Saturday, 8 May 2010

Animals in the Zoo

If you have a problem, and no-one else can help, you have two choices: call the A-Team (if you can find them) or fire off a letter to an Agony Aunt.

For decades, people have been writing to Miriam Stoppard, Denise Roberts and Deidre Sanders for advice in matters of the heart. Most of the time, these matronly know-it-alls trot out the same unimaginative platitudes - try sexy lingerie, don't have threesomes and here's the number for Relate.

That's fine for 'Unhappily married in Middlesborough', but don't young men also deserve access to the same kind of high quality, empathetic guidance?

Possibly, but something tells me that, when they asked Danny Dyer to act as an Agony Uncle in his regular column, Zoo Magazine weren't taking the whole thing too seriously. For a start, the only advice Danny Dyer would be able to offer is how to spin an irritating one-note persona into a sustained acting career.

But clearly there are some people out there who can't conceive of any kind of support system that isn't delivered by the least believable cockney since Dick Van Dyke assembled a chimney brush. So they write to Danny for advice, knowing that he'll address the subject with tact and sensitivity.

Alex from Manchester was one such reader, and wanted to know how to get over a recent split from his ex-girlfriend. Danny's advice was "I'd suggest going out on a rampage with the boys, getting on the booze and smashing anything that moves. Then, when some bird falls for you, you can turn the tables and break her heart. Of course, the other option is to cut your ex's face, and then no one will want her."

It's possible that, inspired by Neil LaBute's seminal expose of modern day misogyny 'In The Company of Men', Danny was aiming for a satirical critique of gender roles and the psychological devastation caused by a difficult break-up. Or maybe he just thought cutting a bird's face was funny.

Of course, everyone's in a rush to blame somebody else. Since Danny didn't technically write the column, he's saying that it was dictated and he was misquoted. Meanwhile, the magazine's blaming it on a 'regrettable production error'. But someone, somewhere thought it was funny, and the editor happily approved it.

Perhaps we shouldn't be so surprised that a magazine which runs a regular feature called "The Week In Boobs", and once offered readers the chance to win an all-expenses paid divorce, so that they could "unleash themselves back to bachelorhood", has an ugly view of women. Dyer's comment might have been more explicitly upsetting, but there's a good reason why no-one on the editorial team spotted the potential for controversy.

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