IN-CLASS DISCUSSION | “josie: the most hated woman in britain?”

Welcome to this new segment where we rip off Grantland’s “Lightning Round” and express not-very-developed opinions about stuff we just saw on the internet. 

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TOPIC – mysteriously famous person Josie Cunningham’s new documentary, “Josie: The Most Hated Woman in Britain?” (per Gawker).

[s.s.] – How have we not figured all of this out yet?  It’s embarrassing.  Of course this women has a pr/hype man.  Of course half of the shit she says is made up and of course she’s only in it for the money.  Why is anyone surprised?  Why is anyone infuriated?  As far as I’m concerned there are only two types of celebrity: celebrities that create and celebrities that just *are.*  You can definitely slide between both categories and at times you can be one but not the other, but in the end all you are doing is generating entertainment.  The Knowles/Carter elevator incident was just as entertaining as a new Beyoncé single. The difference is that a Beyoncé song has (at least hypothetically) more value.  Her art-product connects with us far longer than her celebrity-product.  Which might explain why controversy rarely brings down a celebrity who actually creates things and creates them well (see Allen, Woody and Jackson, Michael).   It’s all just a reformation of the high art/low art argument, but now everyone can participate because Twitter.  I’m with this guy:

” I wish the Internet were an actual human being so I could kick it in the nuts.” – albo (Gawker comment section).

[btbt] – dgaf re: creation, I only care about **being.**   I’m kidding but I’m only like half-kidding.  I think this woman is amazing.  I think she’s in some ways more amazing than Kim Kardashian because Kim Kardashian at least is the epitome of 21st-century beauty and it’s hard not to work that in your favor.  Like Kim, she’s developed an (alleged) media accident into a career, and it’s great entertainment.  The “abortion to get on BB” trick is genius, the character she’s created is fascinating, and if the shitty British news complex is going to give her money, why not take it?  What better place to sink the funds of the abominable industry than into the trust fund of the offspring of a spectacularly creative woman with a truly beautiful accent?

I think we’re coming to the inevitable truth that celebrity in-and-of itself is an art form.  Some people are using this to great effect (Shia, Lana, James, Kanye) – some are a little bit lower (Kim, this girl who’s really into fitness, this guy who seems super nice, etc.)  If it makes you feel something and it entertains you then what makes it any better or worse than a novel?  Both take about the same amount of work.  Not saying this chick is the 21st century Dostoevsky, but she’s every bit as good as Janet Evanovich.

Besides, she’s doing it for her kids.  Listen to that speech at the end of the clip on Gawker – Theoden at Minas Tirith has nothing.

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[bartleby] – So obviously the feminist angle on this is CALLING to me.

I also think Josie Cunningham is brilliant because her very public existence forces us to contend with this idea I read about in Linda McDowell’s “Gender, Identity, and Place: Understanding Feminist Geographies” (sry not sry). McDowell summarizes a series of “feminine paradoxes” that Efrat Tseelon outlines in her “The Masque of Femininity” (sry not sry again):

  1. The modesty paradox — the woman is constructed as seduction only to be punished for it
  2. The duplicity paradox — the woman is constructed as artifice and then marginalized for lacking essence and authenticity
  3. The visibility paradox — the woman is constructed as spectacle while being culturally invisible
  4. The beauty paradox — the woman embodies ugliness while signifying beauty

(There’s also a fifth “death paradox,” but I’m going to ignore it for now because I don’t understand it and I also don’t think it fits.)

Josie Cunningham’s attitude is basically FVCK A PARADOX. In each of these cases she refuses to be trapped, and instead commits 100% to the role that women are told to embody to such an extreme that it provokes equally extreme reactions in us.  She (1) openly embraces her role as seductress, making the NHS pay for her boob job, (2) revels in her total artifice, (3) flat out refuses to be culturally invisible, and (4) insists that we acknowledge the beauty/ugliness disjunction both by performing conventional beauty so hard that it comes off as drag (hi, Judith Butler) and also being a horrible person.


Everyone hates her, but really this just means we all hate ourselves. Our surface level thoughts are: wow this woman is scary and terrible. But our sub-surface level thoughts are (or should be): wow, I don’t think I like when all of the things that we culturally condition women to do all of the time are enacted to such a severe degree.

IDK maybe we should stop culturally conditioning women to do all of these things and then getting pissed off when they lack the implicitly-mandated restraint to only do these things to an acceptably limited degree so we can all continue to pretend that women are not oppressed???

 [gallons] – I haven’t had my coffee yet so forgive me if I’m not operating at full speed here, but I can’t say I’m especially interested in this woman at all.  While it’s pretty clear she’s doing all this as an elaborate stunt to manipulate an evil industry for her own benefit and that’s cool and all, what’s not clear is the degree to which she actually intends any of what she’s doing to be thoughtful.  To say that she’s actively pointing out our cultural hypocrisy and conditioning and whatnot is kind of beside the point because as far as I can tell she’s equally conditioned and equally hypocritical and her act stems from the same root as our hatred of her.  Like, it’s pretty brilliant to deliberately misspell a tweet in order to incite rage-retweets, but you’re still deliberately misspelling a tweet in order to incite rage-retweets.  She’s using the system, sure, but the system still sucks and perpetuating it for nothing but your own benefit when you could be, I dunno, becoming a doctor or running a charity or working for Elon Musk, or doing literally anything else as a “career,” that’s pretty fucked up.  I don’t really think we need more arbitrary hatred in the world.

Call me old-fashioned, but I still care to some degree about intention, and it doesn’t seem to me that Josie Cunningham’s intentions are good.  At all.  Fuck the “for my kids” angle, can you imagine growing up with this person as your mom?  If she succeeds, she’s condemning her kids to be the most hated kids in Britain right alongside her, and they’ll never be able to escape the knowledge that they could have never been born if she’d gotten on Big Brother.  That said, I am happy to now know that the Leeds accent is truly marvelous.

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