I had a lovely couple of days not watching BBC Breakfast this week, meaning my IQ managed to crawl back up a couple of points like a bead of mercury in a thermometer. Sadly, that was undone this morning with a number of, “Why do the children have their own culture, and how will it kill them?” pieces that shattered my brain thermometer and froze the IQ mercury solid. Thanks, Charlie Stayt and Susanna Reid! The first piece involved a report on a British Medical Journal survey into piercings and the number of people who end up seeking medical help after part of their face turns green and purple like Harvey Dent, during which Susanna and resident skittish doctor Rosemary Leonard reacted to the presence of a pierced youngster as if a farting Predator was sitting between them, so strong was their incomprehension and revulsion.
The kid, Toby Caldecott, acquitted himself easily as well as previous guest Lucy Van Amerongen, treating the trio of hyper-concerned adults with mild disdain as they misunderstood the nature of what they were talking about, and eloquently defending the salon he worked at. That was of course not good enough for the hosts, who were trying to make out, as usual, that kids were running around with enough metal in their faces to weigh their heads down. My favourite moment was the wince of disgust that passed across Leonard’s face as she revealed that, ZOMG!, some people have piercings ::gulp:: in the genital area. Whatever will they think of a long time ago next?
The whole silly piece ended with the following exchange:
Susanna: And… and… Why? Why do you do it? Why do you get so many piercings?
Toby: Me personally, because I like the way they look. There’s nothing else to it than that really.
Susanna: Simple as that? Well, they certainly look striking.
I think she expected him to respond, “Well, I have piercings because secretly I hate myself and society, and use this as a way to flagellate myself and terrify passers-by. Later on today I plan on sacrificing a virgin! That’ll be fun.” To be honest, the piece was not the worst. For a start, there was a serious point to be made about amateurs botching it and getting infected, and Leonard did seem to give the kid a break. Our presenters, though, struggled (as ever) to figure out how to treat the subject, obviously uncomfortable at the thought of getting a piercing anywhere other than in the earlobe, and coming across as secretly annoyed at their guest for daring to do it. When the subject of only giving piercings to over-18s came up, Charlie asked Toby if he checks their IDs. No, you fucking cretin, he just guesses using tea-leaves! Unbelievable.
As I say, it wasn’t too bad, but it seemed worse as it sat alongside other stupid pieces filled with fretting about that Hypothetical Idiot that gets wheeled out to prove their points. Yesterday there was a little feature about Lenore Skenazy, the mother who threw her son to the wolves of New York like he was young Leonidas in 300, and the verdict there seemed to be “BURN THE WITCH!” with the odd sop to, “Well, we do cosset our kids, but the world is terrifying, I know because I read the Mail and watch BBC Breakfast BURN THE WITCH!”. Today had an even more peculiar item, about a US firm making high heels for babies. It’s all becoming very “Barbara Wintergreen” on BBC Breakfast.
While the invention of these shoes is worth railing against (because hell’s bells, it’s tacky), the report featured another appearance by Reverend Tim Jones, who was dragged on a while back after having a hissy fit in a shop about Playboy stationery aimed at children. He was the epitome of indignant rage then, but was muted this time, admitting that silly decorative high heels for babies wasn’t the end of the world (something he would know about, obviously), but that it was still bad to have children thinking of themselves in terms of “sexy adulthood”. Perhaps when they’re old enough to recognise gender stereotypes and perhaps misunderstand the power of sexuality, but we’re talking about children who are so young they are still learning how to differentiate between object and subject. I don’t think a baby wearing stupid joke high heels is going to turn into a pre-toddler Carrie Bradshaw. That point was made by Susanna, bless her, but it barely deterred Reverend Tim Jones, who is on a crusade mission to save childhood from mutation.
There’s a toss-up as to what was the stupidest part of the piece. Elaine Griffiths (editor of Prima Baby Magazine) said she objected to the shoes, changed her mind when she saw the black satin ones, and then changed it back to outrage when she saw the leopard-print and hot pink ones? Yes, yes, I get that her point it that those designs are more readily linked to sexuality, and she had some interesting points to make about the fashion industry preying on that childhood urge to mimic adults, but her disapproving tones made it sound like she was going to point out that hot pink and leopard-print were soooo last season. Even worse, Reverend Tim Jones (that’s how he is constantly referred to by Susanna) excelled himself with this exchange:
Susanna: [responding to a point by Elaine that they are just a silly joke] Actually, Reverend Tim Jones, isn’t that the point, that they are just a bit of fun, that babies between 0-6 months don’t develop a view of themselves and their sexuality. They are just going to be dressed in these little shoes, just as they would be in little mini-trainers, they’re never going to be seen, really, outside of the family or friends with them, and it’s, it’s just a joke…
Reverend Tim Jones: Well maybe, I don’t know actually, I’ve been to California, they probably are going to be seen outside the family. Yeah, I’m quite sure that intended as a joke, but it’s the kind of joke where somebody says, you know, “wouldn’t it be funny if we dressed up our children like Julia Roberts out of Pretty Woman“, and that would be a joke to say, “wouldn’t it be funny if…”, but then, we go and do it, and we actually do dress our children up like Julia Roberts out of Pretty Woman, and you know, her character was a prostitute, and, why on earth are we dressing up our children like prostitutes, what does that say?
Well, it says you think women who wear leopard-print high heels are all prostitutes. It also says that I really should be making costumes for babies based on movies. Fancy dress costumes for babies! Hey parents, wouldn’t it be funny if your child looked like various movie characters? Well, now they can! How about Johnny Depp portraying Hunter S. Thompson in Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, complete with hat, cigarette holder, and jar of ether? Or Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada, with bizarre stylings by Patricia Field and recordings of deferential staff being terrified of imminent firings? Or you could signal your love for The Matrix by dressing your baby as Neo, complete with monk-style black coat, teeny tiny shades, kung-fu training, and a need to rebel against the distortion of our perception of reality by our evil robot overlords? Fun for all the family! Warning, possible psychological warping of baby’s mind may occur.
That quote of course features the contentious statement that California is a state made up entirely of Hypothetical Idiots (Californians reading this blog, could this be true?), but even that doesn’t match his later response to the question from Charlie, who, upon finding out the Reverend Tim Jones has two daughters, asked what he would do if the eldest announced that she wanted to wear miniskirts, to which he replied, “Well, it depends if she’s thirty-five or eight, I suppose.” That’s right, women in your teens, twenties, or early thirties, it’s Burkas for all of you! Only when you get your Adulthood Licence can you show any flesh.
I could be generous and say it was a stupid joke that didn’t come off, but the Reverend seemed very sincere when he said it, and it’s not like the tone of the feature was one of understanding, choosing instead to be based around the fear of what your child is up to, which is their default position, of course. I’m amazed these parents let their children out of the house. Still, it wasn’t all Think Of The Children! agonising. My favourite moment this morning came during an inept feature about festival attendance, with our heroes interviewing R1 DJ Huw Stephens and Rough Guide editor James Smart talking about what kit to take to Glastonbury (wellies, sun cream, etc.). Charlie asked if beards were essential (and I’m not sure he was joking), and Susanna seemed to think that the idea of getting dirty was the worst thing that could happen to a person, reacting with horror at the thought of not washing for a couple of days. Her revulsion was almost endearing, though it reinforces my suspicion that she would be happiest married to the fearsome Don Draper from Mad Men, though without the existential ennui, bird-murdering, and easily-cured shaky hands.
James suggested going to All Tomorrow’s Parties, where she could stay in a chalet, which she thought was a wonderful idea. Me too. Having had a look at this year’s line-up, the thought of the prim and proper Susanna, whose record collection probably contains nothing but Eva Cassidy and Norah Jones albums, standing in perplexed confusion while Animal Collective, Adem, Silver Jews, …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, A Hawk and a Hacksaw, Raekwon the Chef and Ghostface Killah went about their excellent business fills me with utter joy.
ETA: I notice that, considering how Susanna’s presenting style and line of questioning is just the sort of thing the Daily Mail should approve of, they were pretty leering and mean about her presenting at the Oscars earlier this year. I now have to support her against those evil woman-hating Mail bastards, I suppose.