Rage Against the Inane

OK, let’s get this started. I have a small child. It’s something I may have mentioned once or twice in the past. As such, I watch a lot of children’s TV. I want to be the kind of parent who refuses to let their child watch television, as if it is the root of all toxic inanity in the world, but I can’t. I love TV such a lot, and she does too. As long as we watch it together, I am fine. Repeats, I’m on my phone.

I have several questions, however: Where are the parents? So many great shows seem to have kids living grown-up independent lives. Why is that? One absolutely fantastic programme we watch as a family is Sarah and Duck, in which a small girl lives in a house with a duck, an umbrella, a bug and a disembodied voice, which I assume is her father. He seems to offer a guiding hand, but he is there with her without having to move. Is he dead? Is that what we’re putting in front of our child? Hmm.

Why are so many children’s TV characters talking animals? Rather than having characters which are human children, but animated, we have dinosaurs, trees, sheep. All anthropomorphised to the max. It is not right. Then again, it is even less right that these talking animals have non-talking animal pets.

That’s one way of looking at the world; here’s another: I don’t understand views. I genuinely don’t. I watch a lot of property and home development programmes on the television, and the people rave about great views of rolling fields, or of crashing waves. I cannot for the life of me get excited about it. It bores the balls off me. A view is not even close to being on my list of house buying criteria.

I can get excited about the rooms being flooded with light; that is something I can relate to, but a set of images on the other side of the glass isn’t something I find myself being able to connect to. I get that the images we see are beautiful. I appreciate landscape, and the power of weather. I just don’t feel drawn to having it, essentially as a wall covering in my house. Plus, views attract fools to look.

I’m definitely not saying that anyone who enjoys views is a fool. That would be unnecessarily rude of me. What I’m saying is that scenic viewpoints, which I have had a lovely walk to, are always full to the brim of head-flapping idiots, attracted by pretty scenery. I just came out for a walk; can all the rest of you go away, please. I came here to be free of people; why are there so many here?

I don’t know if I’ve always been a misanthrope, but there have been certain experiences which have fed in to my contempt towards people, and encouraged my movement inexorably down the path of misanthropy. One such incident happened when I was a child, staying with my grandparents: I just wanted to be nice, because I thought that that was what you were meant to do. I kept trying to say the right thing, to make the same sounds as I had heard coming from all of the adults in this kind of situation, but kept getting shouted down. I still do not understand what I was doing, saying, wrong.

Back to raising a child: those difficult experiences where I was being shouted down and didn’t know why should have been a lesson to me. Children are infuriating at times: you ask them to get dressed, but they ignore you, and start telling you about dinosaurs. You try to get them dressed again, but they start playing with a cardboard box full of balloons. It turns out that explaining to them that the fact that they haven’t listened, but have sat in peaceful oblivion, is the reason you are shouting at them, isn’t productive. In fact, it just seems to make them crave negative attention. I just dress her.

Giving in on these things is hardly a productive way forward though, but sometimes you just have to play with the cards you find in front of you. MasterChef is a case in point: MasterChef Australia is the best in the world; it has big, expansive sets, it takes the contestants on a long journey, developing them and giving them layer upon layer of support and feedback. It is properly engaging TV.

Why is the UK one so very poor by comparison? The series is done to a proscribed formula, rushing the contestants through on a conveyor belt, each week is an accelerated month of challenges and tasks, and then several of them are kicked out. There is no room for development on screen, but we do tend to see it in the dishes which are cooked. You’re five minutes in before they’re semi-finalists.

MasterChef Australia is event TV, in a country where a genuine food revolution is well underway. The whole country seems to have acquired a love of produce, and of process that the rest of us have forgotten. The best cooking in the world comes to their door, ready to share. With such prestige comes budget and sponsorship. Given the hand it has been dealt, UK MasterChef cannot compete.

Sticking with idealised cookery, I hate it when chefs call each other “chef”. It reminds me of the bad old days of deference, title; we’ve moved beyond that. Even as social mobility has ground to a halt, the walls of fealty subservience have come down so far that youth presenters even address Princes by their first names in TV interviews. The kitchen may be an autocracy, but it is not the military.

It’s not a rank; it’s a profession. People have names: use them. I understand that some people are egomaniacal bell-ends, who insist on their teams showing them utter obedience and devotion, but these are not people I want to pay to cook for me. Some may argue that it helps the brigade come together in times of pressure. If that helps you, fine, but what goes on in service stays in service.

It often comes across as passive-aggressive; it’s as if they’re comparing penis sizes, when you see some of MasterChef’s professional contestants calling the judges “Chef” it’s as if they’re saying: “You’re not the boss of me, I run my own fucking kitchen. I only came on this competition to use you as free advertising”. Then again, I don’t really see everything the same way as other people.

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