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The collected opinions of an august and aristocratic personage who, despite her body having succumbed to the ravages of time, yet retains the keen intellect, mordant wit and utter want of tact for which she was so universally lauded in her younger days. Being of a generation unequal to the mysterious demands of the computing device, Lady Bracknell relies on the good offices of her Editor for assistance with the technological aspects of her journal.

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Location: Bracknell Towers

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Lady Bracknell ponders on the virtues of modern "entertainment"

Contrary to what her regular readers might expect, Lady Bracknell is not wholly opposed to watching television. And, although she does sometimes despair at the calibre of modern programming, she refuses to fall into the hypocrisy so often demonstrated by members of the demi-monde by asserting that she turns the set on only for "nature documentaries presented by that nice Mr Attenborough".

It might be supposed that Lady Bracknell would make a particular effort to watch programmes concerned with antiques. Although she will freely admit to having an interest in the subject, her ladyship grieves to witness the enthusiastic glee with which the modern family will cast away objets - which were originally chosen with great care and which have been handed down to them by their elderly relatives - in exchange for an ephemeral enjoyment such as a holiday. (Lady Bracknell, having been brought up from her earliest youth to respect the value of the antimacassar and the doily, does not hold with the current trend for minimalist interiors.) Also, she would go so far as to have the butler break open the dry sherry in celebration should the truly frightful Lorne Spicer be forcibly returned to "Collect It" magazine where her semi-literate editorials would trouble a very much smaller audience. This, Lady Bracknell feels, would be fitting punishment for Ms Spicer's insistence on pronouncing "jewellery" as "joolery".

However, Lady Bracknell has now wandered from the point that she was originally intending to make. Which was, that although her viewing tastes are of a nature so catholic as perhaps to surprise some of her regular readers, there is a category of programming so deplorable in its implications that she will watch it no more.

Lady Bracknell refers to those programmes which are designed to belittle those who are featured in them. She will not sully the pages of her blog with their real names, but readers will no doubt recognise them from the list of alternative titles below:

- Your Slovenly Approach to Housekeeping is Disgusting

- Your Personal Hygiene Leaves Much to be Desired

- Your Stoutness of Figure is Morally Reprehensible

- Your Personal Taste in Home Decor is Risible

- Your Choice of Clothing Demonstrates Beyond Doubt That You Are A Foolish Individual


- You are to be Pitied for Looking Older Than Your Chronological Age.

If we derive entertainment from witnessing personal attacks from sniping women - and it is always women - on members of the public who are innocent of any genuine wrongdoing, but who simply fail in some small way to meet the modern "values" imposed upon them by the media, are we any better than the peasants of yester year who were happy to throw rotten vegetables at those of their number who had been put in the stocks? Is this not the modern equivalent of the pleasure engendered in Roman citizens from observing Christians being thrown to the lions? Lady Bracknell's familiarity with the German tongue is not great, but she believes that the word schadenfreude would not be out of place in this context.

Lady Bracknell urges her readers to consciously refrain from watching such programmes. She firmly believes that one's moral integrity is one's greatest asset, and that the potential of such forms of "entertainment" to wreak insidious havoc upon it cannot be over-estimated. The law rightly no longer permits us to mock persons of a different skin colour or religious creed; those who are physically or mentally enfeebled; or those who exhibit a preference for same-gender relationships. That the implementation of such legislation should lead the producers of television programmes to find other innocent targets for subjection to public abuse is, in Lady Bracknell's considered opinion, a sad reflection on the inherent baseness of human nature.

This is not to say that there are no legitimate targets for one's scorn. Persons who exhibit idleness, dishonesty, selfish behaviours, moral misconduct, excessive vulgarity, want of consideration towards others, etc, are richly deserving of criticism. Lady Bracknell's own rule of thumb - and it is one which has served her well - is that behaviours which indicate a lack of moral fibre are deserving of her righteous and vocal indignation. But it is singularly ill-bred to pass comment on personal characteristics which cannot be helped and which are not indicative of any moral weakness.

Lady Bracknell has advised her editor to pay close attention to the "comments" facility, as she anticipates that what she has written here is likely to provoke responses from her readers.


Blogger Charlesdawson said...

Lady Bracknell appears to me to be pursuing two hares here, if such a phrase may be used of a sticky crip, sorry, typo, dignified lady.

The first, is the preponderance of the gentler sex in the type of programme she mentions. Perhaps they're not getting any attention at home?

Seriously, the hysterical anger, aggression and abuse let loose by some of these females when brought face to face with the reality that other people have different ways of thinking and living, should forever put an end to the proposition that, if women ruled the world, we would have universal peace, love, and free caramel yoghurts for all.

Which brings me to my second point, viz. that xenophobia is a basic part of the makeup of that minor species of Great Apes, Homo sapiens, along with self-preservation, territorial aggression, and reproduction, and that such programmes are an inevitable expression of that.

If it weren't for xenophobia, we would probably be still sharing the planet with Neanderthal Man and even the Hobbit.

Lady Bracknell rightly notes that it is now largely socially unacceptable to make mock of or persecute people for their race, culture, sex, religion, disability or sexual orientation. However, all this means is that the xenophobia, damned at some sources, will break out in others.

I have frequently pointed out, on the Board of which she and I are valued members (well, she is; I'm tolerated), that ageism or obesity abuse in particular are no more acceptable coming from crips than from anyone else. The programmes to which Lady Bracknell alludes are another example.

The limits of human tolerance appear to be very narrow indeed in some people. That is a FACT. Controlling the more malignant aspects of the tendency seems to me to be as much as one can hope for. You will never eliminate it.

In conclusion, I give you the example of the late Lord Longford, a suitably aristocratic specimen for this purpose. In his own estimation at least, the noble Lord was a paragon of compassion, toleration, and wisdom. Witness his chamionship of the equally late Myra Bradley. Lord Longford was exemplary in his ability to forgive injuries done to other people. But, if you examine the manner in which he spoke behaved, and spoke to and of, the families of Miss Bradley's victims, you will get an entirely different picture. Disdain, incomprehension, brutal insensitivity are the words I would employ.

That's human nature. We feel a commonalty with some of our fellows but not with others, and given the chance some of us will go further than mere alienation.

Don't shoot me.

9:45 am  
Blogger Lady Bracknell said...

Lady Bracknell has never subscribed to the proposition that women should rule the world. But neither does she believe that the world should be ruled by men.

She suspects that the producers of these programmes choose female presenters (admittedly ones of unremitting ghastliness) purely because the subject matter - apparel, cleanliness, the home etc - is popularly believed to be of more interest to women than to men.

Lady Bracknell takes Mr Dawson's point that xenophobia is part of the human condition. Nevertheless, she believes that morally upright members of a civilised society can, and should, recognise it for the weakness that it is and refrain from expressing it in public, let alone turning it into a form of mass "entertainment".

10:42 am  
Blogger Charlesdawson said...

If I understand her correctly, Lady Bracknell appears to be under the kindly illusion that the persons controlling our "mass media" and thus responsible for such programmes, can justly be described as "morally upright members of a civilised society".

My own view is that, in their game of chasing ratings, these authorities would bring back the Circus Maximus without the adoption of the upturned-thumb option, if they thought they could get away with it. And that a lot of people would watch.

I believe it is a fact, that the "sport" of bullfighting would have died a natural eath in Spain, were it not for the income derived from British and German tourists, who only go to be shocked and revolted, of course.

10:53 am  
Blogger Lady Bracknell said...

Lady Bracknell is labouring under no such delusion although, having re-read her earlier reply to Mr Dawson, she realises that she did not express herself well, and can quite see how he would have reached that erroneous conclusion.

She agrees entirely with his views on media moguls and minions.

11:13 am  
Blogger The Goldfish said...

I no longer receive television programmes on my device, but rather use it to watch pre-recorded moving pictures on "DVD" and video cassette.

However, may I suggest that there is a further cultural phenomena other than schadenfreude, xenophobia or voyeurism that may be responsible for some of the programmes you describe. It is the cult of self-improvement of which I speak.

For example, I viewed with interest early series of a certain programme about clothing. In the early days, the presenters, though lacking in the tact and charm befitting their profession, would nevertheless imbue the 'guest' with confidence and restored self-worth by the end of the exercise, by forcing them to see themselves (by virtue dress themselves) as attractive human beings.

However, pretty soon it became more about the presenters than the guests and since nasty was what they were famous for, nasty was what they did.

My point is that whilst some of these programmes are exactly like the public stocks, some of these programmes are about our own desperate desire to improve ourselves - a concept Lady Bracknell may well struggle to comprehend for obvious reasons.

The great tragedy of this is that members of our culture, especially feminine members, seek to improve themselves by extremely superficial means. I am waiting for the programme

"What Schadenfreude Means"

38 year old Beryl, mother of three, is depressed in her job as a legal secretary for a small firm of solicitors in Swanwich. The team bring her close to tears with their wry criticism of her German grammar, and send her to fend for herself in Brussels for six months. Her spoken German improves beyond all expectation and while she is there she lands a job working for the European Parliament and her life is transformed.

12:02 pm  
Blogger Lady Bracknell said...

Lady Bracknell has particular concerns about the fact that society values youth and beauty above all other qualities. Beauty is nothing more than an accident of nature, and youth, by its very definition, is fleeting. (Indeed, the definition of beauty is subject itself to changes in fashion. With the result that, while Lady Bracknell may have been considered handsome in her youth, she would by no means meet any of the current parameters of physical perfection.)

It distresses her ladyship beyond expression, therefore, that the wholly admirable aim of self-improvement has been diverted into striving to retain a youthful appearance, when youth has no inherent moral value.

To forcibly subject any individual whose appearance has been judged by a handful of passers by in a shopping centre to be more than usually elderly for his or her years to invasive surgical procedures, the purpose of which is purely to convey greater youth, strikes Lady Bracknell as barbaric.

As a friend of hers once remarked, 'tis great pity that our society is not a meritocracy.

Estimable character traits such as kindness and compassion are, at best, ignored and, at worst, scorned. And all in favour of attempts to resemble that entirely vacuous and self-regarding creature whom Lady Bracknell believes to be called, "Stick Insect-y Spice".

Unfortunately, Lady Bracknell suspects that programmes relating to self-improvement acquired through assiduous cerebral or moral efforts would attract such a small section of the viewing public that it would not be financially viable to produce them.

12:27 pm  
Blogger Charlesdawson said...

The Goldfish seems to me to have put her delicate and perceptive finger on a permanent aspect of these programmes.

"nasty is what they did." Repeatedly we see these so-called "reality shows/docusoaps" focussing on the unpleasant and undreamt-of aspects of human nature (Miss Anne Bronte's phrase). For example, the now defunct Changing Rooms, from being an informative DIY half-hour, concentrated more and more on the disasters wrought by so-called "designers" chasing their egos; "Airport" on rows with customers; "Big Brother" on ever more extreme personality clashes.

To me this is an example of the Circus Maximus mentality mentioned above. I fear it will become more prepoderant, Lady Bracknell, because it puts bums on seats, and that is the bottom line.

I recall reading that, not many years ago, an American TV presenter blew out her (I think it was her) brains, live, on prime-time TV. Apparently it did wonders for the ratings, as did documentaries featuring videos of the 9/11 bombing and the Zapruder film. The problem is, as producers of soaps have found to their cost, ever more extreme scenarios are needed as the palates of the punters become ever more jaded.

I am already unable to receive the new "Freeview digital TV", due to my location. It seems likely that I will join the Goldfish in abjuring the Public Box altogether, once they switch off the analogue signal, because I'm damned if I'll subscribe to Sky just to watch crap like the above.

6:38 pm  
Blogger Katie said...

I watch some of the programmes that Lady B is refering to and I enjoy them immensely, Goldfish is correct in that Lady B should take the feelings and opinions of others into consideration, and also society does value beauty and youth, it simply values all values of people whether they are different or the same as everyone else! I have to question your moral and social backgrounds as people would view your findings as mora\lly different and nnastiness.
It should be pointed out that Miss Katie is just a nice girl who doesn't offend anyone and will not misjudge anyone.

In the comment I made about Gloom in my house I didn't expect you to come up with the comment saying that's all men are good for, your comment took me aback! My dad was only helping me out and is not like typical men. He helps me out a lot!
Hope all this will not offend you in any way, shape or form, but I am concerned about your answers to people's comments!

12:18 am  
Blogger Lady Bracknell said...

Hi Katie,

This is Lady Bracknell's editor. Lady Bracknell's gone to bed and, anyway, I think it's better if I respond on this occasion.

As you know, Lady Bracknell is very old. She comes from a time when posh people wrote and spoke in much longer sentences than they do today. They also used a lot of words which wouldn't be familiar to most modern readers.

I think you've misunderstood the message in the post, so I'll try to put it more simply.

We should all help other people whenever we can. Where television programmes genuinely set out to help people, then that's great. But a lot of the time programmes like these give the impression that they're there to help people, when they're REALLY about poking fun at people. This is cruel and malicious and dishonest.

Lady Bracknell wasn't saying that there are no good people who are either young or beautiful. She would never say that, because it isn't true.

Her point was that people who are good and kind and helpful should be praised and valued, regardless of what they look like. I'm sure you would agree with this. She also said that we should not be blinded to people's faults just because they are beautiful. Unfortunately, television and newspapers value beauty and youth a lot MORE than kindness and decency. And Lady Bracknell thinks this is wrong.

(You might NOT think this is wrong. But Lady Bracknell is as much entitled to her own opinion as you are to yours. She's writing a blog which contains her own opinions. She's not writing a rule book. All her readers are welcome to disagree with her.)

The Goldfish, however, WASN'T disagreeing with what Lady Bracknell had said. She was just pointing out that SOME of these programmes start out as ways of helping people. Unfortunately, audiences don't find that very interesting. So the programmes stop being about helping people and start being about making fun of people and being nasty to them instead. But they still PRETEND to be about helping people.

Finally, Lady Bracknell's reply to your comment about her lightbulb post was intended as a joke. She doesn't REALLY think men are useless, and she knows that you rely on your dad a lot and are grateful for his help. She'll be sorry when she finds out that you were upset by what she said.

I think you and Lady Bracknell actually have very similar views about how people should behave towards one another. It's a shame that the combination of the complicated way in which she expresses herself and your learning difficulty have resulted in a misunderstanding.

I hope I've managed to make things clearer for you. If you're ever confused about what Lady Bracknell really means when you read her blog, just post a comment addressed to the editor (that's me!) and I'll try to explain what she's said in a way which is easier for you to understand.

But I'd ask you, in future, to wait until you're SURE you understand what she's written before you start questioning Lady Bracknell's moral and social background. That's really quite a serious insult.

All the best,

The Editor

1:27 am  

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