Argyle. Knit. Cable. Scratchy wool jumpers, with batwing sleeves, big holes, and so much static you could potentially give yourself a nasty electric shock.
Good idea in theory, but hard to pull off
There’s something about female-led mystery dramas that America just does really, really well. Nancy Drew, Miss Marple, Veronica Mars, and now, Pretty Little Liars. Maybe the girls aren’t quite accomplished at sleuthing as Nancy Drew, nor have such a grip on phone tapping as does Veronica Mars, but the four girls manage to convince, shock and intrigue in their efforts to find out the identity of their dead friend ‘A’, who is threatening them from beyond the grave.
At first watch, this was run-of-the-mill, Desperate Housewives for pre-teens. Yes, there are negatives; the girls are all white, thin and incredibly glossy of hair (seriously, they’re like seals), but the writing, music, and plotlines, together, manage to elevate it beyond a typical teen drama.
Separately, (confusing, but bear with me) there is not much there. The plotlines attempt to push the four girls out of the mainstream: Aria is dating her teacher, Emily is gay, but using homosexuality and student/teacher affairs feels played out. To contradict myself yet again, I will say that the plotlines are not played for salaciousness as they well could be; Aria shares a more chaste relationship with a 23-year-old man than half her classmates do with their 16-year-old boyfriends, and Emily’s lesbianism is not titillating or played for a male gaze.
Another high (if shallow) point of the series is the fashion. Good god, the fashion. The Fug Girls (gofugyourself.com) have raved about it, and there are several trends in the show that seemed to have swept along. The feather earring, which Aria wore, was the beginning of a trend which is probably peaking right about now (Kesha adopting the feather headdress probably didn’t help either)
The girls all have individual styles and their style pretty much stays the same throughout the series (with the exception of clothes getting slightly upgraded as more people started watching and fashion probs caught on and started giving better samples)
Emily is a swimmer, an athelete, and prefers luxurious sports-wear – think silk jerseys, off the shoulder tees and track pants that look very soft. Hannah is the epitome of girly – little dresses, heels, made-up. Lucy is also girly but a little more daring – thigh high socks, plaid skirts and knitted caps. Spencer’s style is probably the most interesting, as she is so gorgeously preppy: think buttoned up shirts, berets, tailored kilts. All four of the shiniest hair I‘ve ever seen, I had to state that again as it is slightly mesmerizing, if not very realistic.
Yet, rather than concentrate on fashion – the girls barely allude to clothing or makeup – or boys, the show centres around four high school students attempting to find the identity of ‘A’, a cruel mimic of their dead friend Alison who is attempting to ruin their lives. I think the biggest reason for Pretty little Liar’s appeal is its recognition that teenage girls, teenagers, people, everyone! – wants to feel significant. You want to be the one with the secret, you want to be the one with more important things on your mind than school. And if it involves opening gift boxes full of broken mirror chards, or getting run over after discovering a secret that you shouldn’t? So be it.
How to survive and succeed in the world of journalism? Here's four tips for ya. There'll be more forthcoming just as soon as I get one of those ergonomic chairs (see 1))
1) Take up Pilates
A tip that I have not taken up (the money! It’s hard to think about finding your core when you can’t pay a measly council tax bill) Ok, so if you don’t do this, at least get a good office chair. Can’t afford that either? Steal a co-worker’s when they’re on holiday, and pretend not to notice when they wonder why their chair is so squeaky. Get up a lot. Go and get water. Do the coffee round. Offer to run everyone’s errands.
Back pain is a bitch, man. 10 hours plus hunched furtively over a computer screen does wonders for your posture if your aesthetic ideal is that old paedophile in Family Guy. From taking up smoking, I have reduced the sting in between my shoulder blades to a persistent ache. Granted, I’ve probably taken 15 years off of my life, or guaranteed a fun throat box-thingumajig, but tomayto/tomahto, right?
2) Schmooze like a mofo
Well hello, random beardy man from News of the World! So good to meet you! Yes I will take that proffered glass of warm, opaque champagne! No, I didn’t water that plant with it for fear that you had slipped a roofie in it! No, it hasn’t horribly missed the potted plant and is now dribbling all over the floor onto an irascible photog’s cable!
You get the drift. Be nice to everyone, with a couple of exceptions. Scottish workies who are severely regretting paying for a Travel-lodge for a miserable week of steaming clothes can probably soak up your misplaced anger. They’ll go back up to Scotland, and everyone knows there is no culture there.
3) Learn the lingo
Go to press. Running copy. Contacts and collects. B2B. Hack. Learn all these terms, and drop them in at random throughout your career. If you still don’t really understand the difference between ATL and BTL advertising, try not to worry too much, because no-one else does either.
4) Cop an attitude
In journo world, every PR is a pain, every real-life is difficult, and all rival magazines are idiots. Every phone conversation should follow with a long sigh, a cried expletive, or putting the offender on speaker so the whole room can hear their ignorance. You should be casually blasé about famous-people interviews, and always make disparaging remarks about them not looking quite so luminescent in real life. For any celeb couples, he is always gay, and she is always a bulimic beard.
Wow. Such an unbelievable tragedy.
It's clear that this man was struggling with a lot of stress and personal demons, and we suppose that he just couldn't see a way out.
We just sincerely hope that regardless of what comes out about their family's private life, that everyone keep in mind that Russell was still a father, husband, and friend to many, and Taylor and her young daughter are given the appropriate space, privacy and support they need to come to terms with this inconsolable loss.
Our thoughts are with you guys. Stay strong."
YOU'RE FUCKING TALKING ABOUT REPSECTING HIS FAMILY'S PRIVACY AFTER PROVIDING UPDATES ON HIS SEXUALITY???!!! IS HIM BEING BISEXUAL ANYTHING TO DO WITH HIS DEATH??!
And yet, I keep reading. I'm like the online equivalent of a rubbernecker.
Student newspaper, October 8th, 2009
As a child, I’d press my nose against the classroom window, watching as green leaves turned to brown and covered the roads around the village in deep russet. The early dark skies meant, for the first time in months, I wasn’t forced to go out and play, and could instead curl around a cushion, poring over books and surrounded by crayons and thick waxy paper. As the years progressed and any Howard Hughes instincts lessened, my appreciation for autumn developed into an appreciation of what American Vogue calls, ‘Fall Fashions.’ The endless exfoliation, shedding of wanted hair, and prepping of English rose skin could be joyously abandoned, along with too-small string bikinis and old paisley shorts that had seen better days. A summer style is much harder to cultivate, given as there is so little clothing to be worn, and events that would be considered routine in any other season become a sartorial nightmare. Travelling on the tube is a noxious tunnel to Dante’s Inferno; they don’t advise you to keep a water bottle on your person for nothing. Work is another head scratcher, with the benefits of a cool body at times outweighing keeping one’s spaghetti-strapped dignity in a boardroom.
And then, with a gentle transition, autumn is upon us, and any sun is accompanied by an icy crispness that forces one to change their wardrobe accordingly. Coats that have been shoved at the back of chests are yanked out; pockets cleaned of old pens and scraps of paper from its last outing. Favoured skirts and blouses are ironed for their renewed inclusion in the weekday rotation. Thick tights and soft, beribboned vests are unearthed from drawers. Clothes are more expensive, to be sure; the weather will not be forgiving to cheap tie-dye or synthetic brights, but one can justify the purchase of a luxurious camel throw by reminding oneself, and indeed everyone around her, that it can be worn eight months out of every twelve. Most women have the logic by arithmetic attitude to a purchase: “but it only works out at £1.92 a wear, honey”, that makes men shake their heads in despair.
Make-up is spirited in summer, and a reassurance in cooler seasons. The emphasis is to show off not the peacock blue eye shadow, but your face, and I instinctively find myself gravitating towards cool ivory powders and tawny eye shadows, which emphasize rather than overpower. Pale skin can be perfectly offset by a deep lipstick, dark red or plum, and evokes a 1930’s heroine for the nostalgic amongst us. Structure, both in make-up and clothing, is everything, and for those that don’t feel too comfortable baring all in a cut-out one piece (99% of us, surely), there is the wonderful option of layering, dark colours, and structure. Skirts can be long, tweed and tailored, and paired with a biker boot or Doc Marten, wonderfully edgy. Shirts must be crisp, with darts and seams that fit instead of swamp. Not many feel the need for bright tunics on evenings out, instead leaning with relief on the trusted LBD or something equally inky and fitted. Clothes that hold you, envelop you, not in the restrictive nature of Mad Men costuming, but in a way that makes you glad of their presence.
Or, you can abandon any of these elegiac notions and set off down the street in old moon boots, some battered jeans, a huge jumper, and equally huge parka. That’s what I chose last night, stomping amongst the leaves as I set off for drinks with friends, and it admittedly worked just as well. Bring on the winter, I say. We’re ready.
The Only Way as Essex
As Amy got to work on the bedazzlement of Sam’s vagina, my mother flew from kitchen to front door, only stopping in front of the television to thoughtfully remark, “you watch some real shit.” For once, I couldn’t help but agree. The Only Way Is Essex is a programme in curious limbo. Neither sitcom, nor drama, nor reality, the annoying narrator introduces it thusly:
“The boobs might be fake, but the drama is real,” and then in the same breath,
“ Although some of the scenes have been purely set up for your entertainment.”
Well then, it isn’t real drama, is it? Its constructed drama from a team (so the whisperings go) of scriptwriters and storyboards! You lemon. So, instead of referring to the people as having certain characteristic traits, I will remark on the failure or success of the team of writers in creating these characteristic traits. Because everyone loves a cynic, right? And I fear that if I evaluate the programme in the light in which it’s presented I will be failing both as a critic, and a rational human being.
You can see how they’ve adapted the group into relatable stereotypes. The executive producer of Friends, Martha Kauffman, spoke of the criticism by powers-that-be over her ageist casting, saying, “studios wanted an older, wisecracking character, to widen the viewer demographic.” And ergo! Nanny Pat is created, with her never-ending supply of brown food. Cakes, pastries, sausage plaits…I doubt the woman can even cook. She’s probably not even their grandmother. Next up is the quota filling Jack. If only he had been brown as well as gay, the producers could’ve ticked off another PC box. Speaking of which, where are all the black people on the show? It’s like execs think that if there’s enough orange people, that’s practically another race. Fake tan is not an ethnicity, people. Because I don’t feel like there’s enough content to warrant four recaps of a show (let alone four shows) I’m smooshing them all into one post. So let’s get down to business. The storylines can be divided thusly:
Lauren and Mark – perhaps the Justin and Audrina of TOWIE. Nine years – nine years, people! Ups, downs, and, according to Mark, only 6 months of actual relationship. That’s a lot of make-up sex. You get the feeling that Mark thinks he is too good for Lauren, and physically I suppose he is. However, his good qualities are over ridden by arrogance and terrible taste in watches. Also, he called Lauren fat in the second episode, which was harsh.
Mark and Lucy – Mark was attracted to Lucy by her non-committal air in Marbella; presumably, that means she only gave him a blowjob when they met instead of full sex. She seems nice enough, and in Lauren’s (or the writers’) words, “sweet and orange.”
Mark and Amy – I just have a feeling about this one. The regaling of mutual relationship woes in the curry house. The dubious, groaning massage which ended with Amy’s hilarious comment, “this isn’t a brothel, Mark.” Ahh, Amy, but if the story-boarders have their way, it soon will be.
Amy and Kirk – he took her to the zoo, she wasn’t that kind of girl, etc. etc. I love the segments where Kirk goes to a trainer because the guy is so ridiculous and Essex-y, “she got big tits? Yeh? Yeh?” whilst Kirk is on the floor of some grotty gym struggling to breathe. Yes, scary trainer! She does have big tits!
Kirk and Lauren – a dj who he interviews on the premise of ‘employment’ at his eponymous club. Even Amy could see straight through that one. Despite getting a tattoo of Amy on his leg, he seems quite willing to abandon that relationship quite quickly over someone who I presume is meant to be famous? I’ve never heard of her.
Arg and Lydia – awwww. There’s nothing bad to say about this couple: they’re really cute. So she wears a bit too much bronzer but that’s par for the course I suppose. I hope they stay together and have bambinos.
I should explain this: characters who exist purely for comedic value and to utter some kind of catchphrase at least once in the episode
Jack – the splits, saying “shut up.” Memo to creators of TOWIE: THIS IS NOT A CATCHPHRASE YOU CAN MAKE HAPPEN. For it to be a catchphrase it has to be semi-new: see Jersey Shore’s ‘Gym tan laundry’, Janice’s intonation of, “Oh. My. God.” Millions of people say shut up in this way every day. It’s not going to work. One day I hope Jack will move up to the relationship column, preferably without the help of a nose job.
Amy – general geographic and political ignorance (although, we’ve all been there) Her clothing too, I guess. It does look like she’s going on Strictly Come Dancing whenever she goes out.
Nanny Pat – providing carbohydrates, supposedly giving sage advice
Sam and Amy. Very cute friendship, and eye catching to watch if you can’t bear to listen to the accents. Just mute it and look! Amy and Sam wearing bikinis getting eaten by tiny fish! Amy and Sam with matching 60’s outfits! Amy and Sam with crystalled vaginas! And so on. Conversationally it’s less enthralling, although there was a sparked political debate whereby Sam proved to be quite the current affairs buff. Oh actually, what am I saying? A conversation on the merits of glamour modelling was also interesting, in which a third friend remarked, “Getting on page 3, it’s like playing for Chelsea.” I’m sure people scoffed at this bit, but its not too off base. Essien probably spends twenty hours a week improving on his natural footballing talent, and I’m sure the girls spend twice that amount of time improving on their natural prettiness. Basically the same, I think.
Arg and Mark – this relationship basically seems to be based around Mark bullying Arg, and Arg taking it on the chin, thereby endearing himself to every female that watches the show. There was a touching moment outside a club when Arg had a sniffle about Lydia and Mark was really sweet about it. He did try and make Arg dress up as a bride for his Halloween club night, though – maybe its Freudian and Arg is the woman that he can never have?
Mark: trying to make the next Sugar Hut, slightly thwarted by a first-night fire. I wish the writers had implanted a ‘Did Kirk commit arson’ storyline in the style of Hollyoaks or similar, but implicating him may be a criminal offence, I don’t know. I enjoyed Mark’s description of his club’s décor as “classy. Purple, silver…mirrors.” Ahh Mark, that’s classy according to Changing Rooms.
Lola: a girl group made up of Mark’s sister, who I really wish I could remember the name of because she does seem quite sensible, her blonde friend, and two others. I am betting that at some point Julian, who is attempting to cement his place as the camp bitchy one (not going to happen, telling you now) will try and kick the other two out on grounds that they ‘don’t quite fit with our image’, e.g. they are not as camera-friendly.
Arg: another singing career – why don’t any of these people want to be doctors? I guess that can be answered in the last word of the program title. On finding out his ambition I suddenly understood what the bucket load of hair gel was about. Rat pack cover singer = slicked back hair. Got it. He has a good voice, so maybe he’ll graduate beyond Indian restaurants and poorly attended parties.
And so, that’s that. Tune in for next week and I may give you a full recap, depending on the prevalence of shit storylines such as Nanny Pat’s cooking or Lola’s ascent to stardom.
However, on the dark side of the moon, which I'm using as a phrase similar to: 'on the other side of the coin' (It works, kind of) I have:
It's the really the naysayers that are the worst. My advice? When they tell you it's impossible, it's usually due to a fierce over-protectiveness of their industry, similar to a golden eagle defending her eggs. Take that and let it make you stronger. Keep plugging. Sometimes it's best to find a smaller company who can spend more personal time with you, however, a big name company looks good on the ol' CV, and one of the big brands that I interned for let me publish a coupla things online.
Send in a written cv - it looks more thoughtful than an email
Follow your application up. Call, and don't get discouraged by any inevitable rudeness. A follow-up call to Tatler was pretty much the most condescending anyone has ever been to me. Well done, Tatler, because word of mouth travels fast, and what I thought may be a false reputation of an office full of over-priviledged trustafarians has been proved all too true.
You don't need rich parents. It helps and it will be hardcore if you go it alone but it can be done. Try to intern in a nearby city rather than fleeing to London. You can live at home, and free travel means low costs that hopefully be managed by a part-time job.
I know that this statement in itself is disingenous. It took me a long time to get even a menial job; unfortunately, graduates aren't first choice for retail/restaurant, as they assume you will be temporary and any training will be wasted on you. Try a temping agency, and once you've worked for a certain establishment a couple of times they might be keen to cut the cost of the agency and put you on the books.
Keep in touch with everyone. I know we British are very uncomfortable with schmoozing and brown-nosing, so think of it as keeping contact with work friends rather than advancing your career. I got an interview for a big-pay job after shooting off an email to an office I did work experience for (unfortunately, I didn't get it)
If anyone has any tips or experiences they;d like to share, chime in, please