Okay, So Lara Bingle Might Just Be The Problem With ‘Being Lara Bingle’

Yeah, I know I wrote a post about how reality television should be intellectually engaged with and that the problem with Being Lara Bingle isn’t really Lara Bingle herself but moreso the concept that a semi-famous person of relative wealth is inherently worthy of attention. And that remains extremely true: this show is very much a commodification of a certain kind of lifestyle which is vaunted into importance essentially due to the fact that it’s vaguely aspirational and “how the other half lives”.

Except, if this is the other half, it’s hugely boring. I’m not sure how much of this is attribute to Bingle herself or the vacuum of personality around her – her mother is a stereotypically nasty reality mother, her manager is her best friend which makes for zero intrigue, and her brother who is Cronulla-bred bogan who refuses to acknowledge the correct pronunciation of “crème caramel”.

At one point in the first episode, things get so interesting that Bingle does yoga – exciting! – while her brother and BFF/M shop for bread – riveting! And then we’re told via vox pop that they have weird sexual tension. Show not tell, producers! A couple of other talking heads tell us how exciting and fun to be around Bingle is. She’s a party girl! Whee! That must be why exciting and fun is exactly what this show isn’t!

Shows like this can be interesting. Vapid though it is, The Rachel Zoe Project manages to combine the subject’s career – the politics of Hollywood stylists – with the personal drama that such a highfalutin job might bring. It’s often intolerably vapid, but at least there’s a point of interest throughout the show.

Being Lara Bingle‘s big moment comes when it’s revealed that nude photos have leaked of Bingle! OH NO! This would be really exciting if we totally didn’t already know that this happened! Some minor drama comes when Bingle is pulled over for driving in a bus lane, and then she has a suspended license! And she and her BFF/M are all, “OMG like, what is with these paparazzi, you know what I mean? Like, why are there so many like, today? Of all days?”

Well, it’s largely because basically every minute of this crapfest is staged. Halfway through I thought that the show’s biggest sin was that it wasn’t even interestingly bad. You couldn’t even hate-watch something so boring, because it’s so low-energy, unambitious and void of intrigue. By the end of it, though, I realised that about 3 minutes of television had occurred during the last 30, and the rest was padded out with filler shots, random shots of Bondi Beach and Lara Bingle talking about her dad which, you know, bummer, but it takes a little more than a bit of personal tragedy to humanise you or make you interesting. Sympathy won’t make people watch every week. Stuff happening would make people watch every week.

So yes, it’s terrible. Of course it is, look at the title, look at the premise. It’s chronically cheap-looking even for a docu-reality show, dialogue is forced and stilted, obviously prodded out of the subjects by overzealous producers. There’s simply not enough to Bingle or her life to make this show-worthy. Bingle’s job is to be a fake tan, bright blue eyes and a set of teeth veneers, and nothing in her personal life indicates that she’s able to push beyond that.

There’s nothing wrong with Bingle’s chosen career as a model, at all, but if you want to make a TV show about a person who is a model it needs to be a little bit more interesting than sitting on a chair and flashing some sideboob. If this show were about someone else’s day-in-the-life, it could be interesting. But if your subject lacks personality, so will your show.

In the end, I kinda just feel sorry for everyone involved. Bingle has reportedly been chased for this series for some time, and I’d wager that she gave in to try and revamp her public image and maybe make some coin. I can’t imagine any of the crew enjoying making this show. It seems like it would be difficult to even fill an episode with sufficient material. If the FIRST EPISODE, which as-of-yet has no particular narrative thrust and all the subject matter possible within the universe of the show, has to resort to forced, unnatural pseudo-flirting in the fucking bread aisle of a supermarket, then you know that’s you’ve got a dud on your hands.


Why Lara Bingle Is Not The Problem With ‘Being Lara Bingle’

At this point, I feel sorry for Lara Bingle. Not in a pitying sense – well, perhaps insofar as the fact that a reality show is a means of career progression for her – but in the sense that she has, essentially, become a pariah simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The issue at hand seems to be that Bingle is unworthy of the attention or adulation that having her own TV show might indicate. Part of the problem is that cultural discourse surrounding reality television is so negative. The way you hear people speak about, for example, the infamous trio of Kardashian women is particularly representative of this.

Now, if you’ve ever sat down and watched an episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, you’ll know that it is a show that deserves to much of the maligning it receives – it’s vacuous, unrepresentative of reality, and reeks of a falsity that many would point to as evidence of a sharp decline in the quality of modern film and television. But that kind of vapidity doesn’t really warrant calling them “whores” or “sluts” or any number of other, often misogynistic, slurs. There are much better ways to criticise a show like that.

But there is a lot of misunderstanding about a genre of television that many people love to judge but do not actually watch. Reality television as we know it is largely symptomatic of the surge of information sharing afforded to us by the internet. In a world where you can be in constant contact with people basically anywhere on the planet, there is assuredly a market for television shows that provide an insight into any number of different cultures, societies and lifestyles.

Another reason for reality TV’s continued existence? It’s cheap. Unless you’re basically writing the whole damn show like they did with The Hills, you don’t need writers, or known actors, sets or many of the other costly aspects of producing a drama or a sitcom. And even then, writers for reality TV are often paid far, far less than their scripted programming counterparts.

But in Australia, Being Lara Bingle represents the first step toward a more Kardashian-ian approach to reality TV. We already have a storied history in reality – it just masquerades as ‘factual’ programming such as Bondi Vet or RBT or similar. Border Security has been a solid hit on our screens for many years, and never has there been as much uproar about its unique method of slyly shaming non-white people when they fail to follow customs laws as there has been about a 24 year old model being followed around by a band of almost definitely bored cameramen.

This idea that only Lara Bingle is getting something (a TV show) for nothing (for being pretty, I guess?) is extremely problematic. Reality TV is all about something for nothing. There’s nothing inherently television-worthy about the ‘Dr’ aspect of Dr Chris Brown of Bondi Vet. It could literally have been any veterinarian, but because he looks and charms like a Disney prince, he gets to have a TV show as well. This is how show business functions.

The point I’m trying to make is that it could have been anyone who got a show not dissimilar to Being Lara Bingle. In fact, something worse already exists – there’s a show on the Foxtel channel Arena called WAG Nation, about the tacky, leopard-print-laden lives of footballers’ wives.

What intrigues me most about all of this is the question of whether a male sporting star getting a reality TV show would provoke the same reaction? I sincerely doubt it. And yet there would be a lot of overlap. Both Lara Bingle and mythical popular sporting personality would have been long-rewarded for a career which is self-serving and directly and tangibly beneficial to no one but themselves.

It’s unpopular to say it in this country because sport is so revered, but playing rugby league for a living is basically modelling for a living but for blokes, which is even truer when you consider that straight women and gay men who watch are both enjoying the game and also the fact that it’s a DNA magazine cover come to life.

Again, I have no desire to see the continued existence of Being Lara Bingle, but there’s no sense in criticising Lara Bingle for it, especially without having seen the show. Criticise Channel Ten and the network executives from all networks who would rather spend money producing a reality show about a model or The Footy Show or a Masterchef contestant’s cooking for half an hour (or any such EXTREMELY niche programming) than providing much-desired jobs for directors, writers, producers and crew of scripted drama and comedy in this country.

All of this ignores the fact that there is some very good reality television being made. SBS’ award-winning series Go Back To Where You Came From is a particularly prescient example of this in Australia; elsewhere, RuPaul’s Drag Race manages to be one of the most wonderfully nuts, entertaining reality shows ever made while it also subtly satirises the very genre space it occupies.

There’s very little an individual can do about this. As long as there is a sufficient audience to make these kinds of shows profitable, they will continue to be made. The best thing an individual viewer can do to change the kind of local programming we get is to watch the hell out of the excellent local content we do get. Paper Giants was rightfully a hit; however, the brilliant ABC production Mabo drew only 544,000 viewers in its first airing. Ten cancelled Rush for low ratings, shows like Laid continued to decline in ratings as well. These are all quality Australian pieces of scripted television, but instead we all prefer to watch a bunch of bogans renovate a house or something and Rebecca Gibney cry every three seconds. Perhaps we get the television we deserve.

8 shows you should be watching this summer season

Not to confuse any Australians, but technically it is the summer TV season in America right now, despite it being winter in the southern hemisphere. And since pretty much everything on our TV screens right now is terrible, Shaun Micallef’s Mad as Hell excluded, I’ve decided to compile a list of shows either premiering or returning in the summer season that are actually worth your time. Since I just assume everyone downloads TV to some degree in this country, I’m just going by the US premiere dates because we probably won’t get any of these seasons/shows for another decade.

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Review: Prometheus – a perspective (pt. 1, non-spoiler)

(I am making any and all attempts to have this be a spoiler free page, so if you choose to comment, please make sure you’re not ruining anything for anyone else. This part of the review will mostly exist to make you want to see it – the other part, to be linked to at the end of this one, will be for after you’ve seen it. Any debate containing spoilers should be confined to that page.)

My favourite film of all-time is 2001: A Space Odyssey. There is no film I love more than Kubrick’s stunning and terrifying masterpiece. At the same time, I don’t profess to be a buff of the sci-fi genre. In fact, in writing this, I must admit that I only saw the original Alien a few months ago, and the direct sequel, Aliens, a couple of weeks ago. I watched them in preparation for Ridley Scott’s return to this universe, Prometheus, a beguilingly complex film whose strengths lie in its exploration of the thematic moreso than the expectations placed on it as a result of its lineage – that is to say, what most people assume this will be is a return to the atmospheric monster-horror that Alien more or less perfected.

Alas, that it is not.

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Review: Prometheus – a perspective and rebuttal (pt. 2, SPOILERS ABOUND)

(The following segment of my Prometheus review is like a Tokyo drift party – it contains MASSIVE SPOILERS. If you do not wish to read them, DO NOT CONTINUE PAST THIS POINT. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. If you wish to hear what I think without having it spoiled for you, please head on over to the non-spoiler part of my review. Also, I’ll be using that post as a launching point for topics in this one, so perhaps read it before this even if you have seen the film already.)

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