Pauline Calf: a psychopath who loves a nibble

PETER YORK ON ADS: No 178: McVITIE'S RIVA
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The Independent Culture
Is Any man safe from Pauline Calf, the Manchester underclass female psychopath? Psychopathy is rarer among women than men but Pauline clearly exhibits all the characteristics calibrated by the handy assessment scale in my forthcoming airport bestseller, How to Tell if a Person is Mad. Her cold-eyed sexual manipulativeness, her utter lack of shame or guilt, and her sheer objectification of other people all mark her out as a serious danger to society.

In her new commercials for McVities Riva she presents in a number of safe guises - "shopper" or "housewife" - looking like a church-going cross between Lily Savage and Knot's Landing, but the brutish sexual sub- text cannot be suppressed. Like many psychopaths she can easily assume an air of pious gentility, and never more so when talking about Riva, which appears to be a chocolate-covered-wafer-biscuit affair in the Kit Kat mode. It's "really lovely" she says in her beautiful-funeral-lovely- flowers voice.

Indeed the motif of these ads is that new sweetmeat offers such an oasis in her ghastly Mike Leigh life - "a Riva Breather" - that she's momentarily distracted from alienated sexual triumphalism. But she's still flirting - "enjoying the view" of a waiter's rear, teasing a plumber, giving herself "a little bit of pleasure". It's all very oral, as in "get your laughing tackle around this one", "delight your gob", or "I would love a nibble".

It's an interesting instance of the new comedy culture with its sexual and demographic references imported into a familiar-formula commercial for a chocolate biscuit. It observes the rules of traditional narra- tive, product shot (the chocolate laps over the biscuit in Viennetta- style whorls), conventional kitchen setting and pack-shot. And it's mercifully free of surrealist moments.

But it is on-trend in one major way. Time was when the only cross-dresser in TV commercials was Dame Edna. Now all the boys are at it.

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