Tuesday, January 30, 2007

If Shilpa Shetty was Ugly Betty

It has been pointed out to me that I have become entirely too curmudgeonly of late. In the immortal words of Dirk Benedict – I have ‘crossed a line’. Not that he said it to me mind, because it was not me attempting to sit on his face while he was smoking a Cohiba the size of Washington monument. That would be Cleo Rocos, ‘a celebrity’ so universally unknown that even her own family required an introduction to her. However, cross a line I did, even by That’s So Pants standards. So today, before hoeing into the shambles that was Celebrity Big Brother one last time, I will dispense some tokenistic cheerfulness to appease the sensibilities of the status quo.

Firstly, I won £19.20 in the Euromillions Lottery. I personally don’t think it is much of a reward for two numbers and two stars. The stars are incredibly hard to get. I think £19 million would have been more appropriate, but there you go. I would have spent it wisely by getting The A-Team out of retirement to wreak revenge on a certain housing association. They cost a lot more now because George Peppard has to be retrieved from his cryogenic capsule and reactivated. I won’t grumble even though that would have been well within reason.

After collecting my £19.20 I popped into Homerton Library which, although always smells suspiciously like wet dog, has exceptionally nice staff and a wonderfully eclectic fiction collection. For a time John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces was out of print and I’d thrown my only copy at a boyfriend in a fit of pique. It grazed his forehead and then flew through the window straight into the garbage chute where it blended with kitty litter and four day old pizza - an ignominious end for the curmudgeonly Ignatius J Reilly if ever there was one. Homerton Library had a copy and I used to borrow it about once a year until the title finally made its way back into print. I could sidetrack and talk about how pants it was that Toole’s masterpiece was not published until after his suicide and then won the Pulitzer Prize but that would spoil my cosy little story.

I found the two books I’d wanted to read for some time and then I was asked if I would like to choose a new library card from six stylish designs. To my great joy, one of them was a detail of the Hackney Peace Mural on Dalston Lane (pictured). This is a famous Hackney landmark and I will cherish this card long after I have departed for the tropics. For a moment or two it felt as if I had been chosen for Oprah’s Wildest Dreams as I was handed a voucher for a free loan of a DVD as a reward for accepting a new card. My council tax is being put to such good use! I immediately chose Good Night and Good Luck, a film about curmudgeonly news anchor Edward R Murrow. I also saw a blue tit in the garden but the joy was sort of cancelled out by a later sighting of a dead fox on Upper Clapton Road. As they say in Iraq, ‘life can be so sweet on the Sunni side of the street’.

National pride was restored last night when Shilpa Shetty, the Bollywood actor who had been set upon by a pack of our finest chavs, won Celebrity Big Brother and the chavs were booked in for advanced diversity training. I am not in the habit of being fawning about spoiled actors but I will admit to being at least momentarily impressed by Shetty’s Greer Garson-like poise. I certainly hope her flagging film career is revived by this triumph but, if not, she knows she can always come back and teach us our native language, although I doubt we’ll have much use for words like magnanimity in the future. Perhaps she could also give master classes on our core British values of fairness and tolerance since, unlike us, she seems to have a pretty good idea of how they work.

Shetty deserved to win. She had easily the strongest character, although the competition was hardly robust. Much was made of her exceptional beauty and I wonder if she’d not been such a stunner, whether we would have been stumbling all over ourselves to gain her approval in quite the same way. If she’d been Ugly Betty, would she have been so easy to fall for? It’s as if the pre-feminist model of beauty, serenity, culture and deportment by which proper young ladies used to be judged still survives in India long after it was discarded here. There is something uncomfortable about how taken we all are with that retro upper class charm. Would we have found it becoming in Peaches Geldof?

I bring this up because I’m not entirely convinced that this Humpty-Dumpty of a disgrace has been healed. Some deep ugliness was exposed which cannot just be conveniently pinned on three stupid girls with chicken stock cubes where brains should be. And it won’t go away with a resounding telephone vote and a clean sweep of the Sunday supplements. I also don’t buy into the claim that was frequently made that all the conflict in the house was caused by the racism of some of the women. The men were very quick to assert that if it had just been blokes they would have gotten along just jiminy. If men bond so well, how come they are always starting wars and beating six kinds of crap out of each other when the pub closes?

At the risk of returning to my paranoid, conspiracy theorist self, I hope we don’t find out that half the votes cast for Shetty came from the same phone and that it can be traced back to the Foreign Office. Or then again, they could have been made by George Peppard on behalf of his lovesick sidekick Dirk. Damn. They woke him up too early. I’m not paying for all those Cohibas…


Reading the Signs said...

No, Peaches Geldof wouldn't have done it for us. And I agree it doesn't make the BB fall-out ok now. But in spite of all, I was disarmed by something I can only call innocence. There's probably a better word but I can't think of it. I don't think it has to do with class, though a bit of privilege would help in the smooth running of things and serenity comes more easily out of that. It has to do with culture. The fact that she isn't from ours, I mean. I suppose in the old days she would have been called well brought up. Modest. We can't use a word like that any more though. Perhaps we're missing a trick.

I carouse to your good fortune!

That's so pants said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one struggling with it. I'm uncomfortable with the female stereotyping more than anything, that tendency to good girl/bad girl the whole scenario and then draw a line under it all with the GG getting a prize and the BGs getting expelled.

Clerk from Kent said...

The men behaved like wimps. They just stood there and let the three witches go for it. They should all be ashamed of themselves for not stepping in and defending Shilpa.

Penless Artist said...

Hey, at the rate you're winning the Euromillions lottery, you only have to win it 1 million more times!

They are hard to get, but you definitely earned a gold star for this post.

That's so pants said...

Hi Clerk - I saw Dirk Benedict on TV this morning and he was under the impression that the whole business was a cat fight for control of the kitchen. I guess you had to be there.

Welcome back Penless - and thanks!