Good luck to them. They’re very successful and have always been pleasant to me. Presumably, too, they knew exactly what they were in for when the King of the Self-Impressed came to town. Sure enough, he fomented dissension, screamed, bloviated, strutted and generally behaved like a medieval monarch with live lampreys gnawing at his vitals.
What gives me violent indigestion is the fact that this crass act, this perfection of the art of humiliation, this elevation of profanity, poor taste and personal classlessness, is presented as a cooking show, on The Food Network.
(And here I confess a bias and a vested interest. I, too, have a cooking show – one that the Food Network rejected (after weeks of prevarication and, even then, I’m pretty sure it was reviewed by the doorman’s dog-walker) on the grounds that it is … a cooking show. That is, a show built around the art and love of provisioning, preparing, cooking and sharing. It also has a unique element which separates it from every other show out there. But enough! This is simply my confession of interest and the Food Network and its BUJI* executives have every right to reject any show they wish to.)
Ramsay may once have been a decent cook. He may even be a decent man who has assumed a disgusting persona simply to make the millions he needs to overcome the failures of so many of his cooking enterprises. Now, however, he is a parody of everything that is most shameful about the way we live. He revels in anger and cruelty; in his superiority over his victims; in his – assumed or not – inability to articulate any thought without violent language (this comment coming from someone who has problems controlling his own profanities). He is the apogee of celebrity success – a reputation, a trajectory, an essentially vacuous persona constructed upon our own hunger for distraction, our willingness to submit to any degree of meanness and scorn simply to appear on television. A moment of strange, fleeting and bathetic glory which we believe will separate us, for that fraction of our existence, from the herd. In fact, of course, like back to front caps, sagging shorts and untied laces, it welds us inseparably to the herd, for true individuality stems from other personal qualities altogether: the courage to speak up, for example, and to smack anyone upside the head who treats us the way Ramsay does.
Far worse than that, this spluttering exhibitionist has taken an essentially warm, embracing, loving aspect of life – the preparation and sharing of food with family and friends – and reduced it to a low-class cooking circus which might even disgust the Emperor Nero’s gladiatorial audiences.
Nothing Ramsay does deserves to be called a cooking show (which begs the question: does the Food Network deserve to be called a cooking network?). He ought, rather, to be confined to the lowest circles of cable Hell, where humiliation, disrespect for humanity, personal cruelty and emotional abuse are transformed from the sadness of the mass to the immense riches of the few.
In fact, if this is the future of food TV, then I have a show that’s perfect for it and this execrable one-time chef:
Gordon Ramsay’s New TV Show
The kitchen is on a stage, displayed before a tiered audience which looks down on the action. In front of the kitchen is a small spot-lit area and into this area walks Chef Ramsy accompanied by an adorable blond muppet who holds a freshly shampooed lamb in his or her arms.
Ramsey introduces the muppet then says to the audience:
“For one thousand dollars, who will shoot this f#$#$%^g lamb so that I can make (and here he names the dish).”
Naturally, an audience member desperate for a thousand bucks will volunteer and then Chef Ramsey will ask:
“For eight hundred f#@$%#g dollars who will shoot this f@&^%$g lamb – shoot it right here in this f#$@#%^g kid’s arms?”
Again, there will be a volunteer, driven by the money and the desperation for his or her moment of fame. (And, perhaps, the chance to show off his or her shiny big new gun.)
So the show will proceed, a reverse auction to discover just how low we, the audience, will sink in pursuit of a few bucks and a few moments of celebrity. My view is that someone will shoot the unfortunate lamb for maybe five dollars.
And who cares whether Ramsey actually cooks the dead beast of not? After all, like his other shows, this isn’t about the cooking. It’s about our apparent willingness to abandon any pretense that we’re human beings who possess qualities like taste, dignity, emotional generosity, kindness or … class. It’s about our nauseating pursuit of celebrity. It’s about that fact that if we can make enough money from a particular endeavor, those earnings elevate the endeavor to a point at which we lose sight of the values of which humanity is capable and descend into a rabble, a mass hysteria which would make the average chimpanzee regret that he shares well over 90% of his DNA with homo sapiens.
Building Up Job Importance, the word BUJI having been coined, as far as I know, by Mark London, whose biggest claim to fame was writing the song ‘To Sir With Love.’
It’s a trend which is accelerating exponentially as those fortunate enough to have a decent job – or any job – build up its importance in order to minimize the chances of being laid off. BUJI has nothing to do with the qualities or the contribution of the job itself, which brings us back to those thousands of TV executives whose precarious existences, salaries and expense accounts are supported by a churning over-population of so-called creatives who, like Gordon Ramsey’s victims, will endure any degree of humiliation if it means they might – just might – get their own moment in the lens of the TV camera.