FOR those of us who have spent the last year in an intense love/ hate relationship with the Instagram account of Vogue Williams, last Monday marked a cathartic true start to the new year with the airing of her new reality TV show.
Vogue spent 2018 perfecting the art of bread-crumbing her followers tantalising snippets of information, stringing us along and leaving us begging for more.
The show was originally set to be called Spencer and
Vogue: Adult(ish), revealing its square aim for the millennial viewing public, for whom ‘adult’ is a (very stressful) verb. The jarringly ironic tone and look of it is transparently designed to appeal to a generation who believe sarcasm to be a stand-in for personality.
The show seems to be attempting to subvert the ‘low-budget reality show capitalising on the life changes of reality TV veterans’ genre even as it occupies it. The postmodern masterpiece opens with reality TV star Spencer looking at camera and saying: “I hate reality TV.”
As clips of mundane activities in Vogue and Spencer’s life flash up on screen, Spencer looks into the camera, looks right through it — at us, sitting on the couch, eating cereal out of the box.
It was at this moment that I realised we were watching a Brechtian triumph; an incisive and unflinching mirror was being held up to modern culture, by the star of 2012’s series of The Bachelor. Welcome to 2019, where even reality TV judges you for watching reality TV; Bandersnatch has nothing on Spencer Matthews. As I found myself forced against my will to imagine Vogue Williams’s cervix as a Cheerio and then a bagel, I wondered whether I had become part of the performance art too.
After Monday’s episode screened, viewers took to Twitter to gush about how fantastic Spencer is; how funny, how sweet, how attentive. I confess, at one point, drunk on the sight of a topless man doing skin-on-skin with a newborn, I too found myself thinking, “Isn’t he great?”.
But then my higher self reminded me that I was subscribing to a culture in which mediocrity in men is rewarded, and they are celebrated for doing the bare minimum (being nice to their spouse, loving their children).
Vogue reveals herself to be funnier, faster and (yes) taller than her perfectly acceptable husband. Someone give this woman her own TV show! No, wait.
The Pendulum Summit, which ran in Dublin last week, appears to be the brainchild of a bot or an algorithm that is fed contemporary buzzwords: “a business-themed motivational conference organised by former Munster rugby star Frankie Sheahan”. Business! Motivation! Rugby!!!
It was all about unlocking potential and reaching goals and “sharing its ripple of positivity throughout the globe” and other things that you’re likely to find on the iridescent covers of notebooks for #GirlBosses and #24/7hustlers.
Featured speakers were as diverse as Karren Brady (the first GirlBoss in history), Boris Johnson, Ruby Wax and our very own Colin Farrell. Colin was interviewed by Miriam O’Callaghan, an incredible Irish-squared set-up presumably to justify the summit’s presence in the country.
There he was, with one of those tiny microphones attached to his face, the kind of mic used exclusively by inspirational speakers, sharing his hard-won life lessons:
“I am trying to look at the negative less. If a tree falls in a forest and there’s nobody around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
Already, ‘quote art’ can be found online of Colin’s key takeaways: ‘“Life is meant to be lived, not mastered” in modern watercolour calligraphy, overlaid on a picture of his formidably sculpted eyebrows. Is Colin Farrell the new Emma Watson? Is Colin Farrell the Headspace-subscribing snowflake voice of radical vulnerability that Ireland has been waiting for? Does Colin identify as a millennial now?
He’s very welcome, we need all the support we can get; if a celebrity bares their soul at a motivational conference and the whole internet is around to hear it, were they ever really born in the 1970s at all?
Of all the gold-standard Kardashian-Jenner content generated in recent days, (Kim buying Louis Vuitton handbags for all the girl-babies in the family, Lindsay Lohan’s assurances that she is friends with ‘the whole family’ after an Instagram feud) it is young Kendall who wins this week’s edition of ‘what in the name of Meryl Streep are you talking about?’
The internet was teased with the promise of a big announcement from Kendall Jenner; Momager Kris had tweeted about how proud she was of her daughter, “for being so brave and vulnerable” in sharing “her most raw story to make a positive impact for so many people”.
She warned us to prepare to be moved.
Of course, the announcement turned out to be a sponsorship deal with skincare brand which Kendall is now crediting with clearing up her acne. Kendall shared her experience of growing up with bad skin with her older Kardashian sisters,
Acne can be debilitating, and I don’t doubt that Kendall felt bad about it. But her tears dried quickly with the help of celebrity dermatologist Christie Kidd, who treated her with the kind of serums and lasers that the vast majority of acne sufferers can only dream of. And it is this majority that Kendall is targeting with her gushing endorsement of a brand she has never mentioned before in her many posts and interviews about skincare.
But this is the X-factorisation of culture, where sob stories are currency and reality is irrelevant. Not only are we being sold stuff, but in this late-capitalist nightmare, we’re being guilted into sympathising with a millionaire supermodel as we hand over our money.
I’m done with 2019 already.