While in Thailand a couple of years ago, a group of us decided to go to a live sex show.
The ’90s trance had barely started before the first act walked on stage, popped a squat and ejected a terrified mouse, followed by an equally terrified bird. Just to clarify, there was no intermission where she went backstage and reloaded. She had them both in there. Like a human Pez-dispenser.
The bird and the mouse, mercifully, took off into the night. Had they been Disney characters, I guarantee their subsequent duet would have rhymed the words ‘despair’ and ‘nightmare’. A few people applauded halfheartedly. Most just continued their conversations.
It’s a grim tale, and I hate dredging it up. I only mention it because, after watching a programme called ‘The Only Way is Essex’ last night, it’s now the second worse thing I’ve ever seen.
For those that haven’t been to Thailand to see it, the show’s premise is simple: a group of rich kids from Essex spend sixty minutes making you wish you had many, many more beers in the fridge.
Is it real? Is it scripted? It seems even the show’s creators aren’t entirely sure, describing their abomination as “real people in modified situations, saying unscripted lines but in a structured way”. What does that even mean?! The only absolute I can take from that statement is that they’re definitely not robots. But after watching the show, I’m not even sure I trust that.
And it gets worse. So much worse.
After typing in ‘the only w-’ and Google making the correct autosuggestion (ominous), I learned that the show, now in its 12th season (terrifying), has actually won a BAFTA (apocalyptic).
That’s right. Judi Dench, Richard Attenborough and Ricky Gervais are now BFFs with Joey Essex; a guy perpetually tanned to a shade Crayola describe as ‘Atomic Tangerine’.
‘How did this happen’, I thought. ‘What went so horribly wrong?’
Then I remembered the mouse and the bird.
When that Thai stripper first applied for the job years ago, I doubt her CV boasted the words ‘internal animal handler’. No, it took time to build to the mouse and the bird; time to warm the audience up so they wouldn’t storm the stage, shouting “Christ Almighty! You can’t do that! Somebody stop that woman!”
In the beginning, she was probably just a run-of-the-mill stripper, delivering quality, performance-driven stuff. Then one day her boss would have casually mentioned that he was cleaning his apartment and came across a box of perfectly good ping pong balls that he was reluctant to throw out. And the rest is history.
And that’s what’s happening in lounges around the world. Like a Thai stripper, reality TV has pushed the limits again and again; testing our resolve with shows like The Kardashians before moving us onto the more obscenely graphic stuff like Here Comes Honey Boo Boo (a show about the trials and tribulations of an obese former child beauty pageant contestant) and Bridalplasty (a show where brides compete in various challenges to win cosmetic surgery, so that they’ll look ‘perfect’ for their big day). Before you know it, blam. The Only Way is Essex. The mouse and the bird.
Sadly, it seems we have become those desensitized regulars at SuperPussy Hot Sex Club, numbly applauding while reality television’s atrocities hit us in the eyeballs like small, vaginally-launched animals.
And what of the future? What terrible acts does reality TV have in store for us?
If it continues to follow the acts-du-jour of Thai strip clubs, it’s grim tidings, my friends.
Grim tiding indeed.
As we were leaving I heard them mention a moray eel.