Sparked by an opinion piece by The Guardian’s Barbara Ellen, a debate has been raging over whether or not these scenes have a place in the post-#MeToo era. Her stance was centred around giving I’m a Celeb’s “skimpy shower scenes the cold shoulder.”
“Over the years, young female celebrities have become almost obliged to make the grim, bikini-clad trudge to said shower in order to stretch, arch, undulate and generally prance about in scenes that are about as natural and unforced as a Playboy centrefold shoot,” she wrote in the column, published December 2.
It’s an interesting take, and one that we’ll admit gave us food for thought. Following a year of much-needed discussion regarding inequality and the treatment of gender in the media industry in particular, we’re all for some more learning and growing.
It’s an argument that may have been 100% valid a few years back, but this series of I’m a Celebrity has felt a little different.
The days of Myleene Klass-style zoom-ins on itsby-bitsy bikinis are behind us.
Sure, a few of the 2018 campers have been wandering around in their bikinis – but if we were holed up in a tropical paradise for three weeks, we’d be passing the time catching some rays too. What’s more, the edit of these scenes has been much more focused on the interactions that are unfolding than on what the girls are wearing.
This year seems a lot more balanced. Yes, the girls have been washing in their swimwear, but we’ve also been shown Harry Redknapp washing his butt and Anne Hegerty opting to take a dip in the rock pool to clean off.
More importantly, these moments have been shared to highlight a friendship development or a notable moment – watching Hazza hand Fleur the soap after he finished up had viewers in stitches, for example – rather than some sort of salacious way to boost ratings.
At this point we should probably point out that, with the show breaking records left, right and centre, that tactic is hardly needed anyway.
In fact, even if you accept the objectifying-gaze argument, you could argue that the scales have tipped the other way.
Where viewers are concerned at least, there’s been far more internet chatter about Nick Knowles fetching water in his speedos and Noel Edmonds’ impressive physique.
If anything, the pushing of intrusive shower shots as a thing seems to be coming from the tabloids, rather than ITV or those tuning in at home – and we have the power not to read them.
Barbara Ellen even seemed to acknowledge this point in her piece, writing: "You can almost imagine them shopping for minuscule bikinis in a state of high anxiety – 'Will the Daily Mail like this one – will I be flaunting my curves enough?'". The issue, therefore, isn't necessarily about what's being presented on our TV screens, but the way that it is packaged by some sections of the media. As Digital Spy argued elsewhere, nudity (or semi-nudity) isn't inherently sexual – it takes someone to sexualise it.
The Guardian article proposed that the time may have come for a “private jungle bath”, but why should we be shying away from showing bodies on television? It’s hard to see how a blanket ban on swimwear or removing a woman’s choice to shower in a bikini is a productive way of furthering equality.
In fact, doesn't this undermine the point being made in the first place?
When you sign up for a reality TV show, there’s a certain expectation that near-enough everything will be captured by the cameras. Take Big Brother, for example: the housemates are frequently shown in the bath or the shower, as this is where some of the day’s most dramatic antics can take place.
And we all know how angry fans can get when it emerges that pivotal scenes have been ‘cut’ from the final edit,
It all comes down to the approach and intent. So long as the scenes aren't presented exploitatively – and serve a purpose for entertainment or plot development – rather than titillation – they can still have a place while remaining in-keeping with a new, dare we say it, woke era of television.
I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here airs on ITV.
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