Loose Women, lost perspective…

// 7 June 2008

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ITV’s daytime crap-cake of a talk-show, Loose Women, was yesterday subject to the acerbic criticism of Bridget Orr over at the Guardian. Dawn Kofie, F Word contributor, wrote an excellent analysis here of the show last year, and so with so many women having an aversion to watching the middle-aged panellists jawing over some trivial news-story and verbally farting out trite sexual inneundo about Colen Nolan and “her Ray” why is the show still on air? The answer is simple: this is car-crash television at its best, and while Orr considers it “hateful,” the fact that it is at times so repulsive makes it compelling viewing.

The concept of the show is simple enough: get four women, not old but not young, with dubious celebrity credentials and put them in a room with a studio audience and watch them harp on about the trials-and-tribulations of being a not-old-but-not-young-women-with-dubious-celebrity-credentials. The show is a hit with grandmothers, students and the unemployed, who are guaranteed some form of entertainment, be it at Carol McGiffin’s (Chris Evans’s ex-wife) attempts to use a hula-hoop, Linda Bellamy’s loosely-veiled-but-actually-overt references to sex with her younger partner, or Nolan’s quips at having an ample chest. Orr provides a biting, yet accurate, summary:

Male viewers embarrassed at the lechery on Loose Women could well complain that this is a case of feminism “going too far”. There could never be an all-male equivalent to the show called Talking Balls, where a crew of laddish reality-TV rejects and failed boybanders leered at the female soap stars brought on to sate them. Not only would it obviously be sexist, but the idea would never be floated in the first place. The schedulers would naturally expect the core demographic for such a non-politically correct, hyper-masculine show to be at work by then…If Loose Women tells us anything, it is that, as far as schedulers are concerned, daytime television is just for silly women.

Orr’s assumptions are confirmed by her recollection of Katie Price’s, aka Jordan’s, appearance on the show:

As glamour model Katie Price comes on to be interviewed, Nolan admits that she has been worried. “I thought, ‘I’m going to look flat-chested today,'” she says. “Yours actually look bigger than mine,” says Price. “Exactly! I’m quite proud of myself,” says Nolan, scooting her chair even closer to Price’s. More breast talk ensues.

Because obviously breast size is directly proportionate to beauty, intelligence and success…err…not really…and why Coleen, a woman who would, for many women in their late thirties to forties, be considered a role, would put such emphasis on her tits does nothing but perpetuate redundant beliefs that women are completely and utterly preoccupied with the superficial! I’m sure I don’t need to state the extent to which she speaks about her weight, and while she has done fantastically well to loose what she has (if she was unhappy about her body), why does she feel the need to transpose her insecurities onto everyone else who is smuggling a dozen rolls and a muffin top?

While, to their credit, each of the panellist have forged careers for themselves in the media (an industry which is hugely competitive) – Jayne McDonald for example, moved into television having been a singer on cruise ships, Carol McGiffin was a television producer and worked in radio, Sherrie Hewson was an actress – their professional independence is undermined by the fact that they have a complete preoccupation with men: past, present, future and prospective. We hear so much about Coleen’s husband, Ray, on a daily basis that I think the vast majority of us are beginning to feel like we know him intimately. Is this what happens when the women of Sex and the City tire of buying handbags and shoes, age ten-years and have to start earning a crust by talking about their exciting pasts, lamenting the fact they no longer feel they are as attractive as younger women, while at the same time pretending that they do not care?

Any male guest on the show is thrown into the hungry jaws of these lionesses of daytime television and systematically ripped apart by lewd, crass and downright awkward sexual flirtation – Orr recounts McGiffin’s encounter with Russell Brand:

The four presenters talk about the etiquette of flatulence, including whether Carol McGiffin, who declares that she “quite likes doing it . . . the louder the better”, would feel comfortable “pumping” in front of her “dream man”, Russell Brand. As McGiffin weighs this up, to her huge surprise, Brand appears, and they proceed to discuss her earlier admission that she would pay him for sex. Later the host, former Corrie star Denise Welch, gives him an eyeful of her cleavage, he is grilled about his sex life, and is involved in a discussion of the “suede crotch” of McGiffin’s jodhpurs. Excellent.

Undoubtedly leechery is prevalent, and Orr is right in that there could be no male equivalent. Imagine a show populated by aging male stars all looking towards, say, Peter Stringfellow as their glorious presenter, who juxtaposes stories of the fantastic sex he’s been having with a woman young enough to be his daughter, at the same time as Rod Stewart starts pushing his crotch in the direction of some lovely, young female guest – Myleene Klass, say – as he talks about the benefits of wearing a thong on the beach, while an audience of old men laugh raucously. Then, to everyone’s surprise, John McCrick wades in unexpectedly to offer the reasons why he hates women. Perfect. But let’s be realistic: it wouldn’t be acceptable, would it? Personally, I would find that uncomfortable viewing, and yet we have Nolan more-or-less pushing her breasts in the faces of any young male beau who so much as breathes in the direction of the stage, and Carol McGiffin who, let’s be honest, is hardly the biggest fan of the male sex, offering some insight into the reasons why smoking should not be banned in public places. The reasons it’s accepted from a female panellist is simple: they are considered pathetic, objects of pity, and so are tolerated. It’s unfair, but that sadly seems to be the case.

But while I can see there is much wrong with the show, that it’s nothing by cheap ratings fodder, I still watch it. Why? Because I cannot believe the depths to which ITV has stooped in the name of entertainement, but maybe they have it right? Maybe the reason the viewing-figures are so high is because the vast majority of us watch it not because we enjoy it, but because we enjoy having a bloody good moan about it before, during and afterwards. When I’m home, come a Friday, I’m absolutely gutted that that’s the last installment I’ll be getting for the week of the in-bitching of the panellists as they all fight to be some sort of lead woman, and the only thing that get’s me through the weekend is the knowledge that come Monday Nolan will have a fresh batch of stories about how Ray tried to initiate sex through foreplay which she, frankly, could not be arsed with, and McGiffin will have undoubtedly got pissed and done something ‘crazy,’ fuelling the vast majority of conversations for the rest of the week. I hate it, but I love it because I hate it. It’s a complicated relationship, but am I wrong? Surely this isn’t what women really want from daytime viewing, right? Offensive, stupid, or strangely entertaining? I for one cannot decide. Perhaps if we interpret it as nothing more than a satire: the manifestation of the stereotypical assumptions made about women after a certain age, and laugh at its woeful inaccuracy. Would that work? And with that I’ll end with Orr’s genius account of a classic-cringe-worthy Loose Women moment:

All the presenters get dressed up in their wedding finery to watch Charlie, a dog owned by presenter Sherrie Hewson, get married to a canine called Dolly. Yes, really. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the dogs are dressed in wedding outfits and Torchwood star John Barrowman presides over the ceremony with countless bad puns (the nuptials are termed, “puptials”, for instance). The long-suffering host, Kaye Adams, says “I can’t believe we’re doing this.” Nor can we.

Comments From You

Kate // Posted 7 June 2008 at 1:56 pm

Yep, Loose Women is a pile of crap. But I don’t think the “what if it were men?” parallels are quite valid. Peter Stringfellow and a 19-year-old woman would be a quite different power dynamic to Linda Bellamy and a younger man. I’m not saying it’s wonderfully subversive, but it’s not reinforcing centuries of oppression and stereotyping that cast women as best when they’re younger, more powerless, less knowledgeable and less wrinkly.

It’s bloody sad that this is probably the longest period of time in any day that viewers can hear women over 40 speaking. It doesn’t pass the Bechdel movie test (at least two women, who talk to each other, and talk about something besides a man), but at least they’re there and speaking. It’s bloody sad that when they do speak, either their own preoccupations or the schedulers preconceptions about what will interest the audience mean they only talk about sex with men or their own appearance (self-derogatory, for preference).

Anne Onne // Posted 7 June 2008 at 3:23 pm

I take issue with Orr’s assertion that there’s no equivalent to Loose women, and that poor men are cruelly objectified in one daytime TV show, when men have the whole of TV, film, magazines and the porn industry to amply objectify women.

The fact that we’re talking about (fairly mild) lechery against men here, as if it’s a systemic, serious problem when this is one rather sad programme is in itself worrying. How can we reconcile this obsession with protecting men from the very thing they do to us 24/7 with the desires we expressed in the ‘sexpositive feminist porn’ thread, about the need for equality, and how men are rarely objectified?

I object to Loose women because it’s repetitive, and people take it as a risque display of female sexual liberation when in fact it isn’t anything of the sort. The show doesnt’ really tackle many issues of any concern to women today, and is lightweight to the point of floating off the air.

But seriously, women are fodder for objectification in about every other show but Loose women (and I guess there’s objectification there, too). The fact that the focus is on the minority rather than the majority is playing into the patriarchy. John Mcririck IS invited on shows and does talk about why he hates women, and is simply presented as being charmingly old-fashioned and un-PC. A comedian DID sexually assault a young woman on stage, in front of thousands of audience members and get off with a slap on the wrist. Misogyny is in our media, in our shows. Dare we forget Clarkson?

I’ll agree that Loose women is a show that does the public perception of women a disservice, both because it’s so vapid and because the public want to think ill of women.

But the latter is also something we have to factor in. Society wants to criticise women, present their interests as ‘frivolous’ and justify their second class status by saying they deserve it because they do X.

cb // Posted 7 June 2008 at 5:21 pm

I don’t see it very often (full-time work.. unfortunately) but see it as fairly inoffensive – much less offensive than Jeremy Kyle. It would be in a great position if it did have a bit more teeth but it could be a lot worse!

Sarah // Posted 7 June 2008 at 6:49 pm

I’ve seen this show a few times and while there are many criticisms you could make of it, I’m amazed that one of them is ‘feminism going too far’. Because I didn’t think it was exactly full of radical feminist analysis and activism, or any kind of political or cultural issues! Not that there’s anything wrong with that – most of us like a bit of fluffy entertainment now and then – but I do wonder how anyone got the impression that it was ‘too feminist’ or even particularly feminist at all.

Linda Geeson // Posted 7 June 2008 at 8:22 pm

I feel that I should stick up for the daytime programme ” Loose women”

It is not supposed to be taken too seriously and I find it light heartedly funny and entertaining.

However I do think that putting the programme on air five days a week is far too much and it is now becoming to look a little tired and overexposed.

I think the programme needs a break for at least six months.

Debs // Posted 8 June 2008 at 7:54 pm

Loose Women is one of the worst programmes ever aired, but my criticism is actually for the writer of this piece.

“and so with so many women having an aversion to watching the middle-aged panellists jawing over some trivial news-story”

It has been apparent for a long time that the F Word has a bit of a problem, not to say a patronising attitude towards older women, so I don’t really know why I’m surprised by this, but I shall ask anyway – why is it necessary to mention the age of the women? Does the fact that it is hosted by “middle-aged” women make the programme even worse than it would otherwise be? Are you actually as ageist as you sound?

Jane P // Posted 9 June 2008 at 10:46 am

I’m not a fan of Loose Women but I’d be interested to see who makes the content and editorial decisions. Quite often, a show that purports to be ‘for women and about women’ ends up being what the male producer and director thinks they want. Remember The Girly Show back in the early eighties? Absolute pile of steaming crap, but supposedly daring and fronted by ‘hot’ women talking about ‘Wanker of the Week’. But the actual format and content of the show was decided by a bunch of blokes.

One of the reasons that Sex and the City was ground breaking was because the decisions about content and script were made by women. It’s very often who is backstage that makes the difference in ‘women led’ shows.

Sandy // Posted 9 June 2008 at 12:51 pm

“so many women having an aversion to watching the middle-aged panellists jawing…”

Daily Mail?

No! F-word.

Depressing.

Scot // Posted 16 July 2008 at 10:31 am

I love Loose Women – but only because my all – time fave actress Denise Welch appears on it. She’s gorgeous and very funny – I’ve actually met Denise and her husband Tim Healy – a more genuine, friendly couple you couldn’t wish to meet. Keep Denise in the show – she’s one feisty lass and a gorgeous babe!

Scot // Posted 21 July 2008 at 2:15 pm

Both my girlfriend and I love Loose Women – especially when Denise Welch is on it – because we really like her. We like Jane and Sherrie as well – but can’t stand Coleen Nolan or Carol McGiffin. Denise is great, though – a sassy babe. Go, Denise!

Scot // Posted 7 August 2008 at 4:10 pm

As much as I love Loose Women, I thought the behaviour of some of the stars of the show at the 2006 National TV Awards was disgraceful – particularly Carol McGiffin. Carol – you’re on TV – so please show a bit of decorum. Lynda, Jane, Sherrie, Jackie, Holly, Jane, Colleen and Denise – you all look wonderful – but Carol let the side down very badly.

Katy // Posted 8 October 2008 at 1:35 pm

Lighthearted? No! Shallow – YES.

Boring, boring, boring personalities. Who are there target audience?

Quote: Womens’ magazines perform a valuable function, providing housebound WAGS mental relief from the interminable rounds of hoovering, doing the washing-up and getting the dinner ready for their subjugating partner. However, a TV equivalent includes the superfluous chit-chat that a Now! editor might encourage in the office but would baulk from sending to the typesetters. When the regular sections (eg soap star interviews) fail, the segments where the girls bicker among themselves are like watching a crew firing a cannon at its own deck.

Unquote.

The wittering and twittering as if they are ‘my best friends’ does not work.

If I watched this programme, I will change from bored housewife to BORING housewife.

Switch the ‘off’ button for relief.

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