Monday, 21 September 2009

Daily Heil does it again

If the newspapers are to believed (and God help us if they are) the biggest story currently gripping the nation is the change to the judging line-up on Strictly Come Dancing. Since the original announcement was made, the BBC has been beset with accusations of agism and attempting to fix something that wasn't broke, by replacing Arlene Phillips with series five winner Alesha Dixon.

This weekend the show returned to much fanfare, despite a line-up of celebrities so inauspicious they'd be hard pressed to muster a gig opening a supermarket between them. But all eyes were on new judge Alesha - was she up to the job, or was she just there to look pretty?

It's safe to say that Alesha didn't exactly burn up the screen with incisive commentary or catty put-downs. But she empathised well with the plight of the performers and gave constructive notes where she could. But this was not good enough for some people, with fans taking to the messageboards in their thousands to decry the BBC's decision and demand that the pretty singer be instantly axed.

Smelling the chance to roll around in some mindless cruelty, bitter Australian hack Amanda Platell sharpened her quill, dipped it in blood and wrote yet another staggeringly pointless article for the Daily Mail. As a regular talking head on those dreadful compilation chart shows that clog up the schedules whenever CSI Nantucket isn't on, it's a shame that Amanda misses the irony in condemning Alesha's for 'scaling new heights of inanity' and making 'asinine comments'.

Platell even manages to throw in some ad hominem attacks on Cheryl Cole, star of ITV's rival show X-Factor. Comparing Alesha to Cheryl, Platell concludes that they're both as vacuous as each other and have limited facial impressions, but Cheryl wins the day by having a saccharine sweetness and the ability to turn on the tears. Then again, we can hardly expect a cast-iron bitch like Amanda Platell to understand the nuances of human emotion. And given that her own face is about as warmly expressive as an angry scribble on a sandwich bag, the specifics of her critique seem particularly inappropriate.

But Amanda's not here to make friends, which is probably for the best, given her track record for upsetting people with her hateful columns and ill-concealed prejudices. Rather tellingly, Amanda uses an unfortunate turn-of-phrase in her character assassination of Alesha that indicates just how ugly some of her views are: "...we want a critical, intelligent, well-informed assessment of the performances, not the judging equivalent of being licked by a chocolate labrador."

Debate is currently raging as to whether Platell was making a racist remark in comparing half-Jamaican Alesha to a 'chocolate labrador'. Many people are arguing that it was simply an unfortunate slip of the keyboard, and an entirely innocent remark. However, I can't help but wonder. Kittens, puppies, labradors - all would have made for suitable similies. So why bring the colour of the dog into it? Especially when describing the first person of colour to join what has historically been an all-white judging panel.

Casual racism aside, Platell simply doesn't like Alesha because she's nice. Her article gives the impression that she would only be happy with a format change if it meant that each week's loser was hanged from the studio ceiling with their throat slit. After all, human sacrifices and supernatural pacts are the only logical explanation for how she manages to stay gainfully employed as a writer.

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