Film, History, TV

Wonder Women: The Untold Story of American Superheroines

Let’s play a game. It’s called ‘Name a Superhero’. Anyone will do, just think of one.

Okay… Go. Got one?

Chances are it’s got a ‘man’ suffix, right? Spiderman, Superman, Batman – in the arena of superheroes there’s no doubt that it’s a (Super)man’s world.

But what about the women, asks filmmaker Kristy Guevara Flanagan in Wonder Women: The Untold Story of American Superheroines (2012). Specifically, what about Wonder Woman, feminist icon and one of the longest-running comic characters of all time?

With the long-promised Wonder Woman movie almost upon us, what better time to dive into the original Nazi-puncher’s origin story…

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Flanagan’s film charts the evolution and impact of Wonder Woman, while exploring the empowerment of women over the past eight decades.

Wonder Woman was created by psychologist and inventor William Moulton Marston (inventor of the systolic blood pressure test, a central component of today’s lie detector), a man with no writing credentials who fast-talked his way into a comic writing position after pitching the idea of a female superhero, describing his creation as “psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who should, I believe, rule the world”.

When Wonder Woman (Diana, an Amazonian warrior princess) burst onto the pages of DC comics in 1941, it was right in the middle of WW2. All over America, women had left their kitchens and stepped into the workforce in order to keep the wheels of industry turning while all the able-bodied men were off giving Hitler and the Axis what for. By 1945 more than 2.2 million women were working in the war industries, along with countless non-war-based industries.

From flying planes to playing baseball, in the early 1940s much of the essential and non-essential work was carried out by US women and the wheels of industry continued to turn, without the world spinning off its axis (pun intended). It was in this new world of female dynamism that the Wonder Woman comics at first flourished.

When the war ended the men returned home and resumed their former careers, while the women who had been driving the engine of industry returned to the kitchen sink. Gradually a collective sense of amnesia set in, until the important role of played by woman in wartime was all but forgotten.

This was reflected in the pages of Wonder Woman, and from the late 1940s until the ’60s, Princess Diana’s stories became increasingly lacklustre. (This was not helped by the advent of the Comics Code Authority (CCA), a self-regulatory body formed in the 1950s as a response to public concern over the link between “objectionable” comic book content and juvenile delinquency.) A post-war sexism had set in, and by the ‘60s the once proud female scourge of countless villains and Nazis could be found power-less (having surrendered her powers in order to remain in ‘Man’s World’) and running a clothing boutique.

At this point in time, the Woman’s liberation movement was gaining momentum. Feminists like Gloria Steinham, angry at the lack of female heroes and incensed at Wonder Woman’s enfeebled state, insisted that the character be returned to her former glory as “a symbol of female power”. Terrified at the prospect of further attacks by Steinham and co, DC comics capitulated and even threw in a black female sidekick called Nubia. Score two for equality!

Next in the evolution of Wonder Woman was her incarnation on the ‘new media’ of the 1970s – television. The live action Wonder Woman (played by the beautiful Lynda Carter) was genuinely groundbreaking – to have a female lead on a TV show in the ’70s was unheard of (and sadly remains a difficult sell for network execs to this day), and it opened the door for a host of female-led shows like The Bionic Woman and Charlie’s Angels.

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The most compelling message of Wonder Woman, the television series was clear and impactful: woman can be, and often are, heroic too. This live-action portrayal of a powerful, intelligent and fearsome female warrior provided inspiration to a generation of girls growing up in the 1970s. In Flanagan’s film, the testimonial given by Linda Carter about grown up Wonder Woman fans telling her how much the show inspired them to succeed as woman in male-dominated professions – as astronauts, NASA scientists etc – is heartwarming.

Still, amid all the empowering talk one depressing fact surfaces. Buffy and Wonder Woman, Ripley, Captain Janeway and Agent Dana Scully are all female heroines created by men.

Why are there so few female-created superheroines? One answer could lie in good old-fashioned gender imbalance; since the vast majority (97%, according to the recent statistics from Women’s Media Centre in America) of decision-making media positions are held by men, the roles and input of woman are limited.

Women still live in a world bombarded with over-sexualised versions of femininity, a world where they still earn less than their male counterparts and have less decision-making power over how they are portrayed in the media. And in this depressing context, Flanagan’s film is essential viewing.

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8 Greatest LGBT TV Characters

There was a time, gentle reader, when LGBT representation on TV was restricted to offensive stereotypes: the campy sex-pest, the angry lesbian, the greedy bisexual etc.

 

Thankfully things have move on a bit and now there’s a wealth of well-rounded queer characters out there in TV land to love (and loathe).

So, I’ve selected some of the best ones appearing on TV screens over the past 2 decades.

Omar Little, The Wire

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“It’s all in the game, yo..”

Without a doubt one of the stand-out characters in a stand-out show. Fierce and fearsome Omar (played by Michael K Williams) is a Robin Hood-esque stick-up man who relieves Baltimore’s drug dealers of their wares.

But Omar has morals; he may steal dealers’ money, but he doesn’t sell drugs, instead using them to bribe the city’s many crack addicts into providing him with safe-houses.

When the corner thugs hear Omar approaching, whistling his trademark tune ‘Bringing in the Sheaves’, they either hand over their drugs or sprint for cover. It’s clear to the audience before he appears on screen that Omar is not to be trifled with.

He is also openly, unapologetically gay. This irks his enemies no end (foremost amongst them gang honcho Avon Barksdale, who solely refers to him as “The Faggot”).

The torture and murder of his boyfriend Brandon at the hands of Avon is what motives him to exclusively target the Barksdale gang, and provides much of the drama during the show’s first series. Omar takes on the most powerful drug gang in West Baltimore, and effectively wins – all as revenge for his murdered lover.

The reason for Omar’s brilliance lies in the fact that he seems entirely comfortable with himself, despite constant abuse and widespread disdain because of his sexuality. But at no point does he seem conflicted or burdened by others’ opinions of him.

The contrast between Omar’s macho, masculine ‘career’ and his moralistic nature (he never swears, is kind to animals and never attacks those who aren’t in “the game” ) add layers to this multifaceted character.

Omar is the tender and the terrible in one scarred package, and possibly one of the best queer characters of all time. Even President Obama loves him, citing Omar as his favourite character on the show.

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Film, TV

Celebrity Big Brother Launch Highlights

It seems as if every season of Celebrity Big Brother kicks off with the audience saying ‘Wasn’t this just on?’

 

Well, ‘yes, sort of’ is the answer to that: the last Celeb season wrapped up in January with toothsome geordie Scotty T crowned winner, and the normal people (I use this phrase loosely) Big Bro wrapped just 2 days ago, which seems like hardly enough time to de-scumify the house after a dozen party-loving, chore-hating reprobates living there for 8 weeks.

Anyway, on to the show, in which eternally elegant Emma Willis wheels out a collection of semi-recognisable rejects from Geordie Shore, Ex on the Beach, porn, youtube, the ’80s and er, Storage Hunters.

First in was eternally upbeat panto Dame and bona fide reality TV veteran, Christopher Biggens. Biggens has done it all: Panto, Porridge, more Panto, and I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here.

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“A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man”

Most Likely To Say: Some obscure Bette Davis quote
Least Likely To Say: “The level of intellectual discourse in this house is stimulating” followed immediately by “OH, NO IT ISN’T!”

Next in was the obligatory Loose Woman, Saira Khan, who is a bit of an Annie McNoFace to be honest.

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Sair-a later, snoozezilla

These Loose ladies always make the mistake of trying to interview everyone constantly, but most CBB contestants have the emotional range of a basketball and so do not make good interview fodder. Anyway, she was in The Apprentice, describes herself as “gobby” and immediately got Arianna Grande’s name wrong so I sort of like her a bit.

Most Likely To Say: “Let’s have an in-depth chat about Brexit ?”
Least Likely To Say: “I just want to sit in a state of silent contemplation now”

Next in, Frankie Grande ‘Youtuber’ (yes, this is a valid career now apparently) and brother of infamous donut-licker, Arianna Grande, who EXPLODED on to the stage in a cloud of glitter and fierce posing.

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Literally, he moves around too much to get a good screen shot

I want to be snarky, but his entrance was so ebullient that it was fabulous. High energy housemates are annoying to live with and this makes them TV gold. PLUS as an American (who has already appeared in the US BB) he is more aware of the game-playing needed to win.

Most Likely To Say: “Sissy that walk! Purse first!” before cartwheeling around the house
Least Likely to Say: “No thanks, I have enough glitter on already.”

Next in was Ricky Norwood, aka Fat Boy from EastEnders, who was booted from the show after being caught doing something sexy while smoking a spliff on Skype (I don’t want to Google the exact details, thanks).

Big Brother’s Bit on the Side aficionados will recognise frequent panelist Ricky, as he is a legit BB super fan who’s been angling for a spot on the show FOREVER. This could work against him though: the more familiar a contestant is with the show, the more likely they are to be undone by hubris. Yeah, I said it. Remember John Partridge?

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Fat Boy: a potential winner

Most Likely To Say: “I’m just here for the experience”
Least Likely To Say: “Add me on Skype”

Next, another total blank: Renee Graziano, who apparently appears in a show called Mob Wives.

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Look at this ass!

If I remember my Sopranos correctly, the mob operate under a similar system to Fight Club, with rule number one (apart from ‘snitches get stitches sleep with fishes’) being never, ever admit to the existence of the mafia.

So why hasn’t anyone put a hit out on her and her gravity-defying derriere?

Most Likely To Say: “Pass the gabagool”
Least Likely To Say: ‘No’, to more ass implants.

Next in was generic Geordie Shorer Marnie Simpson. Blah.

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Oh, a finger in the mouth! How sexy.

She’s a bisexual, she “speaks her mind” (like, haven’t they realised yet that the people who keep their mouth shut last the longest?) and has the “best looking vagina in Britain”. She was surprisingly modest outside of the VT though, so maybe she won’t be so terrible?

Most Likely To Say: “Does my vagina look big in this?”
Least Likely To Say: “No, thanks – I’ve had enough to drink.”

Next in was this season’s obligatory troll, DJ James Whale (sample quote: “men and woman can never be equal.”)

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Literally, a dick-head

Is only in the house because first-choice Nigel Farage (Whale’s bestie) wanted a whopping £750,000 to appear. That’s five times more than Biggens, this year’s highest-paid star (£150,000).

Most Likely To Say: “I’m not racist/sexist/homophobic BUT…”
Least Likely To Say: “Three cheers for intersectionality!”

Next in was Aubrey O’Day, who you might remember from such things as 2004’s Making the Band (she ended up in P Diddy-managed girl band Dannity Kane).

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This is where a degree in Political Science gets you. Don’t stay in school, kids

She has a degree in political science (!), she’s 32 (“so I get Botox”) and hates Donald Trump, so I guess she’s not all bad? American housemates are always the best, and they usually stick together so let’s hope for a Grande-O’Day-Mafia wife alliance!

Most Likely To Say: “One more procedure and I qualify for a free nose job!”
Least Likely To Say: “I recognise almost everyone in this house.”

Next in was visibly coked-up energetic Ex On the Beach bum, Steve Bear.

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*ape-like snort*

In his VT he was confident and flirty, but when he came out on stage he was so PUMPED UP that he looked like he might throw Emma over his shoulder and climb to the top of the house while fighting off by-planes. And he said he thinks the earth is flat (seriously), all while wearing sunglasses at night. Terrible.

Most likely To Say: “Seriously, the earth is flat. Seriously.”
Least Likely To Say: “Sunglass at night make me look like a twat, right?”

Next in was ex-X Factorer Katie Waissal. Remember? She was the one who was always forgetting her words and breaking down on stage? Her granny was a prostitute who accused her of ruining her career by drawing too much attention to the family? Anyway, she came across as nervous which is always a bit endearing.

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She doesn’t want to talk about nana’s knocking shop, thanks

Most Likely To Say: “I don’t want to talk about the X Factor…”
Least Likely To Say: “Check out my nana’s sexy PoF pics”

Next in was Lewis Bloor, another chiselled but rather generic TOWIE-r. Yes, he’s handsome and he likes the ladies, but so does literally everyone else on these shows.

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Ain’t I ‘andsome, though?

What else is there to say? Apart from the fact that he went into the house in Patrick Bateman cosplay, which I guess is sort of unique?

Most Likely To Say: “Hand me my filofax”
Least Likely To Say: “No thanks, I’ve seen enough boobs for one night”

Next was Grant Bovey, formerly Mr Anthea Turner. I recognised him because I’m over 30, but I’m betting at least 98% of the other viewers didn’t.

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*caption not found*

The best thing about Grant’s entrance was that, like Darren Day, he went in saying he just wanted to correct “public perception” about him being a love rat, etc, but unlike Darren Day, no-one had a clue who he was, so it was totally pointless. And hilarious.

Most Likely To Say: “I was Anthea Turner’s husband? Remember?”
Least Likely To Say: “I’m the poor-man’s Darren Day.”

This next housemate in was Farrah Abraham-alike Chloe Mafia, who you might remember from her brief stint on X Factor. She was the one who, post-X Factor, made the transition from £160 prostitute to founder of a million-pound webcam business. Good for her.

Next was a guy called Heavy D, who apparently is from Storage Wars. Or Storage Hunters. Something storage-y.

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B(l)oooooom(ing annoying)

Heavy makes his own clothes (and needs to go back to tailoring school since the crotch on his bespoke Ice cream suit was sagging). He’s a “geezer”, the “king of banter” and loves to roar his catchphrase “BOOOOM”.

He sounds like a Tom Hardy character, looks like Jack Black and is very, very loud.

Most Likely To Say: “BOOOOOOOOOOOOM!”
Least Likely To Say: “Give me a pie before I glass you in the boat-race, geezer”

Finally, after what seemed like an unending parade of semi-recognisable faces came a final recognisable face: ’80s siren Samantha Fox, who was no doubt eager to give TV clip-shows a new clip to replace the one of her as a belligerent pissed Dracula on ITV’s short-lived The Club. She seemed nervous, which is always sensible.

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What does the Fox say?

Most Likely To Say: “Touch me! Touch me! I wanna feel your body!”
Least Likely To Say: “Pass me the proscecco and fake Dracula fangs.”

Phew! So many housemates! It’s not a great bunch (and where the hell was Mrs Dog the Bounty Hunter?) but who cares, as long as they fight!

On a semi-serious note: there’s been a real shift in the Celebrity BB vibe since Channel 5 has taken over the franchise.

Whereas once all the contestants were washed-up has-beens desperate for another bite of the fame cherry, enduring the humiliation of BB was a sort of penance necessary for winning back public favour. Appearing in it meant that you had reach your career nadir and knew it.

Now there’s an air of legitimacy to the proceedings: it’s seen as just another reality TV show with no more or less stigma attached to it than to Geordie Shore, Ex on the Beach, TOWIE or the I’m a Celebrity (Just Kidding I Slept With A Footballer) – Get Me Out of Here.

I must admit, this unironic verve does reduce the schaudenfreude somewhat. But it also means that the contestants are seasoned reality TV stars: they know that the public like sexy shenanigans, beaucoup bitching and fights that get so intense viewers start wondering if they should call the cops.

Viva la Big Brother!

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5 Funniest Moments from Orange is the New Black Season 4

The latest season of Orange is the New Black is the best one so far, hands down.

Nuanced, intelligent and utterly captivating, this season focuses less on Piper and her coterie of ladies and focuses more on the grown racial discord among the prisoners.

It also contains a particularly upsetting death rendered all the more tragic by its societal relevance beyond the walls of Litchfield…

But it’s not all heartbreak! So, here are some of the funniest moments from Season 4.

Piper inadvertently becomes the head of a White Power prison gang
The end of Season 3 saw perennial sour-puss Piper heartlessly sacrifice her tattooed Aussie sheila in the name of cementing her rep as number one knicker-sewing king pin (or in prison parlance, the HBIC). But, Bea from Prisoner Cell Block H she ain’t, and no amount of surly Hawaiian muscle can disguise it.

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When she attempts to rally the white ladies in the face of the new Latino prison majority, she inadvertently kick-starts a White Power movement (“White Lives Matter!”) The lack of overt gang affiliations up to this point (Litchfield’s inmates group themselves among racial lines broadly, but no ‘name brand’ gangs are evident) has always seemed kind of a strange omission for a prison drama.

Piper quickly learns that race-hate isn’t an easily-wielded weapon and before long she’s smoking crack and getting branded with a swastika. (Bonus points go Ruiz for pointing out that direction of the swastika is important.)

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“Uhh….”

The look on Piper’s face – imminently punchable in its smugness at the best of times – as the meeting careens away from her is priceless.

Judy King gets King-ky with Yoga Jones and Luschek
I suppose I should’ve seen where it was going when the polyamorous Martha Stewart-ish cookery guru stockpiled a few pills (of Molly, which is what American’s call MDMA, for some reason) ahead of a prison-wide lock-down in episode 11.

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King, who has already made apathetic slacker guard Luschek her unwilling portly paramour, really embraces the lawless vibe. When some serotin-induced reassurance (“For your ages you’re both beautiful women!”) turns to sloppy smooching things get, well, weird. It’s a big ol’ slacker-hippy-polyamorist sandwich.

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“okaaayyy…”

“Two Beards, Actually….”
This season’s hard-assed captain of the prison guards is man-mountain and Zangief from Street Fighter look-alike, Piscatella. And he’s as gay as he is a harsh disciplinarian, outing himself to Piper in the most hilarious way possible after she flirtily compliments his beard. “I’ve had a beard since tenth grade. Two beards, actually. The one on my face, and the one I took to junior prom,” he tells a sort-of shocked Piper.

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“Yeah, I like dudes.” And just so she gets the message: “I will never find you adorable. Keep that in mind.”

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(Also: his put-down game is on point, like when he asks Luschek how he ended up working in a prison when he “so clearly belongs in a Game Stop”. Classic!)

Sister Ingalls punches Mendoza
Sister Ingalls (star of one of my favourite sight gags of last season when the viewers are shown a copy of her autobiography titled: Nun Shall Pass) is desperate to check in on poor, forgotten Sophia in the SHU. When a distraught Ingalls tells Mendoza that, as a peaceful activist, she has no idea how to get thrown into lock-up, Mendoza urges her to think of the greater good.

So, she punches a stunned, but impressed, Mendoza in the face before uttering a hilarious, though less-than convincing, parting shot: “And I’d do it again…Latino!”

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Palestine VS Israel
Recent convert to Judaism Black Cindy is less than thrilled to be paired with Muslim Alison Abdullah (whom she calls ‘Scarfy’) in episode 2. Soon, a squabble over whether Abdullah can leave her prison issue Crocs on the floor of the dorm prompts Litchfield’s very own odd-couple to engage in one of the funniest exchanges of the series.

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“…Unless the ‘V’ is like a five or something.”

When Cindy (who took the name Tova after converting to Judaism at the end of the last season) tells Alison “Oh, you and Tova got beef now,” Alison responds: “First of all your name ain’t Tova…black people been naming their kids some crazy shit, but Tova ain’t on the list.

“Unless the ‘V’ is like a five or something.”

Happily, all’s well that ends well between Abdullah and Tova and the pair eventually bond over their shared dislike of Scientology. Go figure.

Seasons 1-4 of Orange is the New Black are available on NetflixThis piece first appeared on The Outmost

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Preacher: Top 5 Moments

Preacher debuted in fine style on AMC this Sunday night and since by now the whole world’s had a chance to stream it, here’s 5 of my favourite (and one least favourite) aspects.

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When our titular Preacher, Jesse Custer, tells a needy, mother-obsessed parishioner to ‘Be brave, tell her the truth and open your heart’ to his overbearing mother, anyone familiar with the comic series knew immediately what the outcome of this command was going to be.

The Word (as Jesse’s mysterious power is referred to in the comic series) causes those who hear it to follow its commands in a literal sense. Tell someone to go fuck themselves and the next thing they’re performing a phallectomy and inserting in like a suppository (spoiler alert. Maybe. If it follows the source material!) So when Mr Needy performs manual open heart surgery it’s especially satisfying.

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Perennially optimist Eugene Root, aka Arseface (or in his words, ‘Uhfuh)’, was always going to be a tough one. In the comics, Eugene is a bullied, Nirvana-loving loser, who attempts to copycat Kurt Cobain’s suicide by shooting himself in the face with a shotgun. He survives but is left hideously disfigured by the event.

This origin story will obviously have to be update for this modern retelling, but so far suh gud. Actor Ian Colletti accurately conveys Arseface’s vulnerability and endearing optimism. He is given his unfortunate, though fitting, moniker by Cassidy.

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I prefer TV Tulip to comic Tulip. There I said it. I never felt that Tulip’s alleged ass-kickery ever really came across in the comic; she was only ass-kicking until she hooks up with Jesse and then becomes a shambolic wreck.

TV Tulip channels her dismay and bitterness at her failed relationship with Jesse into becoming a one-woman, moonshine-powered, bazooka-rigging A Team. Also, Ruth Negga’s performance was great. Her Tulip is self contained and a more than a little crazy. Ass kickery incarnate!

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Jesse is very black and white, both literally and figuratively. Thus, a wife-beater who threatens his own child while dressed as Confederate general must be pummelled unmercifully before having his arm snapped. No Hail Marys required.

The beating itself was all thick, quick punches and jagged camera angles. The scene was cartoonish in its simplicity but Jesse is NOT one for nuance. There’s a reason John Wayne is his idol, after all.

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Lots of it here: The booze bottles all carry a logo which bears an uncanny similarity to the Saint of Killers; a reoccurring flashback appears to include Jesse’s dad as a preacher – this is quite a divergence from the source material; we catch a glimpse of Quincannon Meat and Power, run by Odin Quincannon (to be played by Jackie Earle Haley!), reportedly season one’s ‘big bad’. When will we get to see Ms Oatlash, and more importantly, the meat locker?

However, there was one thing that was notably not awesome…

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Accents
Let’s talk about accents for a moment, shall we? Dominic Cooper is no Andrew Lincoln in the ‘convincing accent’ department. No amount of quiet talking can disguise his inconsistencies. Let’s hope he gets better with practice, but he probably won’t and since Americans never seem to notice these things, it’s unlikely to matter.

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And while we’re on the subject, Cassidy’s accent is downright bizarre. Whereabouts in Ireland is he supposed to be from exactly? I’ve never heard an accent like his outside of ‘Travellers and Tiaras’ and I’ve lived here FOREVER. Still, Joe Gilgun is a fantastic actor capable of perfectly balancing pathos and psychosis so perhaps that will help take the edge of that awful Oirish accent, boyo.

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Celebrity Big Brother: Day 2 Recap

Tonight’s show kicked off with one of the really exciting warnings: ‘Be prepared for offensive language and uncomfortable scenes involving adult and sexual themes.’

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“Uncomfortable scenes” involving sex? Are they all gonna have an orgy while reading mean Tweets about themselves or something? Let’s find out!

The first part of last night’s recap was a mostly dull affair, despite the sexy warning at the start. Groggy, gravel-voiced and looking like raccoons, the housemates awoke to their first morning in the CBB gaff.

Scotty T got up and, being working class in possession of a twenty-something’s metabolism, immediately set to making a fried breakfast.

Elsewhere, Winston began his nebulous political ranting to a visibly bored Gemma. Needless to say “Indiginous”, “a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work” and other suspiciously BNP-sounding phrases abound.

Meanwhile Danniella, Daz and J Part are still stuck in wood-panelled room, eating gruel and swapping LA drug stories. In order to release them, the other housemates are tasked with lining themselves up, from most to least annoying person. Uh oh.

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This is usually where things kick off, but this time it backfired. The three most annoying housemates’ – Scotty, Jeremy and Stephanie – don’t care if people find them annoying; they’ve literally built their careers on it (well, the dudes have. Steph’s just doing her time ’til her penance is over)!

So Geordie, Holly of Oaks and Britain’s Next Top Tattoo Removal Candidate were given a basket of keys and told that finding the relevant ones would unlock the garden (smoking), the kitchen (booze), the bathroom (y’know) and win freedom from the gruel-munchers in the wooden room.

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Elsewhere Tiffany (HBIC) and Jonathan (who sort of reminds me of Moon face from the Faraway Tree books) stage the first US huddle of the season. When the Americans start huddling and whispering, it means there’s some hair-pulling (literal or figurative) on the horizon. Hold on to your weave folks.

While discussing whether or not they had criticised Angie for talking too much, New York tells Jonathan: “No, I would never say that,” before adjusting an enormous eyelash and adding “..not at this stage of the game. It’s too early to start bugging off. Not yet….”.

Say what you like about Americans, but they get how to play the Big Brother game.

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“When the eyelash glue gets left off the shopping list, that’s when you’ll see me ‘pop off'”

Back in the bedroom, more tantalising but frustratingly vague hints about the details of Danniella and Christopher’s fight began to surface. It involved a relapse, a panto gig and a man. Stay tuned for more details.

Time for a spanner in the works. Geordie T, Hollyoaks and Tattoo neck are called to the diary room and told that because nothing else is happening they won the task, they will be solely responsible for deciding who goes up for eviction. Drama!

Social niceties usually compel the celebs to look stricken over having to make such a decision. “I can’t! Everyone is so nice!” etc, until they inevitably choose the person who snores the loudest.

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Stephanie putting those acting lessons to good use

Not this time though; it took the Tatt Man all of 5 seconds to nominate Nancy Dell’Olio, branding her “intimidating”. Her phenomenal intelligence (she’s a lawyer who speaks 4 languages!) and metres of smooth, unillustrated skin was obviously too much for him to handle.

Hollyoak and Geordie T at least tried to seem conflicted about it. Scotty cited Winston’s greedy behaviour at meal times (not his right-wing political views or rampant homophobia) as a “pet hate.”

Putting her high-quality acting skills to work, Stephanie screwed up her little face and picked Kristina, ostensibly for giving out to her for making noise, but really, for being over 30. “A proper adult,” Steph called her euphemistically, which is twenty-something code for ‘positively geriatric’.

The reason for the “uncomfortable” warning at the beginning became all-too clear after the housemates got access to alcohol.

When it became clear that the newly-returned housemates (including openly gay John Patridge remember) would be needing somewhere to sleep, a drunken Winston repeatedly slurred that he would sleep on the floor before sharing a bed with a man.

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“It’s against by immigrant-hating, UKIP-loving principals!”

“It’s against my principles!” Nancy refused to engage with such foolishness and dismissed him with a wave of beautifully manicured hand.

A psychologist might link this event with what followed later in the bedroom, where Winston became more handsy than a sex-offending octopus on shore leave.

There was a toe-curlingly embarrassing exchange with Tiffany NY wherein he drunkenly begged her to get under the covers with him. “I’ve been waiting for this moment,” he slurred, “and I’ve waited patiently..”

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When she declined on the grounds that she wasn’t wearing any underwear (!) he became even more sleazy, forcing feminist icon and defender of womanly virtue Gemma Collins to interject.

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You shall not pass, babez

That earlier warning was no lie: it was intensely uncomfortable viewing.

In other news, Angie called Jonathan an “obnoxious American.” Seriously, Angie? A self-hating ‘Merican is the worst kind. If she starts trying to put on a Lancashire accent like Austin Armacot, I’m outta here.

Not shown in last night’s episode was Kristina Rihanoff’s (the Siberian Snooze Siren) revelation that she’s pregnant with Ben Cohen’s baby. Was the babushka announcement a bit of cynical sympathy soliciting on the nominated Siren’s part?

Who will go in tonight’s eviction? Paddy Power has Winston at 1/10 odds on to go and by golly I hope they’re right!

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TV

Celebrity Big Brother 2016: The Launch

I know what you are thinking, gentle reader: “Wasn’t Celebrity Big Brother just on a couple of months ago?” Or maybe “Is that programme even still on?!” The answer to both rather rhetorical questions is an emphatic ‘yes’.

The last season of Celebrity Big Brother (UK) wrapped up in September just four short months ago, and it was a stone-cold cracker of a series. It had everything: romance, revelations and rabid reality ‘stars’ – the stuff TV gold and alliteration-loving tabloids are made of!

So, on to this year’s “Celebrities” (a more appropriate title might be ‘Celebrity-Adjacent Big Brother’), the usual mix of half-remembered has-beens, jaded reality TV journeymen, and barely recognisable twenty-somethings desperately trying to parlay that one-episode arc on Britain’s Next Top Syphilis Patient into a meaningful stint on Celebrity Big Brother. Good luck with that!

Anyway, last night’s launch was what viewers have come to expect from CBB; a brief VT of the celebrity explaining who the are (delightful irony), then saying something mildly controversial, then being rushed up the stairs before the baying crowd.

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First in was Gemma Collins, a former TOWIE (The Only Way is Essex) cast member renowned for her feisty ways and love of kebabs (probably). She burst into the gaff like an enormous blond Hagrid while the voiceover man reveal that she had spent over £2,000 on “intimate surgery”. You go, sassy snatch surgery enthusiast!

Do Say: “What an elegant camel toe you’re sporting”
Don’t Say: “It’s Levi-osa, not Lev-i-osa”

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Next to arrive was ex-Eastender, John Patridge, who burst out like a cross between David Walliams and James Bond. Despite his casual sexism and regrettable tooth-to-gum ratio, I’m interested to see how he acts.

Do Say: “You’d make a good Bond..”
Don’t Say: “..if you sorted those Panto villain eyebrows out”

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Another ex-Eastender, this time Daniella Westbrook, was next out looking like a negative image Betty Boop. “I’m best known for playing Sam Mitchell in Eastenders,” she said, before vaguely adding, “but I’m also known for causing quite a lot of chaos in the papers.”

This makes it sound like she took a piss in a wastepaper bin at The Guardian’s Xmas party. In actuality, Daniella is best know for LITERALLY having snorting (part of) her face off. Some reconstructive rhinoplasty and  a bit of rehab later and she’s ready to battle for the public’s affections

Do Say: “I like your barnet fair”
Don’t Say: “Fancy some Boutrous Boutrous Gali?”

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Next in was Christopher Maloney, formerly of X Factor and also Daniella Westbrook’s inner circle. Until he sold a story to the papers, apparently (oooo!). You may remember him for his hilarious and humiliating Andy Bernard-eque breakdown on the X Factor stage in 2012. Or any of his epic crying on-camera crying sessions, really. Was chased into the house by a crowdchanting either”crier” or “who are ya?”

Do Say: “Your nan would be proud.”
Don’t Say: “Your nan says lay off the Lidl brand Orang-U-Tan.”

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Next in was THE BEST REALITY TV STAR OF ALL TIME. That’s no hyperbole folks; Tiffany ‘New York’ Pollard was a contestant on MTV “dating” show The Flavor of Love with Flava Flav and was so outrageous she earned her own reality show, ‘I Love New York’ (which inadvertently spawned another show called I Love Money, but that’s another story). She’s hilarious, she sassy and she will snatch a bitch’s wig off without a second thought. Y’all’s on notice: HBIC (Head Bitch In Charge) is back.

Do Say: “What was Flav really like?”
Don’t Say: “What was gonorrhoea really like?”

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Nineties love rat/ third-rate Cliff Richard impersonator Darren Day was next in. Despite a laughably affected Ray Winstone-esque growl, this Darren seems less annoying than the one who was in Joseph (and Anna Friel). Without all the Nuts magazine carry on, he could be a surprisingly popular housemate.

Do Say: “You seem hard – look at all those tattoos!”
Don’t Say: “Did they let you keep the Technicolour dream coat?”

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The next housemate was a generic reality type (from the utterly pointless Ex On The Beach), Megan McKenna, complete with Twitter feud (with Ellie Goulding) and utter lack of self awareness. Sweary and skanky – I’m already bored.

Do Say: Something about her tan.
Don’t Say: “Ellie Goulding has more Twitter followers than you”

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And on to our first blatantly despicable housemate: former boxer, one-time UKIP (I know) candidate and out-and-proud homophobe Winston McKenzie (continuing the Eastenders theme by channelling Patrick Truman). Said he would cope with the presence of a “homosexual” in the house by “standing against a brick wall all of the time.” Rightly booed.

Do Say: “I love the work of the Westboro Baptist Church, don’t you?”
Don’t Say: “You look like Carlton from The Fresh Prince of Bell Air‘s grandfather.”

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Next in was David Gest, a man as charming as he is ludicrous-looking. Whenever I think of him I am reminded of Elton John’s quip ahead of Gest’s ill-fated marriage to Liza Minelli. When a journalist asked what John would get Minelli as a wedding gift, he replied “A straight husband.”

Do Say: “OMG, you definitely don’t look ridiculous.”
Don’t Say: “Your hair looks like a dandelion that someone blew most of the spores off.”

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Another generic entrant in the form of Scotty T from Geordie Shore. At least, I think he’s from Geordie Shore – his unintelligible chattering made comprehension difficult. Muscles, no talent, and with that incomprehensible accent, distinctly Rab C Nesbitt-ish. I hate him already.

Do Say: “‘Turbo Dick’ is a great nickname!”
Don’t Say: “Do they call you ‘Turbo Dick’ because you’re such a massive bell end?”

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Next in was Russian ballroom dancer/ alleged home-wrecker Kristina Rihanoff from Strictly Come Dancing. It’s clear that she wants to dispel the public perception of her as a “Siberian siren” and to get the exposure so cruelly denied to an affair-having dancer on the BBC’s highest-rated programme.

Do Say: “What’s a Pasodoble?”
Don’t Say: “What’s adultery?”

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Next to arrive was Jonthan Chebon. Never heard of him? Me neither. This is where ‘Celebrity-adjacent Big Brother’ would be a more apt title. He is apparently a BFF of Kim Kardashian. Yay.

Do Say: “Maintaining a friendship with a celebrity is a talent in itself!” 

Don’t Say:”Who.The.Fuck.Are.You?”

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Next came the sole penitent of the series, Stephanie Davis, forced to prostrate herself before the viewing public after being sacked from her cushy Hollyoaks role for being a party-animal. Young, not to annoying, possibly a winner – if she doesn’t party her way into the public’s bad books that is.

Do Say: “Hollyoaks is the spiritual successor to Brookside.”
Don’t Say: “Hollyoaks is the spiritual successor of Crossroads.”

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Fast forward to the next wannabe Jeremy McConnell Cooke, who was a runner up Mr Ireland 2011 (apparently) and also appeared in some “high fashion modelling shows” across the island too. As someone actual from Ireland, I call ‘bullshit’ on that.

Do Say: “Your neck tattoos are sexy.”
Don’t Say: “Your neck tattoos will guarantee you never get a real job.”

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The penultimate housemate was Angie Bowie, who introduced herself as an author…..and also the ex-wife of David Bowie. Oh, you could almost hear the crowd thinking, that’s who/ what she’s done. She seems curmudgeonly, yet cuddly – only time will tell though.

Do Say: “You’re more than just the ex-wife of David Bowie!”
Don’t Say: “Didn’t you also sleep with Mick Jagger?”

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Last to enter was Nancy Dell’Olio, glamorous former lover of ex-England football manager Sven Goran Erikkson. Also, Nancy has the distinction of being the most highly-paid contestant this year (her fee was rumoured to be just under a million!” Further rumours suggest that del Oliveoil might walk before the first scheduled eviction on Friday. If she doesn’t, she might be in for a nasty surprise; Ulrika Johnson is also rumoured to be entering the BB house. Exciting!

Do Say: Anything in one of the four languages she speaks
Don’t Say: “There’s only this Lidl champagne left – hope that’s okay?”

Celebrity Big Brother airs at 9pm week nights on TV3 (Ireland) and Channel 5 (UK). Follow my live tweets here!

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