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Monday, May 12, 2008

A most condescending article

Most journalism is fairly run of the mill. Now and then, an article strikes a chord and becomes memorable to me, either because of the subject matter or because of the way it was written.

Yesterday's Sunday Times had an article by Lesley White about John Prescott and his wife Pauline which was memorable because of the latter. It was extremely patronisng and condescending.

White clearly went to the interview with preconceived notions about the couple. She was snooty and sniffy about their house and its location, and some of their interests and habits: Pauline's love of champagne and handbags and her tidiness. You would think she had been confronted with Hyacinth Bouquet herself. Maybe Lesley White comes from "old money" where tidiness and cleanliness (and children) have a very low priority compared to dogs and muddy boots; a world where working class people know their place and don't attempt to better themselves. There wss a touch of ire about her tone that suggested she was aggrieved the Prescotts had done so well considering he failed his 11 plus. I am amazed people still talk about such things.

By the end of the interview, White had grudgingly grown to respect Pauline who seems a towering figure of strength. But her description of bone china cups, highly polished photo frames and cucumber sandwiches will live on in my memory.

I still carry with me the disbelief I felt, many years ago, when I read an interview between Jilly Cooper and Robert Redford. To me at that age, Cooper was ordinary with a desperately old-fashioned hairstyle (which she still has) and gappy teeth. I couldn't believe my eyes when she angled the whole article around the fact that Redford had not found her attractive, and he hadn't done much for her either. I remember saying to my mum, "does she seriously think he would fancy her?"

I also remember an article in She magazine at the time when the film Shirley Valentine was getting the sort of attention that Sex and the City gets now. The writer was excited about meeting Pauline Collins, who played Shirley Valentine, and hoping she would be similar in character. Instead, I remember the writer saying how bitterly disappointed she was when Collins was snippy and rude, quick to brush aside any suggestion that she was like Shirley.

The power of the written word is one reason why printed publications will never go away, in my view.

1 comment:

lucylastic said...

Absolutely agree about the power of the written word - I think Anita Shreve writes like no other author I have ever encountered and her books have affected me deeply -impinging on my consciousness in a very unexpected way. If you haven't read them yet, try 'The Pilot's Wife' or 'The Weight of Water'. Both excellently crafted. Long live the book!!!!