Made in Chelsea is on its 15th season, yet its attitudes towards women continue to be some of the most reactionary on television

Many of the men in the show are young, yet they seem no more enlightened about gender equality than past generations

Rachael Revesz
Sunday 01 April 2018 16:17
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 These men don’t respect women for sleeping with them too quickly and, in their words, they like to 'pursue' a woman, as if they are hunting pheasant with a shot gun
These men don’t respect women for sleeping with them too quickly and, in their words, they like to 'pursue' a woman, as if they are hunting pheasant with a shot gun

As I prepare to watch the 166th episode of Made in Chelsea on Monday night – no doubt along with thousands of teenagers across the UK – I am bracing myself for so much cringing that the faint lines on my forehead are likely to become permanent. The show has been consistently insipid, awful and addictive since it first aired in 2011, but it seems that the recent evolutions of progressive society have completely passed Chelsea by.

For anyone who doesn’t know, MiC follows the lives and loves of mostly 20-something “posh” kids in Chelsea. Yet the MeToo movement – which has shed light on issues including male entitlement, sexual aggression and misogynistic chivalry – makes the Bafta-winning structured reality series look like something out of the dark ages. Maybe audiences are cottoning onto this, because the show hasn’t regularly attracted one million viewers per episode since 2014.

Series 15 is off to a dodgy start. Harry Baron, the new Spencer Matthews-type villain, has already insisted he did not send any texts about his hard-ons to other girls because he treats his new girlfriend Melissa “like a princess”, and he “worships the ground she walks on”, making for a succinct representation of the Madonna/whore complex.

Also this series, Jamie Laing introduced his brief holiday romance to the gang, which acted surprised that they hadn’t slept together yet. Laing, 29, promptly ditched her for his new girlfriend, who is 19.

These men don’t respect women for sleeping with them too quickly and, in their words, they like to “pursue” a woman, as if they are hunting pheasant with a shot gun.

BAFTAs 2018: Joanna Lumley opens awards comparing Time’s Up and #MeToo to Women's suffrage

The men also don’t deal well with rejection. Charlie Mills stormed off in a huff when Canadian cast member Mimi Bouchard said she wasn’t interested in dating him anymore. Harry Baron bullied his ex into admitting she had feelings for him until she cried. And when Elliott Cross failed to arouse Georgia Toffollo’s interest, he sent her multiple pictures of his penis.

But the winner of this category has to go to New Yorker Alik Alfus, whose sole role in the latest series appears to be turning up at group events and demanding that Louise Thompson respect how much she “destroyed” him. It seems a harsh punishment for splitting up with the man two years prior.

Meanwhile, Louise’s current boyfriend, Ryan Libbey, goes red as a tomato every time she mentions another man. This pattern of controlling, jealous behaviour in men is common on the show, but we are told to interpret it as flattery, rather than an example of how men treat women like their property.

What’s really worrying is that many of these men are young and they seem no more enlightened about gender equality than past generations. “Ladies’ man” James Taylor is still at university, yet he seemed surprised in last week’s episode to discover that Toff has both looks and a brain.

Besides the blatant and jarring misogyny, scandal has clouded the cast for years – and I don’t just mean the tabloids snapping Alex Mytton as he argues with his 19-year-old ex-girlfriend in a nightclub.

Spencer Matthews, whose brother married Pippa Middleton, was kicked off I’m A Celebrity after producers realised he had been taking steroids. Louise Thompson recently felt the heat for announcing the title of new book, Body Positive, with critics arguing her white, slim frame hardly encapsulated what the body positivity movement was about. (The title has been changed to Live Well With Louise.) Binky Felstead was criticised for accepting a £3,000 payment from charity Barnardo’s to front their campaign (she gave the fee to another charity).

I could go on, so I will. Veteran cast member Caggie Dunlop’s dieting advice on Twitter includes eating your meals in a bikini so you don’t go back for seconds. And the aforementioned Toffolo, the most recent winner of I’m A Celebrity, is now taking selfies with austerity architect George Osborne and welcoming the Boris Johnson’s father on to MiC for his own cameo.

Beyond the drugs, corruption and eating disorder tips for teenagers, the worst part of MIC is how the cast treats each other. Even Olivia Bentley, the fine art photographer who takes portraits of “strong women”, still goes around calling other women “sluts” and “easy”. Haven’t they seen Mean Girls?

I wonder how much longer MiC can maintain its anti-woman diatribe. Cast member Frankie Gaff summed up the show last week when she tweeted, “Wow how boring are we, sitting in various cafes over London talking about boring boy bulls**t, as if that’s all there is to us.”

But I’m loath to place the burden of systemic misogyny on the women. In future episodes, I’d really love to see one of the cast, man or woman, get with the times and properly call out sexism by doing more than simply throwing a drink in someone’s face.

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