Janet Street Porter’s Desperate Women, Channel 4

by | Jan 28, 2006 | All, Reviews

Did we like it?

Janet delivered a coruscating diatribe on the inherent obsession of vilifying women in the public eye, and as a consequence, ‘normal women’ too.

What was good about it?

• Janet began her polemic with: “We (women) have more choice, more money and more power. So it’s a great time to be female? Crap!”

• Even though it is also broadcast on Channel 4, 10 Years Younger was rightly castigated for the coercive process whereby a woman is humiliated by having people on the street guess her age, and then told all her ills can be solved with a few strokes of the surgeon’s knife. Presenter Nicky Hambleton-Jones seems to have the same ethical essence as those soft drinks companies who market their cola-flavoured drinks more desirable accessories than water in poverty-stricken third world shanty towns.

• The comical absurdity of 10 Years Younger’s cosmetic surgeon Daniel P Goldberg illustrating to some poor sap, who’s had her confidence mangled in Hambleton-Jones’s train wreck apocalypse vernacular, how her chin will look better once she has the fat removed. But Goldberg was unable to do so as his chin was far flabbier than hers, which pinpointed how ridiculous the whole charade was.

• The exposure of Darryn Lyons, the boss of a London-based paparazzi agency and one of the ugliest men in Britain, as an unprincipled tabloid lapdog. With his podgy porcine face squatting below his multi-coloured Mohawk mane, he resembles a colourful constipated parrot trying to shake a particularly tenacious turd from its feathered behind. Lyons justified his firm’s policy of passing on snaps of celebrities to newspapers to pick out illusionary faults with by claiming that he only took the photos and it was up to the newspapers what they did with them. He displayed the same vacuity of moral conceit greedy chemical companies exhibited when supplying the ex-tyrant with toxic gases, protesting they didn’t imagine they would be used to exterminate Kurds.

• Vanessa Feltz’s hypocrisy was laid bare when she claimed she was willing to host some gruesome live cosmetic surgery show on Five “to pay the bills”, and protested that she acted as a cautionary force against such operations by asking probing journalistic questions about the validity of the operation. Janet, quite rightly, wasn’t convinced.

• The funniest moment came in an incidental headline from the Daily Mail’s fawning eulogy to Lynda Lee-Potter, which heralded that “with more women like her, we’d never have lost the Empire”. Which presumably means if Britain had been ruled by a heartless tribe of Amazonian dictators who propagated the slavery of sovereign nations such as India while simultaneously bleeding them dry of their natural resources to fund the debauched wealth of merchants who spent all their spare time in London’s whorehouses buggering stuffed effigies of tigers they’d bravely shot from the top of their elephant mount then Britain would still be ‘Great’.

What was bad about it?

• It was tucked away in the corner of the schedules as if Channel 4 didn’t really want you to watch it like a schoolboy stowing his first pornographic magazine amongst his old schoolbooks. If the protest about the Poll Tax had sought such a meek expression of their views then instead of pitched battles in the centre of London, a sprinkling of disaffected hippies would have trooped through Lowestoft. It also might have been a refugee from last year’s schedules as the death of Lynda Lee-Potter, whose passing Janet seemed to mourn with all the global sorrow at the eradication of smallpox, in 2004 was said to have occurred “last year”.

• Janet failed to pick up on the fundamental purpose of disseminating feminine insecurity in the media, in that insecurity over appearance breeds the need to purchase perfume, surgery et al. Without provoking the deluded necessity of these comforts, there would be no sales of such products; the same products that clog up the pages of women’s magazines with advertising – the lifeblood of commercial magazines. No insecurity = no sales = no advertising = no magazine.

• The adverts during the break. For every brave step forward taken by Janet in her bid to dismantle the corrosive corruption, two were taken back through the commercials shown. Well done, Channel 4. With one hand you nurture, suckle and tuck carefully into bed at night the notion of promoting a more responsible attitude towards women and encourage that self-esteem and confidence are so much more than wrinkle-free skin and nauseatingly skinny hips. While with the other hand, with adverts for teeth whitening toothpaste, skin cream, 5%-fat oven chips, fresh breath toothpaste, “Say goodbye to winter skin” face cream, shampoo, Jaguar – catchphrase “Everybody cares what gorgeous says” – and the News of the World, you may as well push the notion down the stairs, slam its head in doors and stub out cigarettes on its back.

• The justification churned out by the guilty parties taken to task by Janet was that by picking the smallest fault with celebrities, their altruistic aim was to make ‘normal women’ feel better about themselves. Consciously oblivious that it is through the same magazines’ saturation coverage of the celebrities that has caused the insecurity in the first place. It was rather like pioneering and spreading both the cause and cure for cancer and expecting sufferers to be glad at the distribution of the cure.

• June Sarpong was one of the better talking heads but made an error when she claimed to have “interviewed some of the most beautiful women in the world”, presumably falling into the trap, set by magazines such as Heat and OK!, that celebrities are among the most pulchritudinous people in the world. Completely wrong. Walk down any busy street and within 100 yards, you’ll have passed 10, maybe 20, women who are prettier than either Pamela Anderson or Nicole Kidman (but that’s partly because Anderson and Kidman have, in their own particular ways, been enslaved by the tyranny of homogenised celebrity).

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles


Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!


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