Watching Big Brother for the first time is like losing your virginity. Everyone is doing it, you tell yourself, so it must be good - but afterwards you just feel grubby, glum and vaguely ridiculous.
In the old days, Jesus promised eternal bliss and all you had to do in return was be nice: show kindness to the poor and the sick and it's all yours. It was that simple! Likewise with our modern celebrity culture. Want fame? All you have to do is sleep with a sportsman or get on Big Brother and, soon enough, you'll have your own perfume on that 3 for 2 offer in Boots. The Kingdom of Heaven or tabloid fame: just sleep with a footballer or pat a leper. It's that simple!
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Big Brother opened to screams. A crowd, who seemed to have been zapped through time from the dusty Coliseum, jumped and whooped, waving strange cardboard signs saying things like 'Dolly's On Tour' and 'SS17'.
Then the contestants arrived. Tamara was the first: blonde, loud, her face slightly askew under the weight of make-up and with her blouse slit open to the waist. She boasted she has all the men she can eat.
Then came Mark, a man who uses tarot cards to decide what to wear. When this pair met, Tamara hunkered down into a squat and began flapping her hands and yelping. Seriously, is this not behaviour that, anywhere else, could get you sectioned?
Then there was Helen, a 'bolshy Bolton beauty' whose claim to fame was being penetrated by a famous man. She wiggled onscreen in the same dress as Tamara. Where is the shop which flogs these skin-tight atrocities, I wondered, and how does its manager keep a straight face?
Danielle was up next. She boasted of her strict Catholicism, her homophobic views and her disdain for the undeniable common sense of contraception.
Another one smirked about the time he vomited on a woman, and said the birds who don't fancy him must be, like, lesbians, innit?
After that, the relentless parade of contestants faded into a blur of repulsion. I felt so soiled by this ugly, low-brow stramash that I wanted to tear pages out of fine novels and scrub myself with them as if they were papery soap.
The theme of this year's show was 'power' and promotional pictures showed the presenter in a tight grey uniform. They seemed to be aiming for a 'sexy Stasi' look but I'd bet the contestants wouldn't know who the Stasi were. They'd probably think 'Stasi' was a new gastropub in Manchester. From what I saw of these blow-dried troglodytes, I'd bet their cultural hinterland is so bare they have no references outside the standard tabloid trash. So what's next, then? A trendy noodle bar called Nagasaki? A funky nightclub called Treblinka? There is a total disconnect between these cretins and the history and culture which brought them here. The only discourse they'd recognise would be that of WAGs, handbags and hashtags. But perhaps if the crowd outside keep screaming and holding up cardboard signs they'll feel a flicker of something…
But until that flicker flares we are left with the odd sight of people requesting autographs of other people they don't know. Of the latest clutch of contestants maybe one of the women will find fame; the kind of fame, that is, where she'll be pressured to have her own bum fat injected into her lips and then be told to pen a hurried autobiography before Christmas. She'll have an Instagram account where she'll pose, one leg in front of the other, her bummed-up lips pouting. Her sense of self-worth will coast for a while on the amount of 'likes' these photographic gems pull in. That will keep the wolf from the door. The wolf who says 'you've done nothing. Why are you here?'
I tell you these women appal me. I know they're not required to be role models, but when they are so ubiquitous on TV how can they fail to exert a toxic influence? And there are young women who chase this life they promote. On Facebook every weekend you can see the copycat pouting and posing. These girls may not have photographers to snap them, but that's why the selfie was invented. It's DIY paparazzi. Tellingly, most of the Facebook photos are taken in nightclub toilets. The woman snaps a selfie in front of the cubicles, the plastic toilet seats gleaming in the camera flash. As they peel that scrap of toilet roll from the sole of their glittery shoe they can feel special and admired. They have vicarious celebrity which says you don't need to cure a disease or paint a ceiling or write Wuthering Heights to be famous. You can stand in a toilet and upload 74 near-identical pictures and feel a little flush of importance in the torrent of online comments you'll get from other girls in other toilets in other cities who're saying 'omg hunni u look gorjus!!!!!'
But who am I to say this is pathetic? Who am I to give advice to young women? If I ever have a daughter my only offering will be 'do the exact opposite of everything I've done'. So maybe I'm a grouch and this is simply the human condition: we want to be petted and admired and made to feel important and if a good job and a fulfilling relationship aren't available to provide that then there's always a selfie in the bathroom.
Every weekend when I see these sadly comic pictures popping up I vow to delete my Facebook account - but I don't as I need it to peddle the little articles and books I write. Just like the girls in the clubs, I need to be admired too. Even as you read this, I'll be sitting with the laptop hot on my knee, watching how many likes and tweets I get. So am I as bad and as sad as them? Perhaps, but at least I didn't write this in a toilet.