TOWIE and Essex: The only way is separation
Essex boy and TOWIE favourite Mark Wright flew over to Los Angeles in a bid to break America – but it looks as if it might have broken him. And that’s something everyone from this much-maligned county should be celebrating.
His show, Hollywood Nights, has been universally panned, with fans taking to Twitter to slam ITV for screening such a terrible programme. With the obligatory white napkin sticking out of his jacket and wearing a pair of pink shorts, Wright set out on a mission to find love – a lifelong quest he has stuck to with the commitment of a grail knight. He quickly won over an American volleyball player, but managed to totally alienate his viewers.
One tweeter said Hollywood Nights was “the worst thing I have ever seen”. Another said the show was “so awful it was actually embarrassing”, to which the hubristic lothario responded with a tweet saying: “When TOWIE launched it had NOTHING but bad feedback on social network sites. 6 months later won a Bafta. Enough said.”
I find myself hoping that this might actually be the end of Essex’s new found fame. All my life I have denied coming from this far-flung fringe of London, using euphemisms like ‘the edge of the East End’ and ‘just around the corner from Bethnal Green’ to tell people where I hailed from. With the rise of TOWIE, I wasn’t just embarrassed at coming from Essex, but bloody humiliated.
Perhaps the tide is changing. Although they won’t tell you this, dozens of credible and interesting people come from the county. I went to school with Kele Okereke, from Bloc Party. Ray Winstone, who I met a few days ago, lives in Essex, after following a time-trodden path out of the squalid, pre-hipster East End – which is now chockfull of cool kids who left the county in search of success in the city.
Basically, Essex is where the cockneys, the white working class of East London, ended up living – which is one of the reasons it gets such a lot of stick. The posh can’t stand the fact that anyone managed to climb the social ladder and make a better life for themselves. The same thing is still happening in multicultural London, with immigrant families who make a bit of cash moving out to big homes in the ‘burbs.
There’s no denying that nouveau riche means bad taste and the Essex aesthetic continues to astonish me, with its grinding dedication to ugliness. Mock-Tudor houses just aren’t big enough for the flash folk of Chigwell anymore, so they’ve taken to building mega-Tudor houses, which take the exact proportions of the original architectural monstrosities and amplify them five fold.
The result is cartoonish homes of a size that would easily accommodate all of Henry VIII’s wives, lovers and kids – as well as a good number of their ancestors. I recently walked past the site of a lovely old house in Loughton which had been bulldozed and replaced with a knock-off version of a Spanish villa, complete with a sign above the door that says ‘El Casa’. Doing a double-take, I spotted the owner walking around in Bermuda shorts, a great big medallion slung around his neck.
Taste is a concept quite alien to most of the denizens of Essex, but I’m not sure this has to be the case. Now TOWIE is on the wane and Mark Wright looks to be on his uppers, it’s time that Essex hailed its real heroes. Let’s think about Alan Sugar, The Prodigy, Russell Brand, Jamie Oliver and Dudley Moore when someone mentions the word Essex, rather than Arg, Diags and Joey.
It’s time us embarrassed Essex folks stood up and took a bit of pride. Let’s ditch the dodgy nails, bin the fake tan and forget the whole cast of TOWIE. For post-reality show Essex, the only way is up.