While in retreat on the couch (i.e. behaving like a sick person for a week in lieu of not having done so the previous week), I've been sampling an array of trash TV. I don't know what you've been getting on the southern and eastern coasts (I definitely don't know anything beyond that), but we've been treated to Ladette to Lady and Trinny and Susannah Undress the Nation.
If you haven't seen Ladette to Lady, this show is similar in vein to Australian Princess. A bunch of young hoydens with all sorts of 'issues', alcoholism being at the top of the list, get taken to a finishing school instead of a rehab unit. It's presided over by some truly scary women -- one of those frosty, toothy upper crust sorts and someone who seems like a leftover 'fat lady' from the TV cookery show. The Pygmalion-like goal is to become a 'lady' who no longer burts, farts, chunders, etc, and who can arrange flowers, build a tiered cake and manage not to gold-dig too obviously in the company of gentry. (Mind you, some of the gentry's commentary has to be heard to be believed, like: 'it's all in the blood'.) In the style of many reality shows, a contestant gets voted off each week, here by the judges. As far as I can tell, the winner is most likely to be a hearty, sturdy British lass, the sort who will look good in tweeds and wellies later on, but just needs a bit of, er, guidance to get there.
I'll admit, it does get a bit repetitive. There is only so much vomitting and mooning you can take. But I'm fascinated by the idea of the 'ladette': as far as I know, we don't have an equivalent here. The closest equivalents I can think of are football groupies. It's not that such 'laddish' behaviour doesn't exist amongst the female population; it just hasn't been stigmatised in such a gendered way. Maybe it's not such a coincidence that Australian Princess, produced around the same time as the first season of Ladette to Lady, acc to Wikipedia, followed a similar trajectory of gentrification: perhaps we're all ladettes here in the Antipodes. As far as I can tell, overcoming the scourge of ladettism seems to be about cultivating gender-appropriate behaviour in the 'lower classes'. (Lulu is definitely a ladette: ladies do not leap from the top of the bookshelf onto the clothes horse in front of the heater.)
As for Trinny and Susannah Undress...this show is, somehow, better than the relentless makeovers these two habitually dish out (I can never remember who's who; they're a bit like Bill and Ben. I think Susannah's the more buxom one...not totally sure). Anyway, more scary stuff from authoritarian British women. Last week T and S went down a mine to find out what working class blokes wear beneath their fleeces. They used the information they gathered to develop a list of do's and don't's for men's dressing, based on six body types. Some blokes were prevailed upon to model this information for passers-by in Marks & Sparks.
This week, the whole thing got totally out-of-hand when T & S decided that (a) one woman's size 16 is not another woman's size 16, and (b) the traditional Women's Weekly-type understanding that there are four basic body types (Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, J-Lo and Salma Hayek) was all wrong and that in fact there are twelve, a bit like the Myers Briggs indicator or something. They went from this somehow (perhaps I was distracted by Lulu) to a still-life exhibition of bells, cellos, bricks, goblets, etc, representing British women's bodies, which included a vase that was supposed to look but looked nothing like Trinny or Susannah or whoever it was.
Unlucky representative specimens were then prevailed upon to model their body shape beside a bell, cello or goblet in a pale blue body stocking evocative of those body suits worn by the flames on the Natural Gas ad twenty years ago...which look good on no one, let alone members of the British general public, except the flames on the Natural Gas ad, who were svelte dancers. To add injury to insult, these women had stand on plinths in the main street of Guildford, dispensing advice to passers-by about horizontal stripes, A-line skirts, etc. The show climaxed with women in white overalls being grouped in different formations to represent the main British body types around the Long Man of Wilmington, amid a protest from the local Pagans (a untapped niche market for makeovers, if ever there was one).
I came away from the show totally confused. As far as I can tell, I have a wholly undesirable yet 'normal female' body type in the Trinny and Susannah pantheon, with an uncompromising name like 'brick' or 'pillar'. The only remedy for me, and indeed anyone else it appears, is to wear lots of floral, diaphanous clothing to accentuate or create curves that may or may not be there, in the manner of the most desirable body type, the hourglass, possibly with a wide belt or a cinched-in jacket to help.
So there is a revival of femininity in Britain, it would seem. No more chundering or burping, and get out your frilly and floral stuff.