Caitlin Moran’s article on Benefits Street in today’s Times is probably the most eloquent and brilliantly-written I’ve read on the show and its subsequet controversy.
I won’t copy and paste the full article, because if ever a newspaper or media outlet deserved ‘hits’ or subscriptions it is The Times on the basis of this piece, but I’ll post my favourite extract - probably the most pertinent few paragraphs you’ll read on the subject of a television show:
To show how absurd the weight and analysis lumped on Benefits Street is, imagine for a moment a putative Middle Class Street.
If, on our new Middle Class Street, we’d seen three out of 99 lovely Victorian terraces engaged in crime — the same ratio as Benefits Street — but the middle-class crimes of tax evasion and expenses fiddling instead, no one would be lining up to condemn the entire middle class. No one would be presuming to be an expert on the middle-class “lifestyle”. No one would be making statements on the moral degeneracy of the 21st-century middle classes.
Even if they were, middle-class voices have so much access to the media that such statements would be easily countered by dozens of columns and radio sermons on the subject from middle-class broadcasters and writers. The middle classes would not be talked about as if they were something that must … end. Something to be cured. Something that has gone on for far too long and must be remedied. Something that is only ever a problem.
When the irony is, of course, that the working-class benefit fraud costs £1.2 billion a year, while tax evasion — inevitably a middle-class crime — costs £14 billion annually.
£14 billion! That it is often repeated does not dim its outrage. The fact is simple: richer people steal more. You cannot trust them. Hide your espresso machine when they come round, fellow peasant, lest they sneak them into their Cath Kidston tote and make their escape in a Prius.
Every year, for the start of the new autumn term, CW likes to devise a new motto, under which aegis it lives for the following 12 months. For 2011 the maxim was the dashing and inspiring “Always ride out as if meeting your nemesis,” while 2012’s was the far more prosaic “Run up the escalators” — which you could take either as a fabulous metaphor for making an effort even if you’re getting a free ride, or a simple injunction to run up some escalators. CW ran up some escalators.
For 2013, after much cogitation, CW has gone for “Just don’t get in the way.” It’s a basic rework of “Do no harm.” Don’t obscure the progress of someone who — in this bad, sly, lazy, bewildered and misgotten world, with a billion tasks still crying out to be completed — is actually trying to do something good.
And, so, to Jamie Oliver. Oliver’s had a bad week. Launching his new austerity-food TV show and book, Save With Jamie, Oliver gave an interview to the Radio Times that caused a mid-level media-fury: less than Syria and twerking, but more than badgers and gay weddings.
“Jamie Oliver sparks poverty row,” as The Telegraph headline put it. “He attacks families for eating junk food and buying expensive television sets.”
“[You see a poor] mum and the kids eating chips and cheese out of a Styrofoam container,” Oliver said, “and behind them is a massive TV. People say ‘You don’t understand what it’s like.’ I just want to hug them and teleport them to a Sicilian street cleaner who has 25 mussels, 10 cherry tomatoes and a packet of spaghetti for 60 pence, and knocks out the most amazing pasta.”
Almost without exception, every media outlet chose, at this point, to mock Oliver’s imaginary peasant with “25 mussels”, by pointing out that Oliver himself has a personal fortune estimated at £150m, and so, er, shut up. The Mail took it one step further, by providing a useful comparison chart that illustrated how Oliver’s own “Jamie Oliver” food range is “often” more expensive than supermarket own-brand, and linking it to a quote from the foodbank charity the Trussell Trust — creating the misty, helpful inference that it was Jamie Oliver’s Green Pesto being a quid more than Tesco own-brand that has led to 500,000 a week in Britain now using food banks.
Well. While CW is sad that Oliver has fallen for the old “Poor people aren’t really poor if they’ve got a big telly” argument — love, you can currently get a 40” HD Toshiba for £299.99 off Argos, which will supply 90% of an entire family’s leisure activity for the next three years. It is a TOTAL BARGAIN — it is sad to see all this gas-lighting away from what’s really happening.
Is Jamie Oliver — regardless of his mahoosive fortune — right that “peasant food”, in most other cultures, makes middle-class food ponces in London flip their lids? Well, yes. Is Oliver doing something practical — a whole TV series, full of meals at £1.70 per portion — to actually combat how terrifyingly fat, diabetic and broke so many people in this country are? Yes. And is Oliver aware how much a big telly costs? No. Not at all.
Really, the only report you can make on this whole affair is the no-shit-Sherlock response of: “Chef ultimately good at making cheap pies, ultimately bad at nuanced socio-economic analysis. The end.”
Anything else, however pressing your deadline, is just ….. getting in the way.
Caitlin Moran, Celebrity Watch
|—||Caitlin Moran’s advice to her daughter, The Times (via hattievane)|
|—||Caitlin Moran’s advice to her daughter, The Times (via hattievane)|
Do you know what the problem with feminism is, in 2013? Sadly, it’s the feminists. Time and time again, these women just keep… screwing it up.
Sheryl Sandberg started as chief of staff at the US Treasury Department, is now second in command at Facebook and is regularly voted one of Time’s “100 Most Influential People in the World”.
But this year, when she published her book, Lean In – encouraging more women to take up positions of high power in business – she targeted an audience that is already well educated: wholly neglecting to address such issues as childcare and housework, which hold back so many other, less privileged women. Ultimately, she screwed it up.
Lena Dunham, 24, writes, directs, produces and stars in one of the most talked-about shows of the past 10 years – HBO’s girls. She tackles abortion, STDs, pornography, masochism and her generation’s parlous reversal of fortune. Her grasp of the moment is equal with Tom Wolfe’s.
But as the first series began to air, it became sadly apparent that Dunham hadn’t included a single non-white character in the show.
“They should call it White Girls,” was the common payoff to angry pieces about it. Dunham screwed up.
And what about Beyoncé? Another woman who does that rare thing of openly describing herself as a feminist, Beyoncé has an all-female band, manages herself, co-writes rogue suffragette anthems like Independent Women, Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It) and Run The World (Girls) and has made having a big, fantastic arse and thighs aspirational.
But then she got married to Shawn Carter, aka Jay-Z, and named her current world tour The Mrs Carter Show. Women have campaigned for decades for the right to keep their own names – and then this sexy chick puts back women’s rights by 30 years. Yeah, thanks, Mrs Norman Maine.
Indeed, thanks to all the “feminists” out there who keep screwing it up. Because every time you make some error, or miss something out, you’re making feminism look foolish.
That’s the presumption, anyway. I’ve lost count of the pieces I’ve read in the past six months or so, bewailing previously loved feminist icons who’ve done something that has supposedly caused an immovable stain on themselves, and their movement. Whenever I read about Sheryl Sandberg, Lena Dunham or Beyoncé, the core complaint seems to be: Why haven’t they done everything? Why haven’t they addressed all the problems women face? To put it in the most succinct terms possible: why haven’t they been able to simply and inclusively address the concerns of every one of the roughly 3.4 billion women on Earth?
But, of course, if the infallible guide for being able to detect the presence of sexism is, “Are the men doing this?”, as we can see, the men are resolutely not expecting one single dude to rock up and solve all the problems of every man on Earth. Men are happy when Jeremy Clarkson merely tells them if he thinks a car is “gay” or not. Men didn’t stand at the bottom of Mount Everest, arms folded, waiting for Edmund Hillary to come down, then greet him with, “Yeah, nice one, Hillary – but when are you gonna invent the internet?”
But this is what we do – repeatedly – with our female pioneers. Understandably over-invested in any woman who does begin to succeed, we load a million hot, desperate expectations onto them, then enter a weird world where we become immensely peevish at a thousand things they haven’t done rather than taking a moment to be joyful over the stuff that, against all odds, they actually did do. Imperfect but useful achievements that, even as we sigh over their failings, will inevitably be inspiring others to follow in their wake, with their specific quests.
You know what – it really is OK if a woman comes along and does just a little bit of pioneering. Encourage childless university graduates to run global companies! Write brutally honest sitcoms about self-obsessed girls! Stand on stage in front of 250,000 people and make them sing, “All the women who are independent/ Throw your hands up at me”! Because, let’s face it, no one else is doing that. These are still hardly overcrowded arenas of activity.
We’re all working on a massive patchwork quilt called “A Better Future” here – anyone can pull up a chair and have a go. The only rule of Feminism Quilt Club is that we don’t expect one woman to sew the entire damn thing herself, while bitching about her to her face. Oh, and crisps. You have to bring crisps.
I would like to say this useful thing, in the summer of 2013: if we’re waiting for some kind of feminist Megatron to appear who will solve all our problems, we will be waiting another 100,000 years. I don’t have that long. I’m happy to make feminism a team sport.
|—||Caitlin Moran, The Times (via skavalli)|
But this is what we do – repeatedly – with our female pioneers. Understandably over-invested in any woman who does begin to succeed, we load a million hot, desperate expectations onto them, then enter a weird world where we become immensely peevish at a thousand things they haven’t done rather than taking a moment to be joyful over the stuff that, against all the odds, they actually did do. Imperfect but useful achievements that, even as we sigh over their failings, will inevitably be inspiring others to follow in their wake, with their specific quests.
|—||http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/opinion/columnists/caitlinmoran/article3804908.ece (via elliesandpancakes)|
Caitlin Moran on the welfare state in The Times. Pictures from @TheLilacTime