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Should we direct our distaste at airhead figures like Roz Flanagan – or the system that creates them?

A profile piece on one of TV3′s “Dublin Housewives” caused quite a stir yesterday. And what a convenient place to direct the mob’s ire; an over-privileged reality TV star rather than our own imbalanced society, writes Lisa McInereny.

Lisa McInerney

SO, LOOK: I agonised over whether there was anything worth mentioning about Barry Egan’s profile of Roz Flanagan (someone who was on a TV3 reality show, in case you’re not up to date on such happs) in yesterday’s Sindo. After all, setting tongues wagging was clearly the desired effect. Even so, it’s doubtful that Egan or Flanagan had the foresight to know exactly what they were doing; it’s worth taking a look in that context.

Egan’s article was a thing of hideous beauty: a profile that read like satire written with luckless sincerity. Egan frothed deliriously over Flanagan’s ability to spend money with a vulgarity that would age a Premiership footballer. References to a “golden age of spending”, the “virtue of not hiding her… luxurious lifestyle” and his subject’s possessing a “sparkle like that of her favourite drinks” ramped the nausea to eleven. Are you ready for everyone’s favourite line?

“People can’t pay their gas bills in Ireland and Roz is talking about spraying €500 bottles of champagne at pool parties in Marbella. There’s really no one like her. She is one in a million,” her VBF Virginia Macari said.

And if you managed to wade through to the end of this sycophantic brainfart, you were rewarded with an anxious reminder not to “stew in spite” that Roz has “more money than us and knows how to spend it”. You couldn’t make it up, but in a world which provides a fecund ecosystem to cultivate the likes of Barry Egan and his desperate model monsters, you don’t have to.

Naturally, the masses reacted with vitriol bounteous and true.

The preemptive publicity strike

In today’s celebrity… uh, “culture”, there’s a trend towards prophesising negative public reactions to paraded selfishness, and attempting to ward it off with a preemptive strike. The Sindo’s rather late to the party on this one; Samantha Brick knows it’s so last year. You gobble up attention with a vulgar stunt, but – you dastardly thing! – you ensure to obstruct the inevitable criticism by dismissing it as mere ‘blue-collar resentment’. Haters gonna hate! (Haters, of course, is a term used to dismiss anyone who doesn’t subscribe to one’s entitlement.)

Who cares if the Irish twittersphere has a collective conniption about Virginia Macari’s quite incredible endorsement? If the average Josephine doesn’t like privileged types applauding each other’s sociopathic booze-fuelled antics, it’s because she’s SPITEFUL.

It might come as a shock to Ireland’s C-list, but people in general have little problem with the moneyed; Hello magazine wouldn’t sell at all if everyone was wound up over Kate Middleton’s audacious shoe collection. Sky wouldn’t use David Beckham’s snazzy, espresso-sipping lifestyle as a way to sell its products if the rest of us didn’t find him a teeny-tiny bit inspirational. The affluent have a right to spend their money – in fact, it’s kind of helpful when they do, for what did Scrooge McDuck ever do for society?

What people react negatively to is ill-mannered fools who think having a few bob is an acceptable substitute for empathy, class and personality. It’s pitiful that Mr. Egan, and Mss. Macari and Flanagan don’t know that, which is why they’ll continue pointlessly spraying champagne around their crumbling towers like jacked-up tomcats, cocooned by their certainty that detractors are only jealous wretches, confused that the class they aspire to belong to wouldn’t accept them in a hundred generations.

The kind of public stooge the angry horde requires

The interesting thing here is how prevalent is this particular brand of “celebrity asshole”. They usually come from reality TV – gaudy clowns who don’t mind sacrificing goodwill and peace for exposure, however negative that may be. Think the case of Jersey and Geordie Shore. Think the fame-hungry husks at the Kardashian household. Think the aforementioned “professional wicked witch” Samantha Brick. These people make money because they’re so deliciously hateable. Think, even, the lovely and loaded Gwyneth Paltrow, whose gaily unfeasible lifestyle advice has been the fingers down the throat of a transatlantic mob.

Even though it’s unlikely that Egan was so cynical as to knowingly tap into that trend, that’s what’s happened. Flanagan – Roz O’Carroll Kelly, if you will – has been painted as a woman deserving of the masses’ contempt, packaged as a guileless Marie Antoinette, sold as a national laxative.

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Funny, really – in loudly rejecting the economic recession, Flanagan’s missed that she’s precisely the kind of public stooge the angry horde requires. And what a healthy place to direct the mob’s ire: an airhead figurehead, instead of the system that created her and penalised the rest of us. No? Perhaps I’m over-thinking it.

On Seamus Heaney’s death, a friend on Facebook posted a tribute which contained the anxious conclusion, “I hope we haven’t lost the last of the saints and scholars.” Given the vacuous non-entities we’re encouraged to waste our energy on these days, I’d say the worst has already happened.

Read more of Lisa McInerney’s columns here >

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Lisa McInerney

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