The cancellation of The Jeremy Kyle Show: Can we end poverty porn for good?

The cancellation of The Jeremy Kyle Show: Can we end poverty porn for good?

This week saw the daytime TV talk show ‘The Jeremy Kyle Show’ cancelled permanently by ITV after a guest committed suicide just one week after being publicly humiliated over a lie detector test whilst filming the show. A father, grandfather and an individual suffering from mental health, Steven Dymond’s death has garnered the attention of MP’s, psychiatrists and experts who are all calling for urgent action to be taken by production companies to provide up-to-par aftercare for their guests, with Downing Street adding that the case was ‘deeply disturbing’.

And that it is, but what is perhaps more deeply disturbing is how it has taken fourteen years of degradation of their participants- many vulnerable individuals- across three thousand, three hundred and twenty episodes for the show to be cancelled. Or how 1.5 million people regularly tuned in to watch what a district judge once described as ‘human bear-baiting’ unfold on prime-time tv with their cup of tea and toast as part of their morning routine. Or perhaps how anyone expected nearly twenty-odd-thousand guests, most seeking help with sex, alcohol and drug related problems, to be provided with top-level aftercare by a production company profiting off their pain. And maybe the most deeply disturbing of them all, is the hypocrisy of the MP’s claiming a tv entertainment show, for right or wrong, need to take responsibility for the care of their vulnerable participants, whilst child poverty figures sit above 50% in some of the most deprived parts of Britain.

Reality-tv has provided a platform to spread hate and propaganda towards our societies poorest and defenseless. From shows like The Jeremy Kyle Show who entice guests in with the promise of first-class therapists, a posh hotel and a cigarette allowance before Kyle screams judgements at them in front of a baying audience, pointing our their dowdy appearance whilst they sit in the tracksuit they’ve been encouraged to wear. To documentaries’ such as ‘Can’t Pay? We’ll Take It Away!’ which follows enforcement officers as they repossess the homes of those too poor to pay their bills; and ‘Rich House, Poor House‘ which sees families from opposite ends of the financial and class spectrum swap houses and budgets for a week, providing a cruel insight into the lives of their rich counterparts who take pity upon their debts and less-than appealing lifestyles, some of whom take it upon themselves to be their knight in shining armour and buy the poor family a new carpet, before slipping quickly back into their comfortable life in their sought after postcode. And let’s not forget reality shows aimed at a younger audience such as Geordie Shore, who handpicked young adults from working-class backgrounds and struck them off the dole and into the limelight; ploughing them with free alcohol and a new found infamy in the World of television. All of these shows garner Nationwide attention and aim to highlight the worst qualities of the lower-classes in order to humiliate and ridicule for the gain and entertainment of others, all the while whilst pushing an ideal supported by decades of austerity that these individuals are a nuisance to our society. And we the public buy into it every single time.

Reflecting our ancestors medieval traditions, we throw insult and judgement’s at those airing their dirty laundry on our screens, one rotten tomato after another whilst cackling at the despair of others like the sadist’s we so desperately claim not to be; Unfortunately social media only acts as an enabler to these views. I recently watched an episode of Blind Date which portrayed a lady as being a little ungrateful at being picked and who giggled along with the crowd at the appearance of her date. Twitter lit up with negative comments about this woman’s looks, her attitude, how she ‘wasn’t a looker herself’. Tweet after tweet nitpicked away at this woman’s body image whilst she desperately tried to personally reply to all the criticism coming her way by sharing how nervous and awkward the heckling audience made her feel, and that she wasn’t used to being on television. I felt extremely uncomfortable watching all of this unfold, it was as if she had been thrown to the lions and was furiously trying to crawl away, with I imagine very little aftercare on how to deal with such a scrutiny from the Blind Date team. This raised the question Why we as a society use TV as our output in taking so much pleasure from another’s pain? Watching someone else’s misery is a leisurely activity for us, our Friday night wind-down. Our Saturday’s are spent finding their social channels to tell them how we feel about their performance. And as Sunday comes around, we prepare for our own battles we’ll face in the week ahead that are, thankfully, not played out in the public eye, whilst our ‘willing’ participants (a term many like to use to support this theatre of cruelty) deal with the aftermath of their lives changing forever. Chris Lyons, a previous guest on The Jeremy Kyle Show has claimed the show “Ruined my life. All of a sudden, I wasn’t Chris Lyons any more. I was just that guy off The Jeremy Kyle Show”.

No one can prepare you for the mass judgement of others, whether you’re semi-aware of the publicity the show brings i.e: being a contestant on Love Island, to filming a one-off tv appearance you thought would be ‘a bit of fun’. The cancelling of The Jeremy Kyle Show is a step in the right direction toward ending poverty porn and the glee in which others find in it, but whilst production companies have a duty of care to their participants, we have a responsibility as humans to be a little nicer to each other; And to recognise that we are contributing to a class-divide problem which stretches much wider than the channels encased in our small screens. Would Steve Dymond have felt the immense pressure and humiliation which led to him taking his own life from just Kyle’s comments alone? Maybe. But a heckling audience and the thought of the widespread embarrassment and judgement from failing a lie detector test in front of 1 million viewers to come might have just been his tip of the iceberg.


If you are struggling with your mental health and would like someone to talk to, please contact mind.org.uk or call 0300 123 3393.

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Reality TV: Fame, Followers and Broken people.

Reality TV: Fame, Followers and Broken people.

I sat down for a meal Saturday night with my mum and my friend, right in the heart of a city that was alive with glee and celebration. People sang around us, laughter filled our table and drinks flowed at such a pace it was like water was turning to wine right in front of our eyes. In a brief lull waiting for our next tray of drinks to arrive we took advantage of the two minutes peace to catch up with the social media we had so happily neglected throughout the day. That’s when my friend saw the news. “Oh my God, Mike from Love Island has died”. The news hit like a ton of bricks as I tried to wrap my head around this information which was unfolding rapidly online. I actively refreshed my twitter feed hoping somewhere that it was some messed up rumour. My WhatsApp groups came alive with notifications of disbelief as the three of us sat there trying to process how, in a World where we were naively immersing ourselves in so much joy, an individual had been in so much pain. I didn’t know Mike Thalassitis. Neither did my friends. Or my mum. Or the countless people messaging on WhatsApp. But something about this abhorrent news hit us all hard, as if it could have happened to any one of us, our boyfriend, our friend, our brother, our son. See the thing with reality stars is that they are so good at being just that, real.

We build a relationship with these people daily for months on end. We engage with their friends via social media. We read about them every day in the news. We watch their families on morning TV. We see baby pictures of them printed in the news. We hear gossip about them trending on twitter. They are relatable in all their guts and glory; their insecurities and mishaps reassuring us that we are all human, whilst we can’t help but admire their undeniable beauty. They leave you feeling as if they really could be your best mate, but deep down you know you’ll never be cool enough to sit at their table. Like the popular kids at school, they’re attainable, they’re accessible, and you can’t help but want to know what Johnny got up to round the back of the school sheds, no matter how much you pretend you don’t care. The media and the public place them on a pedal stool for approximately 120 days of the year. 120 intense days where they are catapulted to a level of fame only a select few A-List, Media-trained celebrities have ever reached before. A level which no-one, no matter how many 20 minute psychological reviews they were given, could ever be fully prepared for.

The Reality TV World is a phenomenon which is still relatively new, and a World which production companies and contestants are actively trying to navigate. Whilst shows like Big Brother were huge in their day, the introduction of social media means that the 2 million people watching at home are not just judging you to their husband sitting next to them on the sofa, but can actively tell you how much of a twat they think you are direct, online, for millions more people to see, to like, to retweet and to join in with. If you’ve been on Twitter when Love Island has been airing you will know exactly what I mean. The entire trending topics are filled with Love Island hashtags; Hundreds-of-thousands of tweets sent out about a girl who until last week worked in a local shoe-shop and now has the entire World watch her chase after a man she met 24 hours ago to stay in a game show with the allure of finding your soul mate at the end of it. Srsly, just read that sentence again. The social media World is so fickle, you can go from hero-to-zero in one 60 minute episode as #Loyal Georgia was soon to find out. Personal Home-made sex video’s that before now had only ever been seen by the two of you engaging in the act have now gone viral for everyone and their nan to see. Ex-partner’s tweet their stories about you, Childhood friends sell their stories on you, feeding into this villain character which this edited entertainment show has created of you, all for their 15 seconds of fame online and to be a part of this insane feeding frenzy which we all buy into like crack addicts waiting for our next hit. I always joke to my friends that I could never go on Love Island because of the embarrassing catalogue of old modelling pictures of me that lie deep, deep down on the web, knowing that they’d be splashed online for millions of people to criticise and point out the exact things that I already hate about myself. I’ve actually been approached by the ITV2 casting team before, and whilst the allure of instant money making opportunities no doubt plants a seed in your mind, you can’t help but ignore the harsh reality that once you’re in a show as popular as Love Island, you become public property, opening yourself up to your entire life- before, during and after the show- being up for criticism and judgement. That’s not something that your average gym receptionist, hairdresser or even doctor can mentally cope with.

And then comes the months after the show ends. When the personal appearances dry up, when no one wants a picture with you anymore, when the free gifts stop coming, you’re yesterday’s news. You can’t go back to your normal job because everyone knows you as the one who had sex on the tele. Your co-workers think you think you’re better than them. Your boss can’t be bothered with the hassle of people taking pictures of you at work. You’re at a complete and utter crossroads. But the one absolutely manic fucking thing to deal with which is thrown in the mix here is that once you’ve stopped reaping the financial benefits from this and the work dries up, you still have your followers. Millions of followers on social media. A currency which is useless in paying your mortgage, but actively feeds your ego and pets your ever-growing insecurities. You’re a someone, but you’re no one. It means nothing, but it means everything. I have dealt with this on an extremely minor level considering what these reality contestants deal with, but the allure of having hundreds of thousands of followers and feeling pressure to live up to this fake life that comes with it, posting content to make your life look overly exciting whilst you’re desperately trying to figure out how you’re going to pay your bills next month. I’ve been out on my birthday in a nightclub when a guy approached me saying I “think you’re someone special because you have 90,000 followers on Instagram”, who proceeded to push me down some stairs and follow me crying out of the club as I begged him to leave me alone, an event which ended in a physical alteration, fake rumours being spread about me, facebook posts claiming I said things I didn’t, and me eventually having to threaten legal action if the slander continued. Being ‘Instagram famous’ is such a new concept, that no-one knows what the right thing to do is or how to cope, it can be a fucking lonely place.

Seeing the senseless loss of young lives is heartbreaking for us all. There has been calls for the production companies to do more in supporting those who come out of reality tv show’s and have their lives turned upside down, and whilst I absolutely believe that they need to do more in supporting and preparing them for what lies ahead, the reality is that they cannot check up on their contestants from one, two, three years ago regularly. However we, as the viewing public who make these individuals famous through engaging in conversations online, watching the show and buying their merch’ have a duty and responsibility as human beings to not say nasty shit to people online. This is something so simple that we could all do that would really change people’s lives. Life is already tough enough and we’re all dealing with our own issues in private, that one tweet could be the straw that breaks the camels back. I fear this won’t be the last time something as tragic as this happens as we continue to make ‘normal’ people famous. I can’t help but worry about how Influencers in years to come will cope when Instagram disappears, when followers lose their currency, when they have to go back to ‘regular’ jobs but no-one will hire them as the online foot-print they’ve left behind is being used against them years later. We need to realise that we are in an extremely rare and unique social experiment that we’ve never experienced before, meaning no-one has the right answers, me included. If we want to keep reaping the benefits of reality tv and social media, we need to take responsibility with how we engage with it and remember that behind the glamorous tv show which provides us with sixty-minutes of night-time entertainment, or glossy Instagram posts of filtered Individuals, there are real people, with real lives, and real problems to deal with.

If you are struggling with your mental health or just want someone to talk to call the Samaritans on their free, 24 hour contact line 116 123, or if writing it down is more your thing, send them an email to jo@samaritans.org You don’t have to be suicidal to contact them. You don’t have to wait until it’s too late.

My thoughts and respects go out to the families and friends of both Mike Thalassitis and Sophie Gradon.

“Not another mean comment”: What makes you press send?

“Not another mean comment”: What makes you press send?

The phrase “trolling” is one in which we’ve all become accustomed to since the rise of the 14th district we so lovingly call social media. It’s meaning has seasoned like the funk off some old cheese, tangled in a web of twitter spats and matured through countless blockings on Instagram. It is described by both Wikipedia and the Urban dictionary as an act which see’s people (dickheads) start quarrels and cause upset on the internet by posting “inflammatory and digressive, extraneous or off-topic messages” with the intent to start an argument and provoke a totes-emosh response. Or in simple terms, it’s people being dickheads. But what about when people aren’t saying mean stuff to start arguments or provoke a response? What about when people are just saying mean stuff to well, be mean?

A couple of weeks back I wrote a piece on here about my Life as a Glamour model and accepting your career is over at 25. I dived into the deepest pits of my stomach and laid myself bare for the World- or to the thousand odd people who read this blog- to see. And come thru Miss Worldwide because this led to me being contacted by a Welsh online News site who wanted to run a feature on me about my blog post and what I was up to now. Never one to seize an opportunity to talk about myself (jks my friends, I’m trying to re-brand myself here, a girl needs press) I was more than happy to oblige. Fast-forward to last week and a reporter and photographer showed up on my door. We chatted away casually whilst I overshared my life and once again laid myself bare for the World- or some of Wales – to see. I spoke openly about being a young woman struggling to find my way in life; I delved into being a proud feminist and how we should encourage women to do what they like with their bodies and I boldly discussed how upsetting online abuse and judgement from strangers can be. In fact,the exact words I poured over in the video coverage were:

“The worst bit (about my career), is you do get, you know, a lot of people judging you which people will say well you kind of expect it but it’s one of them things that when people are commenting on you as a person when they’re just strangers, it’s hard to kind of just, ignore it and you kind of take it to heart”

My feelings sprawled across this article as if I were opening up to my closest friends and I eagerly awaited my story to be shared as to find comfort in the hope that I am not the only one out there trying to find my way. But as the post went live this “worst bit” in which I had shared my fears and tried so often to ignore came flooding back in written form.

Shared online without a care in the World was judgement after judgement, comment after comment of unnecessary opinions and hurtful words. I don’t believe you should “expect” people to say mean shit to you online just because your in the public eye of some sort. The job role doesn’t come listed with a mandatory kick in the teeth for every three positive comments you might get. I am not superhuman, and as I told you time and time again in the article in which you’re barrage stemmed from, this hurts. Now, I don’t live in la-la land. Everyone has an opinion and everyone passes judgement. I get that. But what I don’t get is how having an opinion in your mind or bitching amongst your friends (we all do it, again I am not superhuman) has transformed to beholding a sense of entitlement that you can share this opinion so fucking openly online, direct with the one you’re bitching about, with apparently no conscience. Did your mum never teach you that if you haven’t got anything nice to say, then don’t say it at all? Or at least have the decency to say it behind my back? The internet has created a safe space for bullies to share their inner saboteur to the World with no consequence or compassion. If people said this kind of stuff to your face in a public place they would be called out and vilified for being a crappy person. But because these comments are made online you’re expected to take them as part and parcel of the job, or of life for that matter. It’s all part of the game. But neeeeewsflash, playing with somebodies emotions is not a game that entices most humans with a moral compass.

After having an online presence for 6+years, being on the receiving end of mean comments is nothing new to me. Whenever I discuss trolling with people, friends, journalists; I laugh it off and take it on the chin. Everyone tells me I deal with it so well. But the reality is that I don’t have much choice. If I didn’t, I’d be a shell of a person. Being judged and having your flaws pointed out to you by other women whilst the World rides the wave of Girl Power and Self-Love is a beautiful blanket of bitter-sweetness. Comments from men about my looks can relatively be tossed aside with the excuse that they’re just being jerks because they can’t get in your pants, or because they just fucking hate women 🙃. But the remarks from other females seem to cut deeper within, carving out the memories I’ve pushed to the back of my brain of girls in school scrawling my name alongside the word slut on the bathroom walls. These fellow women are all facing similar battles in life as me and yet take the time out of their day to stamp out these words on their keyboards with no other possible outcome than to make me feel shit, or to what, make them feel….better?

They’re just jealous” is a saying in which many have tried to comfort me with over the years. But I don’t believe this is ever really the case. I have scoured the internet for some “professional” explanation of trolling, some sort of psychological justification in which to prove their actions anchor from deep within. But I can’t really seem to find any. Joe Boyd, a writer for Huffington Post describes it as a “virtual road-rage“. You feel safe to say whatever you want within the comfort of the four doors which armour you, but would you really go that extra-step of getting out of the car and saying something to them in person? Some of the other reasons he gave where that it is comforting, it is free entertainment, it is power, it is boredom, and ultimately- it is natural. For unfortunately, some people just can’t help themselves from being dicks.

A comment I received on one of my blogs recently.

A few weeks ago as I was trying to relax in the the bath with a glass of red and £4.95 Lush Bath Bomb (I had planned this bath for days honey) I was interrupted by my phone and the sweet sound of a notification. I opened up my emails and was confronted by the comment above staring back at me. As I sat there alone in my flat, I honed in on this attack of my body, my personality, my feelings that I had so honestly shared with the World. I read them over and over again until, I just cried. These words had invaded my personal space and I had no option but to engage with them. I tried to salvage what was left of my relaxing bath plan- thanks a fucking lot those bath bombs aren’t cheap- and attempted to pull myself together, sending the email to my junk mail and disapproving the comment on WordPress. But as I settled back in with a much needed sip (gulp) of merlot, my phone pinged again with another infringement on my inbox and those words greeted me once more as the poster so desperately attempted to make his feelings known. This time I sent the comment straight to the trash, only for my phone to be infiltrated once more, forty-five minutes later with a third attempt at leaving the same comment about my (once) very fat tits. But now I just laughed. Your life seems great, hun. Best of luck.

All it takes is a simple scroll. A scroll in which would preserve your dignity and keep my emotions intact. But so many people choose not to scroll. Why? The internet has become a thief of reality for those who are lost and those who are lonely. Their boredom lines their hateful words which acts as a coat of arms to their inner collaborator of unhappiness. They spout about freedom of speech as if these three words give them a get-out-of-jail-free card for having the human right to comment on how your weight loss has made your tits saggy. Well guess what Karen* (insert standard ‘Can I see the manager’ name to fill this role) the Freedom of speech isn’t there so you can spend your lunch break spouting shit online to make people feel bad. I don’t know what else I can add, but it really isn’t rocket science folks. Mean comments hurt people’s feelings and there is a human being behind your screen who will carry those comments with them a lot longer than the thirty-seconds it took you to write it.

I’m going to leave you with this inspiring comment which unfortunately *cough* was not made about me but one of my friends, because trolling does not discriminate, we are all fair game to these people. I’m all of a sudden peckish for some pudding, you in?