We are through the fucking looking glass…

I suppose I really shouldn’t be surprised by yesterday’s announcement of the BBC’s latest creation ‘Britain’s Hardest Grafter’. After all, we’ve been heading down this road for some time, stopping at programmes like Jeremy Kyle, Bad Lads’ Army and Benefits Street en route. What makes this latest idea so much worse than past ‘gifts’ from the sneering coked-up heights of the media twatosphere, is that it makes the jump from schadenfreude car-crash television to broadcasting all-out gladitorial competion between working class people.

Gone are the days of ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire?’ or ‘The Weakest Link’. Say hello to  ‘Who Needs a Living Wage?’. Yes, the second title might be made-up – but if the BBC had any concern for honesty, this would be what they’d call it. The former programmes were produced at the height of boom-time Blairism – families could sit and watch people battle with their intellects and strive for that big cash prize. Viewers could challenge their own general knowledge over a cup of tea, from the safety of their nicely heated living room, and share in that warm fuzzy feeling when the contestants walked awayconsiderably better-off.

These shows represented the misplaced optimism of the early 2000s. The only scandal to rock them was the attempt by Major Charles Ingram (a man who, in another life could have been a character in Tom Sharpe novel) to have one over on Chris Tarrant by listening for coded coughs from a stooge in the audience. When he was discovered the media erupted with blood curdling cries of ‘WHAT A BASTARD!’, ‘HE BROKE THE RULES! ‘IT’S JUST NOT FUCKING CRICKET!’ The cosy ‘we’re all in the aspirational middle class now’ atmosphere was rocked by the antics of this cartoon character, and the country united in its utterly deluded dislike of his attempt to undermine that cherished British value of ‘fair play’.

What a difference a decade makes. In 2015 the media reserves its bile not for officer class tosspots with an inflated sense of entitlement, but for the ´lazy-no-good-unemployed-or-low-waged´. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not nostalgizing the New Labour era as a golden one, and certainly not suggesting that benefit claimaints, the unemployed or the working-class in general have had an easy ride ten in the media over the last ten, twenty or even fifty years. Neither do I want to appear as a killjoy, I know I enjoyed a good few weekday evenings testing myself by trying to answer the questions, and passed a number of enjoyable family Christmases playing the Millionaire board game. However, I don’t think you can remove examples of culture from their historical position – and in this sense these years represented the early signs of the stage four malignancy that’s now choking the UK.

When the bottom fell out of Tony’s grinning aspirationalism in 2008 the social tone began to change significantly. Looking upwards in the good times quickly turned to spitting and kicking downwards in the bad. It’s been an agonising descent, and with this most recent spewing we appear to be nearing rock bottom. The endless grogging and toeing has been replaced by a swift whipping down of the nation’s kecks as we strain our hardest to squeeze one out on to heads of those underneath us. People are no longer competing for luxuries, they’re fighting for their right to life. I hope with every fibre of me that this show is boycotted, forced off the air, and we can demonstrate that we’ve reclaimed at least some of the fucking humanity that’s been usurped from us in the past ten years.

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