Television Review

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The Independent Culture
"YOU GET a zit and you're squeezing it and squeezing it and squeezing it for weeks and then it finally bursts and you can, like, hear it and it splatters everywhere and it's really satisfying." Now, as objections go, this may sound as perverse as the pleasure taken by the spotty adolescent in excising his collection of facial Vesuvii, but there wasn't enough detail in last night's Naked (BBC2).

"Hormones Going Haywire" was superficially descriptive and not sufficiently emotive. Sure, there were close-ups of grease-sheened pores and zoom shots of skin looking like hairy pork scratchings, but these didn't tell you how the whole thing felt. It was missing a squirt of emotional pus as the experience of pubescence went unpopped. A further difficulty was the immaturity imposed upon the film by the documentary form. Like its teenage subjects, the film wanted to analyse and explore; unfortunately, it was also quite vain and keen to look good.

The film made some valid points through close-ups of emergent body parts which were almost indistinguishable. Was it a nipple or a pimple? An Adam's apple or a kneecap? There was also some nice banter between two kids, one telling the other of the alarming metamorphosis of self. "Sometimes I wake up in the morning and I'm washing myself and it just feels like I'm being felt by somebody else." ("X-Files," his mate observed, gravely employing a title as an adjective.) "Or being washed by somebody else - it just feels strange." ("You are strange," his mate chipped in.) The alien analogy was a good one, but this and the more interesting issue of the definition of identity escaped unpursued.

The interviewees themselves seemed strangely well-adjusted, peculiarly prepared to talk about traumatic events in foreign parts. Adolescence isn't that clean - there is a lot more mess, both emotional and... well, you get the idea. "I'm ready to pick, I'm like a ripening fruit," one youth swaggered. "When I started to get hair I knew this was it," bragged another. No one wept, and few hobbled to their psychological bedrooms with terminal self-consciousness. It was too tidy by half, but that said, it was occasionally instructive. At one point two girls were talking about shaving their fingers. Their fingers? For the only moment in the film I was 13 again.

QED (BBC1) was a late and worthy addition to the schedules. It analysed a rare condition known as "intersex" through the prematurely-opened eyes of 10-year-old Joella Holliday, who has just won her legal battle to be legally recognised as a girl after being classified a boy at birth. Contributors defined this state, rather elliptically, as the answer to a mother's question after giving birth - "Is it a girl or a boy?" In the case of parents of intersex children, the answer is silence followed by a consoling arm around the shoulder.

Joella came across simply as a lovely little girl coping with terrible dilemmas on which most adults would flounder. Such as whether to delay the construction of her vagina until after puberty. "I want to get married," she said at one point. "I just want be like a normal... woman." It was all in the pause.

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