Fame is a peculiar beast, coveted by those who do not have it, and frankly pretty miserable for those who do, judging by the state of almost anyone who has been given more than a brief hint. The stars of Normal People became overnight-famous while much of the world was in some form of lockdown, leaving them to emerge as wide-eyed, wobbly-legged baby celebrities, holed up at home like (almost) everyone else. It’s little wonder that in this climate of bottled-up tension, and having been anointed by a particularly horny TV show, Paul Mescal has been on the receiving end of the largest amount of public lust I’ve seen since Fleabag introduced the Hot Priest. (Kneel? It’s Paul, actually, is what I would say, if I were a stand-up comedian in the 1970s.)
Last week, the salivation spectacle reached a tipping point with a paparazzi shot of Mescal in shorts and a tracksuit jacket, apparently on the way back from the corner shop, holding two cans of pink gin and tonic, a bottle of Crabbie’s cider and a packet of prawn cocktail crisps. Mescal is 24; I, too, would have considered this to be a reasonable stab at a balanced diet when I was his age. For a nation unable to go to the pub or the cinema, or play sports, or watch them, this turned out to be the entertainment highlight of the week. “This Is Paul Mescal’s Summer, We’re Just Watching It” ran the headline on a Vice piece; Buzzfeed went for “Paul Mescal Stepped Out In Shorts To Buy Drinks To-Go And People Are Thirsting So Hard”; Elle offered: “Why Is This Hot Picture Of Hot Paul Mescal So Hot?” I’m no expert, but I think they kind of like him.
This is not a united country. Last week, it seemed as if it could be, for a short time, especially after “I was testing my eyes” was dangled in front of us as an excuse for the inexcusable, but that quickly fractured into a frenzy of people complaining about frenzies of people and the inevitable, depressing culture wars. This photograph was as close as we got to a national consensus. I’m sure the next wave of Mescal content will be a dissection of whether he’s being objectified or not but, for now, let’s just enjoy a brief moment of distraction in the illuminating sartorial and shopping choices made by a young Irish actor, simply going about his business on a nice, sunny day. It’s been a rough week, OK? Let’s have this one nice thing.
Judy Murray: a perfect match for Celebrity Masterchef
Good news for TV viewers, but bad news for ducks, whose breasts are about to get pan-fried on a scale they have not experienced since the last series of MasterChef. Celebrity MasterChef was filmed just in time to not get sucked into the coming TV drought that will mean only shonky Zoom-shot home videos on prime time for the foreseeable.
It doesn’t even matter that it’s the Celebrity version, the least good version. Though I will say that it does offer more in the way of potential disaster fodder, simply because people are allowed to go on it even if they’ve never so much as blinked at a microwave.
When the names of contestants were released last week, the list was so obscure that it looked like the sort of thing men who haunt dusty record shops try to collect. “Yeah, I found an ultra-rare Myles Stephenson,” etc. Confusion over a series 14 X Factor winner is understandable, but when some people deemed Judy Murray to be of insufficient celebrity, I almost seared my scallops in dismay.
Judy is not just the mother of Andy and Jamie Murray, as many grumbled. She was the Scottish national tennis coach, she has scores of Scottish titles of her own, she has worked to encourage the profile of female coaches and she has run grassroots initiatives aimed at encouraging more kids to play, particularly kids who don’t have access to the kinds of funds that a sport like this often demands. I don’t know if she can cook, but I have no doubt that her slice (of cake?) will be ruthless.
Dua Lipa: move over, Ginger Rogers
In 1982, when Bob Thaves captioned a cartoon of Fred Astaire with “Sure he was great, but don’t forget that Ginger Rogers did everything he did… backwards and in high heels”, he had no idea of the life the quote would take on. It’s a classic, now decorating the countless soft-focus images of empowered inspirational sunsets that pepper social media.
I love Dua Lipa, who seems to be a pop star with smarts, who generally swerves the bland platitudes that most singers of her notoriety settle for, afraid of ever seeming controversial, and instead finds something to say in most interviews. When she spoke to GQ recently, she gave a modern pop twist to the Ginger Rogers quote.
Discussing a particular 2018 performance of One Kiss, which was awkward enough that it become a meme, she admitted that the response was hurtful. She then recalled going to a show by an unnamed “male artist that actually doesn’t do anything on stage. And they got this stellar five-star review. But then you have women who get up on stage and they’re practically doing cartwheels, costume changes – it’s a spectacle”, and even so, she said, it would be picked apart. Backwards and in high heels, then, is as true as ever.
•Rebecca Nicholson is an Observer columnist