you are one already!) of any of the number of left-wing and/or anti-austerity groups that will be there on the day but you can of course attend without being linked to a particular party or group. Go alone if needs be, but it’s 10000x better to bring your friends!!

You can also sign up as a steward (must be able to get to Bank tube station at 9:30am on saturday, and a briefing on Thursday at 6:30pm NUT, Hamilton House, London, Mabledon Place, WC1H 9BD)

if you don’t live in London, and have no means of getting there, yet still want to support, you can see if the People’s Assembly have coaches from your area here

But!!!! i understand that not everyone can be there (me included lol) but if you STILL want to be of help (and u do) there are still other things you can do!:

-share this post (or any other of is kind) so as to Spread The Word for people who might not know yet

DONATE (most importantly this will help the demonstration gather the media attention and newspaper space it deserves. help fight the calculated selective reporting from the right-wing media, who don’t want the world to know what a lot of the people of britain really think about the current government’s plans)

-join a local political / activist group and/or train union, (PA supporters listed here if you need somewhere to start your research) so you can remain in the loop of what the left is doing in britain, and continue the fight for fair treatment and a better future for british citizens, even after the demonstration has taken place

Democracy in the UK and the impossibility of integrity

Democracy is difficult to talk about. The word itself seems to be rendered untouchable, treated with almost a holy reverence. If human morality is indeed tinged with grey, if it is subject to disconcerting fluctuation across time, culture, or place – even then, surely, something like democracy remains nonetheless a moral absolute, unfalteringly Good. We cannot argue with democracy. Everyone wants to democracy. It is taken as fact.

I am not here to dispute this fact. I believe, despite the veneer of sarcasm perhaps too evident in the previous paragraph, in everything I just recounted. I believe in democracy. I believe in its ideals, I believe in its purest form, and how I imagine it undistilled, like a bright white flame flickering resolutely in some dingy corner of the grime and degradation of the international political stage. Maybe it’s my flimsy western liberal bias, but for me, democracy is requisite in the very rudiments of a sound political system. I am willing, not controversially, to argue that such a system cannot exist without a basis in democracy and the ideals it exposes; freedom of speech and expression, freedom of the press, an elected parliament, universal suffrage, a government that works tireless to fulfil the needs of the electorate, and defend their freedoms. It would take a very twisted type of psychologically to not agree with the intrinsic principles of democracy.

It’s not the above democracy that I have a problem with.  I understand that when I say ‘have a problem with’, it sounds ominous, and perhaps needlessly provocative, like I’m plotting a military coup in some basement somewhere because that’s obviously a much purer form of representing the will of the people. I’m not hear to make comparisons with tour system and other, some perhaps more lacking, some perhaps more sophisticated, systems abroad, traditionally-perceived-to-be democratic or not; I am hyper-aware of our relative luck. We enjoy universal suffrage, we can go to the ballot boxes without risk of being attacked, or mutilated or worse for our political choices, and we go with the knowledge that we have a high chance of our votes being counted fairly. A lot of people, – to grudgingly employ the tagline of idiots and the wilfully and infuriatingly avoidant, – have it a lot worse. I am not going to dispute that; it would be ridiculous to even try.

However, this does not mean we cannot point out the elements lacking in our own political system. This cultural obsession with the relativity of suffering is perhaps designed to appear like stoic selflessness, but in reality only serves to undermine and dismiss any grievance whatsoever, no matter how legitimate, because “somebody always has it worse.”  You are (I would hope) not asked to keep a stiff upper-lip by your doctors when told you have Stage 2 lung cancer, just because somebody else has it at Stage 4. Likewise, just because we enjoy a relatively comfortable political system, it is not the same as living in a utopian dreamscape. We are dreadfully, fatally lacking. Our clinging to the First Past the Post system speaks volumes. We seem to forget, or not care, that our last government half-consisted of a party even the half-population that voted (the other half decided not to show up) didn’t elect. We seem to forget that parliament is not dissolved by the people, but by the Queen. We seem to forget, that even in 2015, we still have a Queen.

Whilst only the most abhorrent among us could deny the necessity of universal suffrage, it is at the same time disconcerting to think that a person who has devoted much of their life to educating themselves on various aspects of politics or philosophy or economics or ecology, who has come to their own conclusions through exposure to a wide variety of information, could have their vote overridden by someone perhaps less politically engaged, who has come to conclusions about which party to vote for after reading a leaflet stuffed through their door. Or worse, after being exposed to the most vile and reprehensible hate-mongering propaganda the Right relentlessly spews, because no-one else seems to provide a reason nor solution for the hardship and emptiness that typifies their existence.

It would perhaps be easy to attribute this to the moral or intellectual failure of each individual involved – and unfortunately, even in the allegedly more enlightened parts of the political spectrum people, are quick to to insist ‘well, it’s their prerogative to educate themselves.’ Sadly the problem goes much deeper than that, is symptomatic of a greater, nationwide, systematic failing.  We cannot ignore, for example, the role class plays in the access to a standard of education desirable in order to make informed political decisions. We cannot ignore the fact that – conveniently, for the maintenance of the status quo – politics is not a core subject at school. It some respects it’s true that we as a nation are hopelessly depoliticised; the growth of the far-Right is as exponential as it is sickening, but that is nothing in comparison to the rate of absenteeism.

Worrying, such a level of political apathy is wholly understandable. We live in a society where profit takes precedence of people, each and every time. No party represents the interests of the masses. We oscillate between two or three parties that in general expose the same ideology, the only difference being the colour of the banners. Politics is run like a business empire, which perhaps looks glamourous on TV, but is terrifying in reality. It is not surprising that we have only a 50% turn out rate to each election, when the future of this country and its people is treated like a game of Russian Roulette.

Such cynicism in the general population is hardly surprising when it is reflected in the political arena itself. Is it surprising that  a great deal of the electorate seem to exhibit an astounding lack of sense of responsibility for themselves, for the people around them, for the generations to come, when they are only reflecting the toxic strain of political, social, cultural and economic nihilism that seems to have permeated deep into the roots of our society.

Democracy under capitalism, that requires, for example, us to vote tactically, rather than for the party we agree with, (to keep, you know, literal actual bonafide fascists out of the cabinet) seems like a insulting, watery reflection of the bounties it promises. What does it say about the political system when going to the ballot box is like guest-starring in a terminally boring episode of Game of Thrones, complete with all the calculated plotting and low-level political intrigue, rather than an honest declaration of your political beliefs and desires? A democracy that relies on people voting against the party currently in power, rather than for the ideas and polices they wish to see come into fruition, has some undeniable problems indeed. I want to feel like I will lack integrity when I go and vote for Labour, a party I am not a member of, nor do I particular agree with. But I won’t. Because our political system is structured in such a way that, in this term, not voting Labour, and voting for a party I perhaps support more wholeheartedly, would mean running the risk of allowing a Tory-UKIP coalition into parliament. I cannot sit by idly and watch that happen. I do not want to see history repeat itself. So I play along.
How can we expose the merits of democracy when the votes are not truly reflected in seats in government? When one must vote with cynicism and calculation, rather than our hearts and minds? How can we say our version of democracy is working when half the population is so disillusioned with politics they can’t even be bothered to get up of the sofa to cross a piece of paper that might help in preventing fascists getting into cabinet? How can we pretend each person is listened to, when they’ve been trained never to open their mouths to protest injustice?

So often have I heard a certain milieu, a certain generation, berate the Disgusting Apolitical Youth in all their flabby, internet-addicted apathy, and yet my generation is not the generation that gambled their way into a global recession, or carpet bombed countries in the name of ‘Freedom’. We are not the ones who have the audacity to sit, complacent, overfed, waiting for the cold relief of death, wringing our hands about The Damn State of the Nation, whilst doggedly, incomprehensibly continuing to uphold a global capitalist system that is all too obviously cankerous to the core.

Just because we can understand why people do not want to engage in such a system, it does not mean it is the right thing to do. No system has been destroyed by people closing their eyes and hoping it goes away. We must, eventually, make it fall, and rebuild it from scratch. In the meantime, we must engage with it, because the cost of not doing so, with the likes of the EDL roaming the streets, and UKIP heading for office, is too high. I believe in democracy, and by that I believe in its future – stronger, better, brighter, more direct. I hope one day we’ll get there. But as it is, it is naive to demand the electorate to treat politics with anything more than cynicism, apathy and utter contempt, when the political system has nothing but the same for us.

“Je suis pas raciste, mais…” Immigration politics in the UK and France, and my personal experiences of how to be The Good Sort of immigrant (you won’t be surprised at the answer).

I arrived in France in the midst of the fallout after the Charlie Hebdo attack. The anxiety was collective and palpable, like the charge in the air before a thunderstorm, and edged with that almost distinctly French flavour of defiance, the type you can distinguish from any other cultural consciousness. On my first weekend, I went to the manifestation in my adopted city of Nîmes, and watched, neither within nor without, the chaotic microcosm of a whole country reeling in disunited shock. I watched the Left and the Right snarl and spit at each other. I watched people defending their constitutional right of freedom of speech, and I watched people chanting for the deportation of various ethnic groups. I watched Hijabi women sporting “Je Suis Charlie” t-shirts, standing across from men holding crude cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed PBUH in some ill-defined protest. France might have been united under the slogan Nous Somme Tous Charlie but it was startlingly, unsurprisingly obvious that the slogan meant many different things to many different people, with the interpretation of one person almost entirely contradicting that of another. ‘Murder is bad’ – sure. ‘Nous somme laïque’ – maybe. But in the air hummed something more rancid than just shock, something more sinister. This was confirmed in the sharp increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes in the major cities in the weeks following.

Terrible quality photo of la manif

Terrible quality photo of ‘la manif’

France, historically, has always been vaguely Right-leaning. I find it bizarre – the dismissive Pah! when you mention the Queen of England, the secularism enshrined in the constitution with a quasi-holy reverence, the birthplace of the Paris Commune… and yet. France just had their elections municipales, and in my area, in the 2eme tour  of the election, the Union de la Droite won a grotesque 66%. But if you really want to let your blood run cold: Front National won 33%. For every three people that went to vote that day, one of them was voting for a fascist party.

The growth of the Right is exponential in itself, but more pressingly, is fuelled by the increasing phenomenon of abstention. Here, the apolitical lethargy of the nation is further facilitating the rise of fascism. It is the same in the UK, where the far Right (UKIP, the BNP, the EDL) incredibly have the unity, organisational skills and an ability to win votes from the disengaged, disenfranchised masses, in a way that the shambolic, pitiful excuse for the mainstream Left unsurprisingly, can’t seem to manage. The political situations of these two nations are almost grim carbon-copies of one another; the pressure of austerity, an increasingly disillusioned and disengaged electorate, and the immigrant population in both countries providing a convenient scape-goat for the faults in the rotting horse’s carcass of our political system, and the monstrosities that pass as politicians that keep flogging it.

I am not an immigrant, even here. I have an immigrant card. I am a foreign student. But immigré, at least in the French way of saying it (sometimes while hawking a gobful of split onto the pavement, no doubt) has very different connotations, just as ‘immigration’ is said with the same disgust in some parts of England. My blotchy white skin, my limp textureless hair, my job, my money all betray me for what I am; a white, middle-class gap-yearing student. Not an asylum seeker. Not une immigré. Une anglaise. 

It’s strange, to be neither one thing or the other. I am hopelessly un-French when I open my mouth, but I pass easily in the streets. On the streets, in the shops, at bars, when it becomes obvious (usually through my inability to string a sentence together) that I am Not French, I am met with a certain reservation. So. Are you Ukrainian? I’ve been asked this a grand total of 5 times, by 5 different strangers (is this on account of my moonface, my branded sportswear habit?) No, I’m not Ukrainain, I’m English, I reply. Their relief is tangible, they almost sag to the pavement on the spot. Ah, Angletterre. Alors, ça va.

Englishness brings with it a certain privilege. Not just in Europe, but probably world-wide. It distinguishes me from the real immigrants, who’ve come to steal jobs and houses, and probably commit terrorist attacks whilst they’re at it. I am a harmless visitor: transient, conformist, non-threatening. As a stereotype, French people are notoriously inpatient with foreigners who haven’t mastered their language, but when I speak my schoolgirl French with my tell-tale unrolled ‘R’ and my heavy English vowels, I am met with admiration and praise for having learnt a foreign language. When I make a mistake, or struggle to be understood,“c’est pas grave”, the shopkeepers tell me, smiling. But in the next moment they’ll be sighing and covertly rolling their eyes at a Sengalise women struggling in the same manner.

Walking into cafés with the girls I know who wear hijab is a completely difference experience to walking in alone. It is not a world I know, could even begin to understand, to a live a life dogged constantly by suspicion and fear, just for the way you look. I’ve always liked to think I am a vaguely aware person; aware of the benefits the colour of my skin brings me in a system still clinging grimly to its’ deep roots in white supremacy; aware of the benefits of being English in a world where my mother tongue is, thanks to centuries of British conquering and imperialism, an ‘international language’, one that reeks of comfort and privilege. In England, such benefits are obvious. But having never lived abroad before, I never realised how deeply dissimilar the experiences of people living abroad could be. There are things universal to such an experience – problems with housing, work, the language barrier. But it extends beyond that. It’s shameful to admit that I never thought about how there is a right sort of foreign, before living it first-hand.

I am acceptable-foreign, even admirable-foreign. Not dirty foreign. Not terrorist foreign. I’ve been living abroad these past 7 months, and yet I cannot, could never claim to have lived the life of ‘an immigrant’. I spent 3 months in an unknown city in southern Russia; it was the same story. I am white. I’ve been told horror stories of foreigners stopped in the streets by the Russian authorities – I was told to keep my immigration card and my passport on me at all times, lest I was recognised as Not Russian. But I was not stopped once. Englishness is slightly differently, perhaps more coldly, received over there, certainly in comparison to France. But I was not the black man (the only black person I saw in that city the whole time I was there) followed around a shop by the police, being demanded what he was doing there. I wasn’t my predecessor in my job as an au-pair, a girl born in Germany with Nigerian parents, who was stopped three separate times in one month, picking the kids up from school, being asked what she was doing with these Russian children. It is not the same. Here, it is not the same. Me walking into a bakery and buying some bread is a completely different experience to my friend who comes from Algeria, even if we make the same errors in our spoken French, even if we’re here for the exact same reason. The comparison cannot even be drawn.

In England, there are lots of diplomatic tactics being used by the Right (and the so-called Left, of the Nu-Labour description, so appalled at the idea of not getting voted in, they’re willing to repudiate the fundamental ideas the party, once upon a time, was founded on) to make their racism more palatable. First of all, it isn’t ‘racism’, it’s a ‘strong stance on immigration’. Anyway, it’s not about the race of ’em, it’s about the sheer numbers. It’s not the immigrants per se, but the lack of space, the lack of jobs, how we should prioritise those who were born here.

It’s painful how fundamentally untrue this sort of rhetoric is. Undoubtedly, life is difficult for a great many of the working-class white French and British. But if these politicians were favouring them, they would be proposing a fair living-wage, more power to the unions, more money into the education and healthcare system, a complete upheaval of the capitalist system, that demands and depends on an economic and social underclass. If it was really about lack of space, we wouldn’t be allowing quadruple billionaires to own 7 houses at a time. We can pretend it’s ‘not about race, it’s about numbers’ all we want, but it’s not Leon Becker from Germany or  Amanda Brown from the States that we’re scared of – it’s Waail Yasin from Syria, or Swietoslaw Palczynski from Poland, or Beniamin Voiculescu from Romania. The so-called ‘immigration issue’ is really a ‘race issue’.

What comes with it watering down, rose-tinting of rhetoric that wouldn’t have looked out of place in some political arenas in 1920s Germany. But the fundamental ideas stay the same, no matter how softly you try and express them. A fascist with a smile is still a fascist. A racist with good oratory skills is still a racist. And they still both need removing.

I am in France, a foreigner, and I walk on streets where I know a third of voting people voted for Marine le Pen. It is sickening. But my terror is not personal, it is merely humanitarian. Can I claim to know the personal terror of my friends from Algeria, from Morocco, from Poland, from Syria, from Romania? Who have fled to the ‘Free West’ from countries decimated by our foreign policies? Who have come to England and France for jobs and a standard of living they cannot find in their home countries, simply because we continue to sustain the canker of capitalism long past its sell-by date? And then are met with disdain, and fear, and poverty? No. Because I am white and English, I am safe, from this particular threat. I am invisible. It disgusts me.

I am writing this while the UK’s next general election looms on the horizon. I will vote by proxy, as I will still be in France. I will vote tactically, for a party I do not support, simply in the hope of keeping out the Right, because this is the only sort of democracy a capitalist system can sustain. Other people will vote after reading one leaflet pushed through their door, as if they were voting for their favourite contestant on a reality TV show, not playing a role in deciding the future of the country. Many more will not vote at all. Do not be one of them. To stand and do nothing in the face of evil is to be complicit in it, to be responsible of the horror that will undoubtedly ensue. We have a duty to defend the fundamental human rights of every person on this planet. We have the responsibility to make sure that history does not repeat itself.The future possibility of a far-right government is becoming a very real threat, whilst an astonishing proportion of the electorate sit on their hands and look away. Whilst there are fascists – men and women who embrace the very same ideology that carried out the genocide of over 10 million people in first half of the 20th century – laughing on their way to the seats of power.

The dark patches fall (Walt Whitman)

Originally posted on Biblioklept:

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“Perhaps you saw these things because you needed to.” Dana Scully in ‘Revelations': Control, Science and Faith.

Originally posted on strange news from another star:

The aptly named ‘Revelations’ is a difficult episode. In any piece of science-fiction media, the idea of bring in a Christo-Juedo God is perhaps daunting, and often disastrous. Certainly the introduction of Scully’s otherwise largely side-lined faith sits in some ways uncomfortably with the rest of the series mythology – for Mulder and Scully to inhabit in a world in which there is a god would arguably undermine the very nature of their, and certainly Mulder’s, work. However, what is perhaps most unsettling about the nature of this episode, especially for the viewers who’d seen all the episode up until 3/11, is the oft-commented on role-reversal within the Mulder/Scully dynamic; Fox ‘I want to believe’ Mulder becomes the scoffing sceptic, whilst Scully becomes a Believer in the most largely understood sense of the word. This of course brings with the revealing of an apparent contradiction in the latter’s personality –…

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Wolf Alice Review (from agggges ago)

WOLF ALICE REVIEW YE
I went to see Manic Street Preachers the other night. Such a statement can be made alarmingly often in my life, but right now I’m not going to talk about those Welsh Weirdos who have eaten up an frankly disgusting amount of my money, time and adolescence in general; I’m going to talk about Wolf Alice.

Wolf Alice, a quick wikipedia search tells me, are a band from North London, who also happened to be supporting MSP at their concert at De Montfort Hall in Leicester last night. My feelings about support bands are normally quite contradictory, wavering between dismissive (at worst) and condescendingly congratulatory (at the very best). Of course, I respect a touring band’s decision to have support acts – and from a band like the Manics, who’ve made their admirable and genuine support of up-and-coming musicians somewhat part of their manifesto, I would expect nothing else… and yet, I still can’t help but pity support acts, whoever they are. Playing to bored and resentful crowd, who are focusing more on the impending arrival of the main act than the unknown-music being dutifully played for their pleasure? I can’t think of anything worse. And honestly, considering some of the treatment I’ve witnessed support bands being subjected to at other gigs, there are times when it wouldn’t surprise me to see them stalking from the stage in disgust. Such a problem is exacerbated tenfold when said support act is simply…not… that…good. And this happens depressingly often.

However, to make a gross generalisation, musicians, (good ones) especially ones trying to break into the mainstream seem blessed with a sort of ambition and tenacity that is bewilderingly alien to me; they suck it up, they persevere and I admire them for that.

But Wolf Alice? No such strained, thankless perseverance seemed necessary. For something strange happened. Something that made me question the very fabric of the universe. They were actually, kinda, sorta well-received. At least from me. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I can say that from my bubble at the barrier (in the middle, praise heavens, there is a god) there was no moaning, no sarcastic whispering, no bored eyeballs and tapping of fingernails on the railings, but a genuine appreciation for a band that was actually… really bloody interesting.
The name grabbed me first. I hoped with pathetic lit-enthusiastic eagerness that it was a reference to the neo-gothic genius of Angela Carter (I was right). In a world of the XXs and Tame Impalas, one is forced to consider the possibility that pop music has been around for so long that there simply are no good names left. As such, such an unapologetic intellectuality and quasi-pretentious nods to literary powerhouses is a breath of fresh air, and not dissimilar to the arrogant intellectual exuberance of the Manics in their youth.

Wolf Alice’s music is a whirring alt-rock cacophony (one that complimented and virtually anticipated the showcasing of the staggering and aggressive new tracks of the Manics newest album ‘Futurology’) that is in equal parts nauseating, unapologetic and genuinely exciting. And not to mention a thousand times better (and more fitting to the Manic’s demographic, in my humble opinion) than the bizarre dystopian bleeping of two nerds under the name of Public Service Broadcasting I was subjected to last Manics tour.

How Wolf Alice structured their gig, whether it was intended or not, worked spectacularly well, and the arrival of mournful lamentations on (probably) doomed relationships et al, after more upbeat jingly-jangly offerings hit like a punch in the gut. I’m not exactly renowned for my emotional stoicism, but I don’t think it should be overlooked that I was nearly moved to tears at one song.

They were fascinating to look at as well. The frontwoman (Ellie Rowsell, apparently) had a haunting, understated charisma to match an impressive voice and guitar skills, and even as she stood deadpan, staring across the crowd in a way that in other contexts might have been considered nervous, it somehow worked. The juxtaposition of the cool nonchalance of Ms. Rowsell and the energy of her band mates equally carried a certain charm (I’m going to give a hats off to the drummer here, because his enthusiasm was adorable and infectious), with she an ethereal presence in the centre of the stage as the remaining two members of the band ricocheted about her.

This was the first time I’d seen them – even heard of them, I’m ashamed to admit – but I hope it won’t be the last. There was something there that is disappointingly absent from many a support band – not simply the ambiguously-defined ‘glimmer of potential’ so often cited, but a raw, established bona-fide talent. Here’s to hoping other people (one with connections and major record deals, etc) see it. In the meantime, bear in mind Ellie Rowsell, impassive and foreboding, stock still amongst her bandmates like the eye of the hurricane, and just as unsettling, just as dangerous.

On female representation in the textiles art sector.

For an art form so ancient, so illuminating and so universally pervasive, it seems strange that the significance of textile design is sometimes lost in the eyes of contemporary consumers. Whilst there probably isn’t enough data about to say whether more people are practicing the art form or not, thanks to the internet, those who do practice are able to reach a wider audience with their work. And yet still textile art still suffers from a drab association, a veritable stigma surrounding it’s name- and that arguably comes from the inextricable link it has with femininity.

This is a problem we not only see in art, but in vastly every other media that shares that unforgivable characteristic- be it women’s literature patronisingly stamped with the ‘chick-lit’ diminutive, or how the non-threatening androgynous pop music catered towards young girls is routinely dismissed- or rather, it’s followers are- as vacant and insipid. Nothing taints a piece of art more so than an association with women, and once this is considered, it’s easy to see why textile art, one of the perversely and unashamedly, historically ‘female’ art forms out there, is sometimes not taken as seriously as it’s male-dominated fine art counterpart. Did you know that

  • 83% of the artists exhibited in the Tate Modern are men,
  • 70% of the artists exhibited in the Saatchi Gallery are men and
  • 70% of the artists that have been nominated for the Turner Prize have been men and only 3 women have ever won (just 12% of all winners)- according to a survey carried out by Women’s Words in 2011??

Women may still hold the fort in regards to numerical representation within the textile sector, but that’s exactly why it’s deemed a fort not worth conquering. The representation issue is not within the numbers, but in how the wider community perceives the practitioners.

To talk to people about ‘art’ and to talk to people about ‘craft’ is to receive two very different types of response, and textile art has always somehow stood uneasily in both camps of these definitions. ‘Craft’ has belittling, hobbyist connotations, and draws to mind nothing of the skill and discipline often associated with fine art, or, as I have heard it called so many times, ‘real’ art. But what gives fine art this ‘realness’, this respectability, when compared with textile art. Unfortunately there’s a clear pattern.

What do Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Monet, Picasso and countless others, all the ‘great masters’ have in common? They’re men. Historically speaking, when considering countless millennia of female repression, the fact that it’s only male talent that is remembered and exalted seems only natural; after all, if women had had the same opportunities men did in those times, then surely they would be held in similar high regard? Sadly, these hypothetical scenarios are irrelevant to the problem of how women are represented in art today. Thanks to these hundreds of years of women and their contributions being wholeheartedly dismissed by the rest of society, there is a still a permeating institutionalised belief that things are only valid and legitimate if men do them. And just because, historically, men have done most things deemed valid and legitimate, largely because women were not able to. Therefore, it’s not difficult to see why the typically more male-centric and dominated art form of fine art is in many ways hugely more respected than the silly, insipid womanly pastimes of such frivolities as knitting and embroidery. Knitting pershaps is a very obvious example of the ‘drab association’ I talk about earlier. To those the word brings to mind ideas of 50s housewives and Granny-knitting-by-the fire have obviously never met the guerrilla yarn-bombers we have present today.

As part of my research, I asked various people who were the first ten fine artists to spring to mind- they came from all different periods, all different schools, all different styles… but pretty much invariably- I came name only a few exceptions, Frida Kahlo, and Tracey Emin being notable examples- they were men. In some cases, only men were named. Moreover, there was positive correlation found between men dominating the fine-artists section and a belief that fine art is a more ‘legitimate’ (I term I allowed the participants to define as they pleased) than it’s counterparts such as textile design, fashion, sculpture and even architecture. Of course, it’s harder to determine whether we as society find fine art inherently superior, and thus men succeed more in simply for being men, or if it’s because men historically having the means, time and will to pursue the fine arts, and subsequently dominated the area, that we tend to have a higher opinion of it, but the correlation is unignorable.

But, this isn’t an inequality in practise, but an error in judgement. As we tend to find in all walks of history, while the achievements of the ruling elite- be it men, the rich, white people, the able-bodied or non-queer people- take precedence in memory, the cogs of history are kept steadily turning by a silent, forgotten army of the underrepresented, whose contribution to world change, in this case, in regard to the arts, is no less monumental just because it’s often not recognised. Like today, where we have hundreds of thousands of women working in the textiles sector globally- whether it be an arts graduate selling bespoke work at craft fairs or a factory worker undergoing 26 hour days for minimal pay making throwaway fashion items for the shops in the West-, women, and this uniquely female art form, have made countless contributions the vast and varied international ‘art’ scene, just are grossly unrecognised for them.

The Bayeaux Tapestry is one of the most significant- and certainly one of the most well-known – historical documents of the Middle Ages. It depicts men,- only 3 women appear throughout the entire tapestry- it was, in all likelihood commissioned by a man, and yet it was hundreds of female hands that set about the creation of this majestic piece of textile art. Hundreds of women- probably noble and English-Saxon, some of the most skilled embroiders in the land, living in nunneries and convents- were part of an extraordinary task, the veritable creation of a historical source, and whilst it’s perhaps understandable that’s it’s Harold Godwinson’s losing an eye in the field of battle that gets more reception- after all, it is the subject of the piece. But it doesn’t suppress my frustration that it is the creators of the tapestry that are lost in the mists of time, whether it be because they’re women, or because it’s textiles, or maybe a mixture of the two- when the ‘greats’, the artists who have permeated the public’s consciousness are mainly men.

Similar stories are found all the over the globe; ancient and undeniably feminine forms of art dismissed and forgotten. India, for example, and the Middle East have a rich and varied past in regards to textile art, dating back as far as 3000 B.C and whilst perhaps it’s more down to the inherent racism and remnants of colonialism present in our society than the fact it’s a women’s art form, that many people know next to nothing about it- I speak culturally relatively. Even still, it’s a sad comment on the state of representation in our society that, to use one example it’s hardly common knowledge that the mass-produced Pashmina scarfs sold all over the country, can trace their roots back to the shawls woven by hundreds of thousands of women in Kashmir as early as the 1500s.

However, I think the most relevant and hard to ignore example of this apparently universal discarding of the importance of textile art is societies, and also the arts community’s- relationship with fashion. Fashion is arguably the most democratic and all-permeating art-form of them all. Even if you actively spurn the idea of fashion- and it would have to be actively- the way in which people creatively express themselves through their clothing and style is completely unavoidable. Fashion is the most immediate way a person has in communicating something about themselves, and sometimes this is taken a step further, whether it be in Vivienne Westwood raising awareness about climate change in her collections, or the spray-painted political polemic on the t-shirts of bands like the Manic Street Preachers. And despite all this, fashion is continually derided as vacuous, vain and most scathingly a women’s domain. We’re confronted, of course, by a chicken-and-egg scenario here; is it because fashion is inherently vacuous and vain that women, in their infinite weakness, are attracted to it? Or is it because women have largely chosen to express themselves through fashion and image, more so than men – (and who can blame them, when as a rough average, 8/10 artists exhibited in art galleries will be male… I don’t think there’s any shame in trying to forge a niche of one’s own), that it must therefore must be subject to ridicule, because anything to do with women must be taken less seriously than if a man were to carry it out?

One thing that rubs salt in the wound even more is that, despite all the ‘womanly’ sphere fashion primarily influences, men still hold a very powerful place within the fashion industry. Similarly to the questions I posed regarding fine art, when I asked who were the first ten designers to spring to mind, the gender distribution, predictably, was a lot less skewed than it had been with fine art- Vivienne Westwood, Coco Chanel and Donna Karen all got mentions. Yet at the same time, fashion was consistently viewed as one of the least worthwhile of all the art forms listed- reasons cited including ‘requires less skill [than fine art]’ ‘superficial’ ‘has more of a negative effect on the rest of society than fine art etc’. Furthermore, just because we had more women appreciated in this category than with fine art, yet again the majority of artists- in this case, designers- listed were men. Gianni Versace, Alexander McQueen, Marc Jacobs… and even when people talk of Prada, you have to confirm whether they mean Mario, the founder, or Miuccia, the now- owner of the fashion line, who, according to Forbes.com “turned the [family owned business] into a fashion powerhouse.”, who has a PHD in political science and yet remains relatively unknown.

Equally, some of the most witty and intelligent female minds in contemporary journalism and blogging are found within fashion writing, for example, the journalist, photographer, stylist, model and blogger Hanneli Mustaparta, Leandra Medine of Man Repeller, who has been quoted as saying “good fashion is about pleasing women, not men” But why do we as a society so often condemn these people for ‘wasting their talents’ on something as evidently insipid and worthless as fashion, rather than respect fashion as a legitimate art form in its own right?

Even beyond the remit of fashion, the success of well known female artists is always a dubious matter. To use Tracey Emin as an example, irrespective of the arguable merits or otherwise of her work, continually finds her efforts patronised despite the notoriety she enjoys. Arguably this comes from the fact that her work is undeniably, sometimes intrusively, feminine, and despite her apparent longing to go down in history as a “kooky” and “edgy” character in modern art, it’s her –perhaps inadvertent- embracing of the feminine stereotype, hyper-emotionality, shameless self-disclosure- that has allowed her to permeate into the general consciousness. Because she embodies the stereotypical hysterical trivialities of the female condition, she is no threat; she fits the mould set out by society; she is, despite all her best efforts, what we expect.

If women in the textiles art sector were underrepresented numerically, I’d have a much easier, more straightforward argument. But predictably, sexism in all walks of life, permeates in the most insidious fashion possible, and in the textiles sector, we are faced with no exception. I can name a number of exceptionally talented local textiles artists, including Sue Barry, Shevonne Hutchins, Joanna of ‘ChicThrows’, but how many of these could ever ‘make it’, assuming that they wanted to? How many times have textiles artists had their work dismissed as ‘a bit of a hobby’, the patronising diminutive of ‘craft’ and had it sneered at as somehow inherently inferior to its fine-art cousin? For an art form with such significance both historically and contemporarily, one that requires as much discipline and skill as oil painting or sculpture, there is still a drastic problem with how it is externally perceived. And, over 7000 years later after potentially the first ever Persian carpet was ever woven, I think it’s high time that both the women and the men practising in the textiles art sector take the opportunity to truly make sure that textile design, in whatever form it takes, gets the respect and due reverence it deserves.

The Killing, its place in popular culture, and why we all need to say ‘tak’ to Sarah Lund

Søren Sveistrup’s Danish 1987 TV drama “The Killing” (Danish: Forbrydelsen) has been heralded and applauded, and quite rightly, for a great number of things. I finished Season 1 yesterday, and other than it leaving a massive void in my chest where my heart should be, it also left me pondering. The intricacy of the storyline, the jolting unexpectedness of the plot-twists, if my life will ever feel complete without Yan Meyer in it, the superb acting and distressingly brilliant use of music. God. The Killing was something else. I’m a loser who has spent way too many nights slumped in four-day-old clothing in front of the telly, hopelessly shovelling week-old twiglets into my mouth, wondering how and when my life fell apart; as consequence I have the dubious talent of being a veritable aficionado of the drama series. I can smell plot-twists from a mile off, and sniff contemptuously when they arrive. No holey storyline escapes my discerning scornful gaze, and I normally yawn boredly in a “told-ya-so” sort of way when they reveal the perpetrator- like we didn’t see that one coming. The Killing though, was different. I spent a good twenty hours glued to the screen, and only not in one go due to necessity. It made my skin crawl and my spine tingle and on more then one occasion I wanted to scream out loud with frustration, shock, confusion or a combination of all three. I could write a dissertation on how good The Killing is, but I will stick with the one aspect that left me most ponderous of all. And that’s Sarah Lund. Played by Sofie Gråbøl, very few fictional characters, have made as much of a startling impact on me as she.

Popular culture, I lament, even in our discrimination-free, progressive, post-feminist universe, still lacks, well…women. We, as a populace, are presented with a dismal, flat, one-dimensional mockery of reality; women and femininity, on the most part, reduced down to nothing more than depressing tropes.  The sexually empowered white straight woman, probably running a business and otherwise wearing her costume of powerful masculinity in a grim masquerade of liberation. The warrior princess with just enough cleavage on show to quell the disgusted calls of “dyke!” from the sofas of houses all over the nation. Maybe they’ll be a caring maternal figure thrown in for good measure, because, remember girls, you can be whatever you want to be- as long as you’re cute, of course. ‘Empowerment’, or what they can afford to show of it, in modern television culture seems to be synonymous, with, yeah, you guessed it, sex appeal. And that’s what brings me onto one of the many many things I love about Sarah Lund: she is completely un-sexualised.

Popular culture has always kind of stretched the boundaries of realism when it comes to providing sexy-women-folk for the viewer (I mean, how long do you expect us to believe that she could remain on a desert island without those strategically ripped clothes getting seriously in the way or at least allowing for some pretty nasty sunburn). The Killing does not. Sarah, presumably with all her bags packed ready for her new life in Sweden, spends the whole series walking purposefully around Copenhagen in the same two jumpers, with her hair hurriedly tidied into a ponytail, her face belligerently bare of make-up. Alright, this might not seem revolutionary when put like that, (I’m sure there are girls reading this now who are thinking “phhhhf, if she wants that, she only needs to see me at 3 o’clock on a Sunday afternoon, still staggering around in my pyjamas”) but I’m sure you’ll agree, in popular culture an Un-sexualised Woman is a Very Big Deal.  I spent much of the first few episodes gritting my teeth in stoic anticipation of Sarah inevitably taking her top off as part of some ‘necessary’ subplot (maybe to blot some blood off the floor or something) whilst Jan Meyer looks on appreciatively over a cigarette or a hamburger. But, my friends, it never happened! And I can’t tell you how relieved I was. To find a drama series where the female protagonist is intelligent, discerning, multi-faceted…. human, for Christ’s sake… well, it’s a rare find indeed. There is a big difference of course between ‘sexy’ and ‘sexualised’, and just because Sarah wasn’t playing a cop who fights in a bra and suspenders before going off to her radical hot empowered night-job as a pole dancer, it doesn’t mean she’s not attractive. To me, that matters very little, but it’s so refreshing to have a character who’s attractive in a non-contrived way, (see: most male characters- their sex appeal isn’t based off the fact they walk in on every other scene topless with their six-pack oiled up, it comes as a side. Sex appeal isn’t the main plot for a man, yet for women, you take it away, and apparently you’re left with a hollow shell of a person). It’s fantastic to have a female character who isn’t sexy because that’s how she’s written, because that’s how she HAS to be, but is likeable and relatable and appealing on levels that transcend a vacuous sexiness- ‘attractiveness’ as a by-product of her wonderful humanity, warts and all.

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Said humanity being another reason as to why Sarah Lund is a bit feminist icon of our time.  Alongside, you know, tirelessly pandering to the male gaze, female characters tend to be fairly… under-developed. You chip away the varnish on the top and there’s nothing underneath. As always, I speak in general terms, but it’s certainly a lot harder to find a complex, multi-dimensional female character than it is to find a male one. And this includes flaws. No one is human without flaws, yet women, if we are grudgingly allowed to consider the radical notion that women are also people, are often forced into one of two categories. 1) flawless heroine- maybe a bit of a shady past, but nothing too socially unacceptable, but is on the whole Good and does everything a woman should; she is sexy and caring and morally righteous and she never makes errors of judgement like her fumbling male counterparts, because she is A Strong Woman. Sadly, this trope has sometimes been misinterpreted as ‘feminist’ simple because it’s not some stepford wife morosely ironing her husbands shirts, but in actuality, a woman that is not allowed to be human, with all the problems this brings, is just as dehumanized as any 50s housewife, any giggling submissive bit-part in a Bond film. The other category is of course the Unforgivable She-Devil a trope so tired and boring I can’t even consider going into any detail. Sarah Lund though, shockingly, wondrously, doesn’t fall into either of these reductive moulds. She is brilliant, granted, but she is also has her weaknesses, and rather that this being perceived as evidence of the ‘inescapably a victim’ part of the feminine identity, it should be seen as The Killing’s revolutionary embracing of the shocking idea that women are people too.

Sarah is single-minded and quick-tempered and mistrustful, and worst of all she commits the most heinous of female crimes; she isn’t the devoted mother figure we all know women are meant to be. But this doesn’t deduct from her brilliance-it enhances it. She is one of the most human female characters I’ve seen on television for a long time, perhaps with the exception of Carrie Mathison, with whom I think Lund bears stark resemblance, and not even just with what I call the Carrie-Complex (intelligent female considered crazy by men around her But We Know She’s Right). She is as imperfect as the rest of us, and for that reason she’s far more relevant than most other post-feminist Strong Woman icon in popular culture, whose creators are so concerned with depicting perceived feminine perfection that they forget that real-life women are as reckless and tarnished and riddled with issues as their male reflections.

Of course, these are but two reasons in one character as to why The Killing is an amazing TV series, and I’ve completely neglected its brilliance as a crime drama in its own right, feminist discourse completely aside. However, great television is…whilst perhaps not ten-a-penny, certainly less precious than a female protagonist as shockingly well-written as Sarah Lund. I could write reviews on excellent television series every other month if I wanted to, but an opportunity to gush over someone like Sarah happens, sadly, only so often. That’s something in dire need of change, but I remain optimistic, and when the time comes when we’re presented with female characters depicted in ways that finally give credit to the wonderful complexity of female existence, I shall remember Sarah Lund as a trailblazer, as a beacon of hope, her proudly over-worn, oversized white jumper a glimmer of salvation in the darkness of the Copenhagen night.

very quick thingy on Anne Boleyn

In a story inextricably interwoven with sadness and intrigue, the most overriding tragedy of Anne wasn’t in fact her untimely death, but in the way history has subsequently judged her. How it ridiculed her and demonised her, tried to destroy her legacy and downplay her triumphs. Throughout the years we’ve reduced the many facets personality down to merely her family’s puppet, a victim of circumstance or most often, “the great whore”, the “concubine”. Yet, nearly 500 years after her execution, we remain fascinated by the endlessly complexity of her rise and fall from grace, the political change she both co-ordinated and inspired, and of course, Anne as an individual. And perhaps that’s because her’s is a story in many ways still relevant today. 

Centuries before the suffragettes were chaining themselves to fences, even before Wollstonecraft’s ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Woman’ and way, waaay before the 60’s boom of second-wavers and the birth of post-nineties third-wavers, Anne Boleyn embodied so much of, at least in my opinion as a feminist, the ‘strong woman’ archetype held in in equal amounts of reverence and disdain. And hell, did she pay for it. I mean, what else could happen to a woman who was so intellectually, politically and creatively astute, she won the heart of the King of England almost to the point of obsession, virtually masterminded the break from Rome and helped bring about evangelical reform to Britain, all within the space of a decade, other than be completely and utterly vilified by the populace, history, and eventually even her supporters and the man she married and have her head lopped off?? All this, we must bear in mind, in a world where women where largely completely cut off from power and even if they did have some semblance of authority, they were born with it, in which sense Anne is again an anomaly  again ahead of her time- a self-made woman; something that was completely unheard of. 

And perhaps that always was the key to Anne’s downfall, and they key to why her find such a figure of admiration and inspiration… the circumstances surrounding her arrest and execution are dubious at the very best and (realistically) utterly contrived at the worst, and simply put, Cromwell, or the King, or both, needed her dead because she was simply too much to handle. To clever, too pious, too confident, too ambitious, too loving, too jealous, too hot-headed, too human… because, after all, that’s something women were, and to some extent, are, not allowed to be. 

It’s another matter entirely how all her achievements, as a woman, have been written off; the part she played in shaping the spiritual and political landscape of England post-reformation, as a woman, have been written off; how she was decried as a whore and a slut and the devil-incarnate, simply because she was a powerful person, that was, you know, female. All of that is easy to write of as symptomatic of the society in which she existed in, but it begs the question; only recently have revisionist historians really come to grasps with what an influential figure she was, so how much has really changed? How hard it is nowadays for a woman to claw her way to positions of power, how easy is it for the men around them to manipulate them for their own purposes? How often are women dismissed as dangerous, disgusting, perverse and unnatural for having ambition and belief and self-confidence? How common is that a woman’s intelligence is undermined and belittled? How often are women forced to play the card of the sexuality in order to be recognised for anything, then immediately ridiculed and demonised for doing so? 

These are all issues Anne faced. And they are ones alive and thriving today. There’s an universal relevance to her story, and that’s why I think Anne is such an important figure, not only in a historical context, but as an hugely inspirational figure on a personal level, to women, and people on the whole, alive today. Of all the women in history, Anne is one of the most real, the most nuanced and complex, the most fascinating and ambiguous, and above all the most human. And whilst we can look up to her intelligence and creativity, her wit and her dignity, many of of us can also identify with her bad-temper, her impatience, her selfishness and her ruthlessness. Anne Boleyn wasn’t a one sided caricature of a woman, these single-faceted quasi-human representations of femininity we are still bombarded with today (the sexy one, the geeky one, the weak one, the strong one), she embodied primarily a staunch and unflinching humanity, and a personality that still reverberates through the ages despite every effort to quell and dirty and devalue her name. It’s credit to her strength, wisdom and terrible, destructive brilliance that we still talk of her today, and I think, if we cannot take inspiration from that, and stand with her today in solidarity against the forces not only working against women, but many unsung people on the whole, then history has not served it’s purpose. ANNA REGINA 5EVA xx

Celebrity Big Brother 2013: The Launch

So, Celebrity Big Brother 2013 has launched, the only show on television that somehow – despite the tackiness, the shamelessness and the hordes of blood-sucking egomaniac z-listers it inevitably attracts year in year out – remains one of the freshest, entertaining and hopelessly addictive shows in the terrifying swirling vortex British reality television. And this year promises no less of a spectacle than ever.

Big Brother is watching you... and we're still watching Big Brother.
Big Brother is watching you… and we’re still watching Big Brother.

Brian Dowling (the show’s reincarnation onto channel 5 boasts the ex-winner in replacement of Davina Mccall) remains as charismatic a presenter as ever, but the main point of interest to this series is the complex- and therefore, sadistically entertaining- psychosocial interactions the set-up of the Big Brother house will provoke in the contestants.

Reminiscent of series 3 ‘rich-side/poor-side’ divide, this year the contestants are segregated between the luxury of the Big Brother house we all know and love, and a newly introduced ‘Big Brother Basement’, a dingy underground hovel that Dowling repeatedly insists is icy, damp, rat-infested hell-hole, complete with no running water or bedding, and food is found my digging desperately through chewed-up scraps of rotting meat tossed in there presumably by the chortling gentry. In all honesty, it’s doubtful conditions could be that bad without breaking some sort of human right, and upon closer inspection the BBB, as from hereafter it shall be known, appears more like your average, clean, dry underground bunker, albeit painted an optimistically desolate shade of grey. It’s a shame really- in 2013, you’d think we were one step closer to reality TV becoming more like the Hunger Games, but we can live in hope that things will get desperate; maybe if the food rations down there are that drastic the contestants might resort to cannibalism. The bafflingly named ‘Razor’ could be a likely candidate, perhaps.

However, the sentiment still stands; from the word go there is a) a major social divide between the two halves of the house, in terms of standards of living and b) six contestants either affably “being understanding”, or loathing the guts of the contestants who sent them to their fate (more on that later). This is where it gets juicy, deliciously so. The way people react in alien environments and social situations is one of the main attractions of BB, and the immediate imposing of a social hierarchy, and the instant turning of contestants against on another will make very interesting viewing indeed.

Big Brother, and reality of shows of its ilk are often criticised for their mindlessness (criticisms that tend to occur in, well, somewhat of a mindless fashion, often with very little exposure the shows themselves), but one feature of the basement couldn’t escape notice, and probably not without reason. Across one wall is scrawled “WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER”. Ring any bells? Only a few months ago was David Cameron spewing such rhetoric in a desperate, and ultimately transparent attempt, to conceal the widening gap and pronounced inequalities his austerity measures were bringing in. And in a room meant to represent the poverty-stricken underclass of a show meant to be (to some extent at least) a microcosm of reality- a coincidence? Or a cutting social comment? Well done Big Brother, you’ve done us proud again.

The contestants themselves are predictably the sorts of “celebrities” only a very select few have ever heard off. Frankie Detorri, a widely gesticulating jockey, and Rylan Clark of X-Factor fame are the first two to be introduced, and are given the task of dividing the housemates between the grandeur of the actual house and the Squalid Basement of Doom and Despair. With Rylan and Frankie perched together upon the diary room chair where they are forced to make their agonising decisions, the effect is hilarious. Rylan is a six-foot-five model and Frankie is, well, a jockey. He looks like Rylan’s marionette.

The housemates arrive in twos, like animals boarding Noah’s Ark, with similar amounts of anxiety and bewilderment, and a hell of a lot more nauseating self-promotion. Third housemate to arrive was former model Paula Hamilton, whose introductory video did her no favours, (obviously she was playing tacticaly when boasting about her “extremely glamorous and very privileged lifestyle”) getting her the first boos of the night and earning her a stay in the basement from Frankie and Rylan, picked as potentially more annoying over a bejewelled but likeably bubbly Tricia Penrose.

Actor Ryan Maloney was next up (Big Brother Basement) followed swiftly by former EastEnder actress Gillian Taylforth (Big Brother House). Next, Sam Robertson of Beaver Falls dubious stardom, was to join those lurking in the grime below decks, whereas page 3 model “”””Lacey Banghard”””” a name, considering her profession that sounds suspiciously as though she wasn’t given it at birth, joins the gaggle of women inhabiting the Big Brother House. Again, she received more than her fair share of boos, and she seems the sought of girl that people will initially hate on reflex for the fact she takes her top off for a living (rather than criticise a system where such a presentation of women is widespread and acceptable, although that’s another story) and her already evident (and probably over-exaggerated- for a culture that’s quick to objectify a woman is equally quick to vilify, taunt and stereotype the same woman for fulfilling the desires of male sexual gratification it demands of her) idiocy, then slowly her dim-wittedness and innocent charm make her a fun, endearing victim and subsequent a housemate favourite.

Claire Richards, former star of Steps and woman seemingly so sweet it probably gave half the viewers toothache through the screen came next, and was promptly joined by ex-footballer Neil “Razor” Ruddock, describing himself a “living legend” a “lad’s lad” and boasting about his performance in the bedroom instantly won the hearts of the nation, although mystifyingly not Frankie and Rylan, who sent him to join the rest of the serfs in the BBB.

The last contestant, as for some reason they apparently lack the intellectual or emotional capacity to act as autonomous human beings in their own right, was a conjunction of Heidi Montag and the fitting named Spencer Pratt, who for some reason decided upon entering a reality in show where you spend literally 24/7 around other people with nothing to distract you, when he by his own admittance “doesn’t really like other people”. Go figure. In act of heart-warming selfless (it was obviously to protect the girls from already profoundly irritating couple), Rylan and Frankie decided in fact that they themselves would be joining Claire, Lacey, Tricia and Gillian in the luxury of the house, whilst Heidi and Spencer would have to suffer the torments of the BBB.

Six upstairs, and six down. Already simmering resentment building between the classes. An intriguing social divide that adds another dimension to what has always been a thought-provoking programme in terms of social psychology in the first place. Glamour models, top models, actors, drama queens. Vacuous, vain, vapid and self-obsessed? Of course. But uninteresting it ain’t. Plus, it’s only day one.

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