Perception; why it’s easier to dumb down for society

This morning I stumbled upon TOWIE’s own Tom P’s article defending his intelligence and the majority of Reality TV Stars. It got me thinking, is it easier playing the dumb blonde than it is aspiring to excel in the stock market.

When Jessica Wright mistakenly tweeted ‘rest in peace’ following the death of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il you could almost hear the stereotypes being sharpened.

The response was immediate and vicious.

Here, snarled the chattering classes, was glaring proof The Only Way is Essex, which Jessica and I both star in, was a TV show populated by the clueless and watched by their less clever relatives.

For despite its mega-success, knocking shows like TOWIE – and the people who appear in them – has become a national pastime.

Case closed, your honour.

It doesn’t matter that the economy is tanking, Europe’s crashing around our ears, and, let’s face it, England are still a very long way from Euro 2012 glory.

The problem is, despite a stereotype fuelled by years of Essex Girl jokes, we’re not all uneducated idiots, no matter what the critics might think.

For what it’s worth, I’ve got a First in economics from Loughborough University and, believe it or not, Diags is a former law student. Ask around if you think that’s an easy course to get onto. Incidentally, Jessica has got a degree in business and marketing management and is very bright.

Okay, you might not get many discussions about politics or what I think is wrong with the economy on the show. It doesn’t mean we’re not having them. People watch TOWIE to be entertained, not lectured; it’s not Newsnight or Panorama.

And, if anything, TOWIE is about trying to take people’s mind of worrying about the recession or losing their job. That’s what entertainment is about. And it doesn’t mean we’re gormless Essex oinks either.

Growing up in Essex I always wanted to work in the City. My Dad is a broker and I wanted to follow in his footsteps. Luckily, I was quite academic, but I worked hard and got a good degree.

After Uni, I went straight to work for one of the top investment banks in the world. I took and passed more exams, this time for the Financial Services Authority, so I could legally trade. The hours were long and there are no free rides in the City these days but I loved it. From here my future could have been mapped out.

People from Essex are ambitious and want to do well. Working in the City isn’t just a geographical fluke because it’s on our doorstep. You can make a good living and we’re prepared to work hard. Maybe some of us are wheeler-dealers but we’re confident by nature and that works well in the Big Smoke. That’s why social mobility has always worked for us.

Sadly, while my qualifications were good, my timing sucked. With the country plunging ever deeper into financial meltdown it wasn’t necessarily the best time to be making a name on the money markets. So call us what you will, but if there’s one thing me and the other cast members are it’s opportunistic.

Consequently when my good friend Joey Essex asked me once again if I’d consider being in TOWIE, I jumped at the chance.

I’ve been friends with Joey all of my life. In a lot of ways we’re complete opposites but I think that’s why our friendship works. The fact that a person is not academic does not make them an idiot. Nor does being from Essex.

The thing about Essex is that it’s big, really big, something like 1,200 square miles, and probably one of the most bad-mouthed places in the country.

Other counties might have their places of outstanding natural beauty, their glorious beaches, their wrecked castles; we have our nail bars, clubs and clothes shops, so the critics sneer.

So I’m sorry to disappoint those who think we’re all about fake tans, vajazzles and haircuts.

These might come out in the show. It doesn’t mean we’re shallow or obsessed with them.

Everyone who’s on TOWIE knows that first and foremost it’s entertainment. If it doesn’t entertain, it doesn’t work. Full stop. That’s why it’s such a laugh. And, without sounding too poncey, an honour to be on it.

The show’s success is down to the fact that people like to laugh at us, and get involved in our lives, and it’s deeply touching that they can forget their own troubles by enjoying our ups and downs.

TOWIE’s opened a lot of doors, too. The fact that you’re seen by millions of people on TV every week is something you can put to work and make a career out of. Many of the cast members have recently launched and now manage their own businesses. Obviously it boosts your publicity being on TV and people make the most of that. What’s wrong with a bit of entrepreneurship? Can you be stupid on one hand, and cashing in on the other? I’m not sure you can.

We’re high profile. We get a lot of attention, and we’re lucky too. I’m not complaining about that.

But don’t expect me to sit back and take being branded a thickie simply because of where I’m from and how I speak.

It’s still early days for me on TOWIE but I’m having the time of my life with a great bunch of people.

In the long-term I want to run my own businesses but I could easily see myself going back into the City again. I’ve always got my degree to fall back on. That’s given me a good foundation for the future.

Where do I see myself in 10 years’ time? Anyone who answers this question with confidence is as deluded as we are stereotyped, who knows what life will throw at you… you get one chance and as long as you’re true to yourself then the critics aren’t important.

Incidentally, if you want to know why the economy has collapsed, it can be put simply: a state of collective euphoria and excessive risk taking in an increasing globalised economy means that small ripples on one side of the world will eventually be felt on the other. This is due to how inter-connected our modern day global financial system is. Our politicians are not just making decisions that will affect our domestic economy but all of those which are connected around the world. A much more daunting task than it was 30 years ago.

How do we fix it? What do I know… I’m just a reality TV star’.

We look upon these people as pathetic, yet we still admire their lifestyles. Evidently this portrayal of stupidity is excessively blown up but would you consider dumbing down to become a higher earner?

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