I have become fascinated by Made in Chelsea. Not by the storylines or characters. I honest couldn’t care less if Binky is going out with Proudlock, or whether Ollie is gay or straight (or if the concept of bisexuality ever makes it to SW3), though I was surprised to find that Fran and Cheska were two separate people. Given that this is supposed to be reality TV, the most extraordinary thing is how bad the acting is. If you were to watch without the sound (and yes I have done this) it looks like an interminable drama where a group of largely blond and wholly bland looking people try to convince each other they weren’t the one who farted. In truth, the dramatic moments in these people’s lives are considerably less interesting than that.
So far, so reality (or the rather more Orwellian term for this kind of show “scripted reality”) TV. It doesn’t mean anything – it doesn’t have to. It’s an entertainment not a news show. But this uncommented on celebration of the wealthy and fatuous is a part of the normalisation of “the rich and the rest” world in which we are rapidly sinking. These people do nothing but move from tea shop to cocktail bar to exclusive party. Even when you see them in a place of work, they aren’t actually doing anything productive – but messing around with their Feng Shui. But instead of judging this fatuousness, the whole thing is presented in celebration of it.
This is a London far removed from the city I know, love and have lived in all my life. It’s a London of rich, white privileged people who neither know nor understand the realities of modern life for the seven million people they share their home city with. This isn’t their fault entirely. They have clearly lived cossetted lives and have never had their curiosity developed or their social conscience piqued. They are no more to blame for the circumstances of their birth than the poor people who walk invisibly by them every time they step out of their mansions.
But by presenting these people’s lives as entertainment for the masses, it normalises their difference. Instead of questioning the circumstances which have led these random groups of chromosomes to privilege while their fellow Londoners suffer, we are instead led to assume the normality of their circumstances and concern ourselves instead with the triviality of their lives.
And that’s what bothers me. I’m being presented with a fait acompli, and when I complain or point out the lack of perspective and reality of the reality show I am being presented with, I am told this is just entertainment and that I shouldn’t be po-faced. Because of the nature of the presentation, I am expected to narrow my criticism. Propaganda doesn’t get more effective than that.
As Warren Buffet once said “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning”. This is a war that is won through money and power and through the normalisation of the conditions of combat.
We aren’t supposed to talk about the war. To do so makes us somehow the ones in the wrong, the spoilsports. But nobody on Made in Chelsea has got to the pampered station in life through hard work and in a world where Inheritance Tax is a bitterly fought issue and where your life chances are far too determined by the wealth of our parents, we should not normalise the cast of Made in Chelsea. We should be asking ourselves why we are being told to aspire to their lifestyle and what makes them more entitled to their wealth and privilege than anyone else in the UK and elsewhere.
These people aren’t Made in Chelsea. The protection of their lifestyle is made in Westminster. It’s made in Fleet Street. It’s made through the normalisation and acceptance of ridiculous levels of inequality that allow these playboys to have lives so exotically different from the rest of ours that they can be paraded as gilded entertainment. And we should question that, because they won’t.