There are some people who just seem to be such contemptuous shitgibbons that you really do wonder if they were created with the sole intention of discrediting the shit ideas they espouse.
Jamie Oliver is one of those people. Jamie first appeared on our television in the late 90s and was merely one of a host of irritants on our screens at the time. This was the era where producers were starting to notice the potential for what we now call “lifestyle” shows, in which people that the media classes deem to be likeable (the fact that they think these people are likeable is probably as solid proof as you will get that cocaine can seriously impair your judgement) show us round their houses and will us to care about gardening or home improvement or, in Jamie’s case, cooking.
Jamie’s USP was centred around the fact he was a bit of a “lad”. Spikey-haired and bedecked in a linen shirt from the “I went to a festival once, let me tell you all about it” range, Jamie was designed to push cooking shows to what TV executives imagine a “bloke” is. With his Mockney accent, down-to-Earth charm and catchphrase – “pukka tukka” – Jamie was a marketing man’s dream. The Naked Chef was consciously focused less on cooking and more on lifestyle, admittedly the lifestyle it focused on was the lifestyle of a twat, all shite music and bottled European lagers, but this was the 90s. Jamie tapped into the growing “lad culture” of the era, this was cooking for Loaded readers and post-Nick Hornby Arsenal supporters, the culinary equivalent of Soccer AM.
Jamie emerged at the right time. After the ‘80s had seen the destruction of working-class identity the ‘90s was the era when the middle-classes stepped in, like the cultural equivalent of asset-stripping venture capitalists, and surveyed the wreckage for what they could appropriate. The co-emergence of New Labour and nu-footie fans was not a coincidence. Jamie’s TV show aired the same year as Blair’s landslide electoral victory which saw the future war criminal heading a football with Noel Gallagher at the height of Brit Pop, a year later Oliver himself was cooking for the Prime Minister.
So far so despicable. The man’s a Boden-wearing, cheeky-chappy banter lad with a predilection for the most banal music in the world. I think all sensible people can agree that for those crimes alone he should be burnt alive in a wicker man, only unlike Edward Woodward instead of reciting the Lord’s Prayer he would sing Dancing In The Moonlight mournfully as the flames rose to engulf his face.
But unfortunately Jamie’s story is only just beginning, you see like most awful things that the west became aware of in the ‘90s – an economy built on housing and finance, the vengeful return of swaggering masculinity, Al Qaeda – it was in the ‘00s when the full horror of what Jamie Oliver stood for was truly realised.
2005 saw Jamie’s first foray into politics with his crusading television series “Jamie’s School Dinners”. When I call the series political it must be noted this is post-Fukuyama politics, stripped of any sort of belief system or ideology. So in place of any serious political message we got the politics of manufactured outrage and meaningless platitudes. Jamie said “shit” a lot and sneered at the food eaten by poorer children in the nation’s schools, in fact there was so much sneering at times it looked positively Victorian, like watching a duchess experiencing Gin Alley for the first time. Yet the campaign became an enormous success, Jamie returned to number ten, this time not Blair’s chef, but his equal. The pair sat down for a televised interview so staged and insincere that Martin Bashir and the ghost of Princess Diana must have felt moved to a state of nausea by the display. Blair did his best impression of sincerity and asked Jamie in a good approximation of an earnest tone, “what should we do Jamie?”
As I say the whole campaign was a huge success, in the sense it was never about helping children but rather about allowing Jamie to successfully rebrand himself to a market that is both different and the same from the previous. You see the target market of ‘90s lad culture was growing up; the same people that splashed their load over a Jill Halfpenny spread had now done something more productive with their jizz and were tearily telling people, “y’know having a kid really changes your perspective on life”. So seeing an opportunity to flog fucking bread bins or some such shit to reasonably affluent young parents Jamie cynically exploited the fears that everyone has about their children’s welfare to increase his marketing potential to this lucrative demographic.
And cynical is the exact word to use here as Jamie starts his journey from mere bellend to something much darker.
The team behind moulding the image of the Naked Chef were not the only cynical marketing fucks to realise the power of the campaigning celebrity. New Labour were the masters of the image and had from the start appreciated the power of fame, but now instead of merely having some Britpop artists round for a knees up they started actively seeking the opinions of stars. If politics is showbusiness for ugly people then politicians were fed up of being ugly people. The problem was Jamie’s School Dinners was a failure, the cost of providing school meals doubled with no nutritional benefit. But this didn’t matter as the media loves a narrative more than it loves fact and along with Live 8 – another conspicuous failure – the role of people that anyone actually cared about in politics meant that the news could cover serious issues whilst remaining relevant.
This has led to a situation where Alan Sugar was made Business Secretary and Mary Portas is charged with breathing life back into the high street. Opportunistic politicians like the interest that people off the telly bring to their boring campaigns, the celebrities like to feel worthy and important, the news likes to talk about people of their own media class, and us? we don’t fucking matter to these people.
So fast-forward to 2013 and what’s Jamie doing now? What some of us actually expected of him because we saw what Jamie’s School Dinners was really about, ego and snobbery. There were obvious warning signs, that interview with Jonathon Ross where the host chuckled that the people that were pushing food through the bars at school gates were “a bit council house” whilst Jamie and the audience guffawed at a millionaire spitting at the poor.
But now the cat really is out of the bag, and it’s a fucking horrible little moggy to boot. Jamie – worth £150 million pounds – has weighed in on the fate of the poor suggesting that they are all cheesey chips guzzling fatsos.
In an interview with the Radio Times he remarks, “I’m not judgmental but” – a starter that is surely up there with the now cliché ‘I’m not racist, but’ – before going on to say, “I’ve spent a lot of time in poor communities, and I find it quite hard to talk about modern-day poverty.” The ‘poverty doesn’t exist’ trope is well worn by now but is still habitually called upon by the cruel and the heartless to justify their attacks on those at the bottom of society. Warming to his theme he describes a scene he witnessed where “mum and the kid eating chips and cheese out of styrofoam containers, and behind them is a massive TV. It just didn’t weigh up.”
Jamie exhorts people to shop at their local market, ignoring the fact that they may well like to but it’s closed because the supermarkets have put them out of business. The snivelling two-faced twattery of this from a man who advertised Sainsbury’s for a decade has not missed most people’s attention. For a man who willingly promoted both a supermarket and a line of ready meals to attack the effects of supermarkets and ready meals is obscene. The only way he could be more hypocritical is if his next attack was on shite landfill indie.
Again Jamie reinvents himself to suit the prevailing cultural and economic needs of the time. No longer the bloke, nor the concerned parent, now he is the smug face of the conservative moralisers who tell us, ‘well, poverty’s awful, but maybe if they were a little bit more careful with their money…” It is the purposeful re-imagination of poverty, not as a fault of political or economic decisions by those with power but of the poor themselves. Capitalism’s fucked, the money’s run out and the government are slashing benefits for the poor whilst wages for those at the bottom of the heap fall significantly. Fortunately Jamie’s here to provide the intellectual justification for benefits cuts and wage freezes by telling us if we just learnt how to use a slow cooker and bulk meals out with lentils then we can eat cheaply and have enough cash left over to bomb the fuck out of some Syrians. He’s not the only one, comedy is now aimed at getting the maximum laughs out of the very poor, Chris Addison, the floppy haired Mock The Week cockcheddar recently spoke about the “women called Sandra pushing burgers through the school gates”. Whilst every night on television there is a programme called something like, “Feckless Shits” where Tory grandee Norman Tebbit and Conservative-voting page 3 model Lucy Pinder walk around Moss Side poking the unemployed with sticks. Probably.
But Jamie deserves special attention because he is the Zelig for everything wrong about this country. When lad culture was reasserting a misogynist idea of masculinity in response to the identity politics and feminism of the ‘70s and ‘80s he was there, gurning away and teaching Stereophonics fans who liked a bit of a banter how to cook a ruby for a night in with the boys. And now poor bashing is all the rage amongst the political and media classes he is there again, with a paternalist wagging finger telling the most vulnerable in society to put the chips down and informing them from a position of immense influence that they’re not really that poor.
Jamie Oliver is a crass product of canny marketing and ruthless business decisions who has carved an empire out of appealing to the cultural prejudices of the time to get his face – looking as it does like a cartoon of a schoolboy about to go apple scrumping – on as many products as possible to make him rich beyond the dreams of avarice. Jamie Oliver is a lickspittle device of politicians keen to entrench their own positions and live off the reflected glories of someone else’s media profile. Jamie Oliver is a cunt.