Dear The Cast Of Made in Chelsea.
You don’t know me, but I know you. At least – let’s be semantically correct – I DON’T know you, despite your best efforts to make me feel otherwise and invite me into every carefully-edited crevice of your lives. I don’t know you biblically or carnally; I don’t know your interests, beyond playing this long game of televised kiss chase and the fact that many of you are heirs to assorted baked goods. But I know you as much as the next British twenty-something who is a product of the consumer culture we find ourselves in today, except (and I hate to be snobbish but in truth it’s at the heart of my intellectual discomfort) I went to Cambridge, which is mostly about pretending to be above popular culture.
I just want to say, it’s not your fault. You’re a victim here too. The fabric of British society is falling down around your finely-boned establishment ankles, but you couldn’t have known how this would go. (We can all blame the Baftas though – wow). And in terms of mea culpa, I keep tuning in. I keep asking you to perform for me, week after week, perjuring your lives in this deeply weird way for my entertainment. It started as a guilty pleasure. A simple way to abdicate intellectual responsibility for an hour and look at attractive people talking about meaningless things, feeling smug about how great London looks and bathing in the extended idea that ALL our lives could actually be TV-ready with just a bit more editing and a more committed use of Instagram.
But let’s be clear: I am not-quite-literally DROWNING in this sea of meta-reality. I grapple, daily, with the cultural implications of Structured Reality. That’s time that really could be spent doing something socially useful, or at least watching Attenborough. My gut feeling is that STRUCTURED REALITY SHOULD NOT BE A THING. But then I wonder, is this collision of truth and fiction really any different Nabakov’s conception of fundamental human experience? Beneath the stilted conversations, cut and sanitised to within an inch of their questionable lives until they consist mostly of significant looks or gormless silences, is there not a profound honesty in accepting that we all structure our own realities? Aren’t we all ultimately subject to the direction of a Channel 4 TV crew, zooming creepily in on our faces as we make out with our significant other or ‘bump into’ each in an artisan food store?
I’ll tell you. It makes me think that Synecdoche New York was just scratching the surface, though that made me want to kill myself at the time, and given how that panned out for various cast members, it’s no laughing matter. But that’s on the good days. On the bad days, I struggle with a deep, hot shame when I’m forced to admit my involvement with you. The innocent slip of the tongue – MiC – that outs me, even though I looked on with contempt as friends talked about TOWIE. I swore that would never be me. And the worst. The very worst. MiNYC. Even then, I stuck with you. Even through that creepy creepy polyamourous thing and Rosie’s disturbing facial expressions – set, I think we are meant to feel, to EXTREME OUTRAGE. But it’s hard to say these days, having presumably become removed from the capacity to spontaneously feel feelings and arrange them on your faces without a five second delay for filming purposes.
I need to ask: DO YOU EVEN KNOW WHO YOU ARE ANYMORE? Do you fear your entire lives have become a George Berkeley treatise? In your rare moments of solitude, do you catch yourself in the mirror and preen – imagining the anonymous, salivating gaze of the British public? Do your mothers resent you for constant demands to get tasteful botox and cameo in your lives in strange, desperate interludes?
I have a dark, unshakeable premonition: that as a society, we are deeply, deeply sick; and my concern is that You – the Cast of Made in Chelsea – are both symptom and disease, all bundled into one. I just wondered what you thought about that?
Even though it’s at a point of such painfully post-modern self-parody that your lack of dimension is like one long running joke and we the audience also get the joke and let you run with it while our brains slowly fossilise – you deserve better. You deserve to be able to show the world at least some discernible character or intellect (especially you, Cast Extras; playbacks must be a really, really reductive experience). You are suspended in strangely clinical, perpetually pre-party, post-coital half-lives. Always having to edit out the good stuff – and really, guys, no one likes a tease.
But it’s the enforced banality that upsets me most, thinking of the suffocating bubble you’re forced to silently adopt, day in, day out, lest someone hears you offering opinions on the Coalition or the Welfare Bill. Do you ever want to rattle your cage and yell about QUANTITATIVE EASING or GENDER INEQUALITY or the DANGERS OF HAIR THAT IS JUST TOO BIG? And the thing is, you’re all privileged and educated and likely to do something far better than what we see on the screen; but we will never see the best of you. You could make millions of viewers give a crap. But you don’t (or, more likely, you legally can’t under contract). That must be hard for you. But worst of all, friends, the structure of your reality is starting to seep into mine. You are EVERYWHERE. Strolling around. Looking normal-yet-filtered. Occasionally exchanging bodily fluids with people I know. It’s confusing and upsetting. I wish you would decide – do you live in the box, or not? WHICH WORLD DO YOU REALLY INHABIT? And more importantly – how soon before we all join you there?
Anyway. Thanks for listening. I feel a lot better.