First and foremost an apology for the delay between posts. A lot has been taking up my time of late and alas blog writing duties slipped down the lengthening list of priorities.
I’m not the greatest cook, in all honesty recipes cause my pulse to race and my breathing to shorten. I’d have to describe my culinary skills as “experimental” at best, yet for all of my shortcomings in the kitchen a T.V show I have always enjoyed is Masterchef. For those who haven’t heard of it, Masterchef is a competitive cooking show popular in both the UK and Australia, where contestants cook to impress the 3 judges and hopefully make it to the final. Ultimately those taking part have a chance to win a big money prize as well as the opportunity to work in some of the best kitchens in the world, under some of the best chefs in the world.
For me I’ve always enjoyed the show more for its style of production rather then its content; the way it is filmed and its format gets me hooked from day one. So as you can imagine I was excited to see that a new series will be starting on Australia’s Channel 10 this weekend. This season’s theme is “Girls versus Boys” which is certain to reignite the debate over which sex produces the better cooks and will no doubt lead to another exciting series, even for a non “foodie” like myself.
It is the addition of a sexual element to the show however that has already left a bad taste in my mouth, even before any dishes have been served.
The current T.V ad campaign for Masterchef features what I call “portrait” adverts for some of the contestants that will feature on the show. There’s one that focuses on a “Cowboy” who is hunky and…cooks with meat(I presume); another that showcases the oldest female contestant. These “portraits” are useful as it allows viewers of the show to get a better idea of who the contestants are and follow their journey on a more personable level, having formed some sort of initial bond. One particular advert though has caused me no shortage of irritation.
Christina is described as the “50s Housewife,” loving nothing more then spending time with her two children and fashioning her own handmade, vintage style dresses. In her interview on the website she explains that Masterchef for her will no doubt will be an “emotional roller-coaster.” So far so good, nothing we haven’t seen from contestants in the past. But it is Christina’s “portrait” advert that has caused me to rethink my opinions of the show. In her ad, Christina confidently strides toward the camera proclaiming “my style is 50s housewife with a lesbian twist…”
It was near enough to make me choke on my reheated, fishy tasting stir-fry (I really didn’t undersell my cooking skills).
Now I have no issue with anyone’s sexuality. Gay,Straight, Bi, Transgender, it really couldn’t be of any less interest to me what you do and who you choose to do it with. The epicentre of my shock and confusion was simply why the producers of the show and Christina herself felt that her choice in sexuality was information relevant enough to be broadcast to millions of people across Australia. Again let me state that I have no issue with anyone’s sexual preferences. In a way I can admire the fact that Christina is obviously confident enough in herself to let a whole country know an intimate aspect of her life. I simply didn’t understand the intention of sharing this on an advert for a cooking show.
I sat on the couch for a few minutes struggling to understand what I was supposed to do with this information. As far as I can remember, no previous seasons of Masterchef have divulged details of the contestants lives in a way like this; on an advert where the primary goal is to try and convince potential viewers to tune in on Sunday night. As far as I could tell, both Christina and the marketing personnel behind the show were explicitly using her sexuality as a device to try and draw in an audience, but what audience? This is the question I was really left searching for an answer to. Surely past viewers would be excited for a new season based only on being able to watch more of the same; a well produced competitive cooking program. Instead we were invited to watch based simply on the fact that one of the stars of the show liked girls instead of boys. I’ll admit to feeling more then a little bit insulted.
Of course using sex in advertising is as old as the earth is round. How often are we exposed to mens’ cologne adverts that show gorgeous girls falling over themselves to admire a gentlemen’s scent? A powerful new Holden being thrashed around a racetrack is no doubt coupled by a bevvy of buxom-babes viewing salaciously from the paddock. I don’t have an issue with this. Do I think it is cheap? Certainly. Do I find it degrading to both women and men alike? Sure, but at least it comes across as being slightly less out of place then a contest on a cookery show proclaiming her lesbianism to a potential audience of (presumably) cooking fans.
I’d be amazed to think that anyone who saw the offending advert went through the thought process of “well I wasn’t really interested in Masterchef before, but now I know there’s going to be a lesbian involved? Sign me up.” Who knows, maybe she’ll have a fling with another girl on the show…Is that what we were supposed to think? My confusion arises from the content of the advert and how it is supposed to relate to its target market. Though cheap and tacky, at least a hot girl draping herself over a car is intended to spark the interest of a predominately male, car buying market. I can only assume as such that with this advert Masterchef are hoping to corner the huge lesbian market that has evaded cooking shows for all of these years.
I couldn’t help but also wonder why Christina had allowed herself to be defined simply by her sexuality, in the exclusive aim of increasing an audience. Although I’m sure this was her own decision and she came to it in good fashion, I myself would never choose to be defined in such a way and to have my sexuality hijacked for commercial gains. Sex and sexuality in advertising is never going to go away, but it is an aspect of society that I think we can all be a little more responsible with. In this instance I found it being used in a completely arbitrary and misguided manner.
Whatever Channel 10’s intentions behind this advert, I found it has cheapened what I viewed as one of the better shows on T.V and made me acutely aware of the willingness of some to have their sexuality exploited for the gains of others.