Magazine article The Spectator

Bossy Pants

Magazine article The Spectator

Bossy Pants

Article excerpt

I never guessed that What Not To Wear would be the harbinger of the hottest new trend in television: bossy women. In WNTW, Trinny and Susannah bossily told other women how to look ghastly. In their bestselling book, some of the outfits would be thought over the top by the Ugly Sisters' costume mistress.

Next we got How Clean Is Your House? (Channel 4, Wednesday) in which bossy Kim and her whey-faced sidekick Aggie go to someone's house and tell them that it's filthy. The makeover I saw was of a pad occupied by a father and son, David and Nick Worboys, who, as Kim bossily pointed out, live literally like pigs in shit.

Kim is a big-boned bossy lass and takes no nonsense. 'If I saw you in the street, I'd say "What a handsome young man," but if I came back here you'd not get me into that bed!' A look of relief passed over Nick's face. 'Look at that grot,' she exclaimed, 'it is beyond disgusting!' The lads' feeble efforts to help were met by more abuse. 'There is no point in dusting with a filthy duster that is full of dust!'

In the end, the house was clean. You could have eaten your dinner off their plates. But it seemed to me that the Worboys had been happy in their sty, got on well with each other, took pleasure in their lives, and were perfectly healthy in spite of the zillions of bacteria they ingest every day. But that's not the point. Like Trinny and Susannah, the bossy cleaners insist that their victims stick to tyrannical standards which they have invented and which bear only passing resemblance to real lives.

Likewise Victoria Mather and Meredith Etherington-Smith, who are The Dinner Party Inspectors (Channel 4, Tuesday). They don't confront anyone. Instead they sit in an upstairs room watching the meal on monitors, making bitchy, bossy comments. The programme works because it's everybody's fantasy to spy on someone else from a secret hideaway, and pass comment. And these bossy women really are witty, especially Victoria Mather, who creates new layers of inventive snobbery. Snobbery is funny because it's arbitrary. Some years ago I met a terrifically grand Italian woman from an ancient family. She announced that it was quite plebeian to speak Italian, 'French is the only language any civilised person needs,' she told me, in English.

In the same way, Victoria demands, 'What on earth is that? Please don't let it be something made with Bailey's Irish Cream!' One of the guests (a strange bunch, mainly gays, but with two attention-seeking women) asked another, 'When did you realise you were gay gay? …

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