Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Is being mean about a TV personality on Twitter really 'bitching'?

Probably a bit harsh, but in my defense she had just said her completely perfect picnic pie was rubbish even though it clearly wasn't.

I'm not a particularly highbrow person. Of an evening if I'm not down the pub or up a hill or eating there's nothing I enjoy more than watching my favourite awful TV programme and talking about it, and often enough I'm not impressed.

TV distorts the truth. No matter how much a show touts itself as being anchored in reality, the truth is, it's more entertaining and therefore more worthwhile for producers to pick and choose shots and sequences that portray contestants as exaggerated caricatures of themselves. But you all knew that, didn't you? We've all seen Screenwipe? So let's move on.

These caricatures are what we grow to love or hate. They are manufactured to encourage our pity, enthusiasm or disdain. We pick villains and heroes because it gives meaning to the show. We don't dislike the people, we dislike the character. Perhaps it's hard for people to separate the two, but that's TV for you. Easy to watch, easy to make opinions about, easy to forget, unless you're the person inside the box getting all the shit thrown at you. I'd be tempted at this point to say "well you chose to be on the screen though, didn't you?".

Maybe that isn't fair. Maybe that's cruel. Maybe I don't care. The thing is, people have Tweeted along with the telly for as long as Twitter has existed and TV execs got wise to it years ago. Viewers are actively encouraged to join in the discussion, with companies and programmes employing interns and social media assistants (like myself) to bolster along the conversation and buoy up a little bit of provocation. We say things like "Ooh, how mean was that comment?" or "Oh dear, that didn't look very good did it?" or even "How annoying is that Joey Essex, eh?" to get people talking. We get drawn into other conversations. We just do. That's what gossiping is like.

So, when a bit of mean-natured joshing turns into a national discussion about how we all need to stop judging people, I get a little bit annoyed. I have been known to exaggerate a bit. Hyperbolic hatred can be hilarious. Don't tell me you've never made fun of somebody to get a laugh. You have. The difference is, tossing off a comment online isn't the same as purposefully constructing a deeply resonant insult built to destroy another human being and then saying it to their face. I'd like to think none of us would do that. We're mean idiots but we're not fucking evil.

We aren't. Well, most of us aren't. There are a lot of people out there who are genuinely nasty, who send rape threats to celebrities for the sake of poor banter and who make up jokes about babies in blenders and send them to people who notoriously get upset about that sort of thing. Your mates might find it funny (god knows why), but these people clearly don't. Context, people. As I've mentioned many-a time before, saying horrible things does not a Charlie Brooker make.

Lat night I said some harsh things about Ruby Tandoh on Twitter because she makes my eyelids twitch with irritation. In the cold, post-Bake Off finale light of day I should really say that the distilled essence of a Ruby Tandoh character whom I saw on TV for an hour every week for the past month or so makes my eyelids twitch with irritation. Here's the thing though - she's probably quite nice really, so I didn't send any of what I said actually to her. I have nothing against her personally.

Does this make me a bitch? Should I print it all out and send it to her house so she can hear what I had to say? Some people think yes. Some people think that everything you say should be heard by those who it criticizes.

In light of this, I should probably transcribe the rant I had about Morrissey last weekend after five double vodkas and send him a copy. I should probably call up Julia Bradbury and tell her I think she's a joke. I should also email Kevin McCloud while I'm at it and tell him on a number of occasions over the past year I have called him an increasingly insufferable pretension cloud hovering over prime time TV like a smug fart. (If you laughed at that, you're just as guilty as I am.)

At the end of the day, people like me direct our feeble moanings at the telly because it makes us feel better about our lives and nobody really needs to hear that stuff. That's the way the shows are formulated, and that's the trap we fall into. If you genuinely are still @ messaging Ruby Tandoh to tell her you hate her though, perhaps you need to take a look at where your life is at this moment.

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