Archive for July 23rd, 2010

Amish: The World's Squarest Teenagers?

Sometimes I suspect commissioning heads at certain TV stations sit around thinking up clever titles for programmes and then send some poor researcher out to find material to fill in the gaps.

“Hey! I’ve got it. When Fast Animals Attack Slow Children! Have we got any footage of nanny goats turning vicious at a petting zoo?”

If they’re lucky, they might be presented with a subject that is both interesting AND ripe for a smartass title. Channel 4 are divils for it.

Take their offering this coming Sunday night. It certainly caught the eye. Amish: The World’s Squarest Teenagers. Actually, I’m rather interested in seeing this. The Amish community is fascinating for so many reasons – its imperviousness to modernity in the supposedly most developed country in the world, North America, for one.

She's not square. She rides a scooter, for chrissake.

The tradition of allowing its older teenagers to spend some time in the ‘real’ world before returning to settle back into their community and advance into adult life has always struck me as rather brave and progressive. Especially as what we know of their way of life seems to imply that it is rigidly conservative and patriarchal.

But that frigging title. Every time the promo for the documentary came on C4 this week, I gave a little scream inside. Isn’t it incredibly patronising? And what’s wrong with being square anyway? And why is everyone always hatin’ on teens?

It seems to me that teenagers get a really rough ride from adults. Now, I’ll be honest – I don’t like being around teenagers much. I didn’t like being around them much when I was one myself. (Yes, I was as popular as that makes me sound). But I absolutely respect their right to be what they are; hormonal, excitable, passionate, idealistic, unreasonable, semi-child/semi-adult, miserable, hopeful, vulnerable.

So I feel protective towards them. If they’re not being criticised for being alcoholics/promiscuous/drug-crazed/anti-social, they’re being labelled – a la the Amish – square/freaks/geeks/misfits.

Am I being too sensitive here? Or do you think teenagers should be fitted with an electric shock bracelet until they learn, Pavlovian-style, to conform to the social niceties of adulthood?

* Amish: The World’s Squarest Teenagers, Channel 4, 8pm, Sunday, July 25.

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When you need a little buzz, what’s your favourite way to raise your blood pressure? You know what I mean – the site you visit, the TV show you watch or the magazine you read that infuriates you so much that you can feel your blood pressure rising in your veins.

There’s nothing that gets the blood pumping in my body faster than watching TV chat shows. This morning, while sitting in my dressing gown, bleary-eyed and sending work emails, I turned on the hugely popular TV3 show Ireland AM for a little background noise. On the opposite couch sat my boyfriend, sipping tea before work. As I tapped away, Irish singer Mary Coughlan was introduced onto the show to talk about the legalisation of contraception in Ireland and its importance to Irish women. I glanced up at Cormac. He raised an eyebrow at me. We both knew where this would end.

With me, red-faced, wild-eyed…and shouting at the television.

I know they can’t hear me; I know it makes no difference. But I love nothing more than shouting at the presenters or guests on TV shows when they say something that gets on my goat. But I don’t just shout – I gesticulate like a woman possessed. This morning, that involved an eye-rolling-and-throwing-my-hands-into-the-air gesture when the presenter Mark Cagney, the lovable rogue that he is, said something akin to “I don’t know why I’m even talking about contraception, as I’m a man”.

In my own simple way, I feel as though the louder I am in getting across my annoyance/disgust/frustration at what is being said, the higher my blood pressure is raised and the more energised I get. It’s like a little electrical jolt to my system.

I get the same jolt when I read the Daily Mail online, or watch Jeremy Kyle (during this show, I’m often to be found deadpanning ‘I’m Jeremy Kyle’ at intervals – it’s not funny, but necessary to complete the experience).  The buzz continues when I read Grazia or Now! – especially the articles about new mums ‘getting their bodies back’ or a £450 little black dress being advertised as a ‘wardrobe must-have’.

When some people see me getting frustrated over these publications and shows, they question what I am doing – why be such a masochist? Because, dear friends, I like nothing better than that blood pressure-raising moment when I get to exclaim “What THE £*&%$ are you TALKING about!?!” while shaking my fist at a TV screen. If it wasn’t for these special moments, my days would be lacking something that makes me feel that little bit more alive.

What’s your favourite way to raise your blood pressure? Via television, book, magazine or radio show?

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