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The 'Daddy' of the Metrosexual, the Retrosexual, & spawner of the Spornosexual

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Love Island – ITV’s Primetime Spornotopia

Mark Simpson on this Summer’s smash-hit dating show : ‘a comedy of compulsory heterosexuality’.

(Telegraph Men, 18 July, 2017)

Utopian fantasies have long gripped the human imagination. Famous, brainy – but sadly, not very buff – thinkers such as Plato (in the 4th Century BC), Thomas Moore (in the 16th AD) and HG Wells (in the 20th), sketched out what an ideal society might look like. But their philosophical visions were never realised.

It wasn’t until the early 21st Century that someone finally had the brilliant idea of ditching ethics for aesthetics, taking a sun-drenched island, covering it in decking, astroturf, pools, lip gloss, and steel-reinforced, musical double beds. And then adding cameras. Lots and lots of cameras, to catch all the love-hate action between the goodly, beauteous creatures that inhabit this brave new world. And who mostly speak with an Essex accent.

I coined the phrase ‘spornosexual‘ to finger second-generation, body-centred, ‘hardcore’ metrosexuals – those buffed-up, barely-dressed young men kindly sharing their porny selfies on social media. Now ITV2 has given them a dream home – Spornotopia. Otherwise known as Love Island.

Love Island is the ratings hit of the summer; a socio-cultural phenomenon. It’s essentially a very expensive porn set, where babelicious women sit on beanbags discussing the size of their own silicone beanbags – while young spornosexual men and their shaped eyebrows labour in the outdoor gym to inflate their meat beanbags. And in the evening, everyone ‘recouples’. All sponsored by Superdrug.

I’ve seen the future, and it works out. And waxes. It also shags a lot – but perhaps that’s because the porntastic islanders are not allowed access to porn. In an exquisitely horny paradox, Love Island is a world based on porn in which porn doesn’t exist. Save the really exploitative, emotional variety.

Hence we don’t see any action – just c**k-blocking duvets. This is primetime, so phallic ice lollies and single entendre games with sausages have to do a lot of symbolic work.

Then again, maybe instead of bumping uglies, really bad acting by really beautiful people is what porn is.

In this perfect society – or society of perfection – everyone is a glamour model. But the men are more glamorous than the girls. They and their auto-airbrushed bodies are the tarty stars of the show (as the pectastic Love Island ident advertises).  They are, as they never stop telling us, ‘the total package’. However, this can lead to problems in paradise – where everyone’s true love is their own reflection, and ITV2 is their selfie stick.

“The boys are more vain than the gels,” one of the young women [Chloe Crowhurst, 22, Essex] complains. “They come in the dressing room, take up all the mirrors, all the hairdryers and straighteners. They shave and wax everything, including their arms and fingers! Even I don’t do that! Kem spends 40 mins a day just blow drying ‘is ‘air!”

Kem Cetinay, 21, Essex, is a powerful figure on the island and a seminal figure for our time: not just because he’s pretty and buff and funny, but because he’s a hair stylist. He keeps the lads’ sharp cuts sharp, and they love him for it: “The fact that Ken is a barber makes my life a dream,” confessed Dom Lever, 26 – who himself gave the lads manicures.

“We’ll do anything to look good. We’re not embarrassed about that,” says Kem.

Though some of the women try to make them. Hence the protests when Alex Beattie, 22, a buff, already absurdly attractive Geordie, receives a beauty treatment from Kem and his best friend andprettiness peer in the villa, Chris Hughes, 24: “They’re literally grooming him!” “It’s like a cult! That we’re not involved in!”

Eventually, as Alex is having his toenails painted, the girls stage an intervention, bursting in on the scene and screaming: ‘What the f*** is going on!!’. But Alex doesn’t want to be rescued, and is more interested in admiring his fetching new toes. The girls retreat in confusion: “We came on Love Island to find MEN! What have we done??”

Love Island is probably the gayest and certainly the campest show on telly. Something only compounded by the fact that no one on Love Island is actually, or at least officially, gay. It’s a comedy of compulsory heterosexuality – if you don’t couple up, you get kicked off. Much like life. And it hardly needs me to say this – because the knowing, fabulously catty narration by Scottish comedian Iain Stirling perfectly articulates all the on-screen camping around.

Gone is the formal objectivity of Big Brother’s date stamp in a Sunderland accent. Love Island’s voiceover archly pokes fun at the promiscuous fidelity of the contestants, their hair-flicking contests, and professions of undying (self) love. And even at the concept of the show itself.

“As we all know, this is love Island, not Friend Island” explains Stirling. “But there is one very important loophole. The bromance. And Kem and Chris are exploiting it to within an inch of its life.” The dreamers! Kem: “If we end up not coupling up you reckon they’ll let you and me couple up?” Chris: “I hope so. I wouldn’t mind coupling up with you.” Kem: “I’d share a bed with you.” Chris: “All day and every day.”

Cue a montage of them spooning and showering together and Kem cutting Chris’ hair – which is the real sex on Love Island. Chris, who apparently has the largest penis on the Island, reassures Kem, whose penis is apparently smaller: “It’s nice – and when it gets going it really gets going. Are we showering again this evening?” They even try to clipper each other’s initials into their pubes.

Compared to the Darwinian official heterosexuality of the show, bromance can seem sweetly spontaneous and loving. Even if it may be, as Stirling suggests, simply another ploy.

Either way, it’s indicative of how many straight young men are impressively unafraid of appearing ‘gay’ these days – only 50 years after male homosexuality was decriminalised. All the fears of those who opposed the law change seem to have come true. Beautifully.

And if Kem really is in love with Chris, it’s only to be expected in Spornotopia. “Every single person in this house fancies me,” sighs an exhausted Chris to himself/us at one point. He’s not bragging or exaggerating.

How I Fluffed Big Brother And My Chance to be REALLY FAMOUS

That shameless hussy show Big Brother will soon be spread-eagled across our screens again. The puddle-deep fame factory and test-tube celembryo hatchery starts it’s Summer-long domination of the TV schedules next week.

I have no intention of watching it – like most, I had my BB fling years ago and wish it would stop trying to woo me back. But I do have a slight curiosity about who the contestants are this year.  Why? Because they might have been my housemates this Summer. They might have been people I was arguing with over crumbs in the margarine, bitching with about other housemates, or pretending to have sex with under a duvet.

If only I wasn’t so precious. Or was a bit more of a masochist.

Late last year I received an email via this blog from Endemol, the makers of BB, trying to persuade me to ‘audition’ for BB 9.

I inititally dismissed it out of hand, of course.  But then I actually thought about it for a while – if only because I was trying to make sense of it.  Why me?  Am I so obviously mad and desperate and unknown?

I quickly stopped asking myself those questions… and began to think practical instead. Yes, the whole notion of appearing on BB filled me with horror and terror, but perhaps I was just being snobbish, and cutting off my own snooty nose to spite my face.

Was there any way, for instance, that I could make something nice and vulgar like money out of it?

But then I realised that the only way you make money out of BB, aside from winning – which, along with surviving more than a couple of weeks would be completely out of the question for Nasty Mark – is through tabloid interviews and provincial club appearances.

Somehow, I don’t think tabloid readers or clubgoers anywhere are going to get very excited over me.

I very briefly thought about the ‘inside the belly of the beast’ pop-cultural angle, but realised that the so-called serious press wouldn’t really be interested in that either. They’d just want wordy, hypocritical pieces about the girl with the big knockers who kept fellating bottles.

Besides, imagine agreeing to a BB audition and being rejected?

So I replied to Endemol:

‘Whilst it’s always nice to be asked, I think I’ll have to turn down your offer because:

a) I don’t do telly for free (terribly old-fashioned, I know, but that’s me)

b) Although I do have prison fantasies, they don’t usually involve Davina McCall’

‘Metrosexual Knobs’ – Can They Satisfy?

Poor Mark Latham, the former leader of the Australian Labour Party, isn’t happy with the state of Australian manhood. Like so many things, it isn’t as good or as big or as satisfying as it used to be. In his new book (curiously titled ’A Conga Line of Suckholes’) he laments:

“One of the saddest things I have seen in my lifetime has been the decline in Australian male culture . . . Australian mates and good blokes have been replaced by nervous wrecks, metrosexual knobs and toss bags.”

I’m not sure who the ‘nervous wrecks’ or the ‘toss bags’ he was referring to are, but when he was talking about ‘metrosexual knobs’ – the phrase that has made headlines around the world – perhaps he had in mind Jamie Brooksby, this year’s Australian Big Brother winner, a young, highly groomed fitness trainer who spent much of his time naked in the bathroom showing the world his assets.

If so, Mark Latham is a very hard man to satisfy indeed. Jamie’s metrosexual knob was more substantial than Sydney Harbour Bridge. If Latham isn’t impressed with this metrosexual knob what on earth does an Aussie retrosexual knob look like?

Well…. Mark Latham.

That his remarks have aroused so many column inches in the global press and ‘half-cocked’ discussions about ‘the crisis of masculinity’ can only be down to the rather fond, rather dated fantasy that the rest of the world has about Australia in general and Australian men in particular – that it’s the last frontier of ‘real’ manliness in an enervated Western World. A masculine Eden, full of Crocodile Dundees wrestling their lunch onto the barbie and their Sheilas into bed.

This would also go some way to explaining the ‘outpouring of grief’ (to use the mandatory cliché) over the ’shocking’ death of the outdoor cabaret artist Steve Irwin, whose worldwide popularity seemed to be based in large part on him being sold as the ‘real’ Crocodile Dundee.

That he died was not, I would venture (at the risk of provoking an outpouring of rage), really quite so surprising – his act depended on extreme recklessness. Nonetheless, his death was talked about in astonished, traumatised tones as if it marked the passing away of a certain kind of old-time masculinity rather than just a particular TV personality. It’s as if people couldn’t quite come to terms with how the retrosexual was apparently killed off by Nature herself, with a poison arrow through his heart.

While I’m sure there are plenty of retrosexual Australians left who haven’t been Stingrayed, particularly outside the metropoli, and while I personally can be rather nostalgic about retrosexuals (so long as they don’t look like Latham), Australia long ago made the transition from industrial to service economy, production to consumerism, mining to makeover, and was also the country whose cutting-edge media helped pioneer the process of turning the sporting male body into a commodity – into appetising meat.

Australia is a highly metro country – not least because, like Mark Latham and Steve Irwin – Australia is highly successful at drawing attention to itself. Oz, that scarcely-populated dusty continent in the middle of nowhere has for many years been parading in the bathroom of the global media village with its knob out.

The Australian male is still on the frontier – but it’s now the frontier of consumerism and me-dia. Call me shallow, but if they’re endowed like Brooksby, I doubt many people, apart from whingeing retired male politicos with faces like a smacked Platypus, will seriously complain if they’re more into sack-and-crack waxing than sheep-shearing, ab crunches than Crocodiles.

In a mediated world, metrosexual knobs win over retrosexual knobs.  Hand(s) over fist.

(Thanks to the website at worst, my best for the ‘grabs’ of Brooksby & Topak  for finding them)

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