Saturday, 3 December 2011

It's All About Amy

Channel 5

First Episode

Aired: 1st December 2011 (22:00)

Second Episode: 8th December 2011 (22:00)

Amy Childs aka the human embodiment of Jessica Rabbit, has come a long way since she left the cast of TOWIE (The Only way is Essex), a reality show following the same format as a whole host of others that proclaim to represent truth and reality, whilst wallowing in the trough of stereotypes and predictability. When I say a long way, what I mean is that rather than doing her nails and Vajazzling her clients in front of one camera in Essex, she is now doing much the same in front of another camera in Essex, but this time she is not part of an ensemble cast, but the central character, as the title would suggest.

Amy represents all that is stereotypical when it comes to Essex, and though I firmly believe that stereotypes exist for a reason (there is a small kernel of truth just waiting to expand in each one), I would be rather offended if I were a native or even denizen in Essex. She makes stupid sexy with her tumbling red hair (a little less hostile and offensive to the eyes that Rihanna’s previous do) and seems to exist in a world that many girls do despite the hullabaloo of a recession: one that is vacuous, shallow and consists of tenacious materialism and eternal expenditure.

It’s clear that Amy wants to follow the yellow brick road paved by the likes of Jordan; the beautiful girl from humble beginnings who capitalises on her stupidity and narcissism to reach the centre of all wealth, luxury and privilege, whilst calling all the shots. Any girl that reaches this magical palace may then play her part in dumbing down the rest of female society, but at least she will be Queen of her own castle – right?

Jordan worked the ranks from model to reality star to shrewd businesswoman, with a finger in virtually every pie (which is enough to put you off of pie for life...) Unfortunately for this Jordan wannabe, she lacks the sharpness, coldness and hard edginess of her predecessor, and though there is something naive and endearing about Amy, who confesses she was belittled at school for her lack of intelligence and is sincerely spellbound (as perhaps most of us are), by her forceful success, she lacks the cut throat, merciless quality of other women that have succeeded in her arc. Marilyn Monroe might have made playing dumb to appear harmless and vulnerable for big chunks of cash popular, but not every girl that has attempted her dynamo act since has quite the same charisma – Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian anyone?

Nonetheless, she manages to possess many of the credentials that would deserve to go on a Jordan lookalikes CV: monotonous voice, limited input on social or cultural discussions and events, more hair than skin, and a good ten hour jaunt in an oven to achieve the baked bronze goddess appeal, so much so that you could deep-fry her and sell her in a family bucket. Maybe most importantly she has the naturally exotic and striking looks of a true model, and only real requires the most subtle of emphasis to accentuate her good features. Perhaps this is why manager to the talentless (Peter, Jordan and Kerry), the same busy body with the nose of a bloodhound that seems to body bag all those who posses style over substance, Claire Powell, has stepped up to guild her through the labyrinth that is her new life.

So what do we learn about the ex-TOWIE star in her new venture? For a brand spanking new series, it doesn’t really emerge with a big bang. We are introduced to her family where she firmly establishes her working class roots; her father is a flower salesman and her mother spends her time tidying up her stray bikinis. Her brother Billy is a looker and all the girls flock to him supposedly.  We also get to meet her puppy Prince Childs and her cousin Harry makes an appreciated appearance, as a waiflike Ellen Degeneres . The rare times I did dip into TOWIE, Harry was probably it’s only saving grace, as he genuinely made me laugh, and for all the wrong reasons. It was nice to see Amy’s loyal and protective stance when it came to her family and interesting to learn that many former friends abandoned her when fame came knocking.  Her life as shown to us appeared to revolve around buying dresses for glamorous events, training her wayward dog Prince Childs and sauntering around salons for her first business venture. Her life, permeated with star studded events, seems shockingly unglamorous – her mum still tidies up after her (as perhaps mums are always doomed to do) and she still sticks like glue to best friend Amy Chapman.  This focus on Amy as a bit of a well meaning dumbo does lend her a likability factor, but we are still just watching a pretty girl try on frocks.

It’s pretty clear to most that reality TV is a kind of refined modern day reimagining of public executions and circus freaks. We enjoy the pantomime and the artificial, contrived, formulaic following of ordinary members of the public who suddenly, one day, are transformed into celebrities for reasons beyond most of our comprehension. Although it does pose endless moral dilemmas at a deeper level i.e. how many big breasted, dumb, high heeled clones do we really need to follow in the footsteps of their fave reality stars when what we really need is nurses and teachers, there is a media fascination with mediocrity and the public seem to enjoy the misadventures of a diamond in the rough.

Amy is devoid of any real personality, nothing really comes through from her, but then again, like Jordan, spending your life obsessing with beauty and image makes you more plastic and doll-like that you could probably prepare for. Is it wrong or weird then, that I found myself liking Amy and finding something quite child-like and sweet about her? It’s easy and effortless viewing, and though Amy is essentially a propped up lobotomy patient, I can’t help but like her, but I don’t think I will be tuning in again. It's just a little too samey with Amy.

If you want to catch the first instalment, here is a link to channel 5’s showing: