Belfast Telegraph

Friday 28 November 2014

Comedian Sarah Millican gave style critics a dressing down

Fashion statement: Sarah Millican in her much derided bafta outfit
Fashion statement: Sarah Millican in her much derided bafta outfit

Sarah Millican – funny or not? The answer seems to be; who cares, she looks frumpy in a sleeveless dress. There has been much debate this week over Millican's column in the Radio Times in which she confessed that her splendid boozy night out at last year's BAFTAs was spoiled by a glance at Twitter in the car home.

 "Literally thousands" of people had weighed up her category (entertainment) and rivals for the award (Graham Norton, Ant and Dec) and concluded she was "fat and ugly". And that her dress – a summery Bobby Dazzler from John Lewis – was "disgusting", "made out of curtains", and made her "look like her Nana". The next day she starred in newspaper Worst Dressed lists and was headshakingly pitied on Lorraine Kelly's TV show.

I've never been especially drawn to Sarah Millican, but when she wrote earlier in the article about the thrill of going to John Lewis to buy a special occasion frock, and the pleasure of having her friend "Oooh!" when she swooshed nervously but hopefully out of the changing room, I almost fell in love with her. I wanted to hug her in her vulnerable, girlish naivete. Because I knew what was coming.

Since the column came out, many – including huge numbers of women – have pilloried Millican for that naivete. A celebrity who works in a visual medium not prepared to be criticised for her unflattering dress?

A "cuddly funster" (the tabloid phrase of choice for female comedians over size 10) who goes on about liking chips, not willing to be attacked for her weight? Get a grip Sarah, you're in the real world now. What many of the Dog Eat Dog celebrants berating her for a softness of hide failed to notice was that, far from begging for sympathy, Millican's conclusion was admirably confrontational.

She made up her mind if she was invited to the BAFTAs again she wouldn't, as many helpful souls advised, hire a stylist. She would wear the John Lewis dress again.

While, I hope, gleefully skipping along the red carpet flippin' the bird like a pouty Liam Gallagher.

Her spirited response reminded me of the brilliant Bjork, who, after she was mocked by the fashion press for dressing as a swan for the Oscars, laughed at the popular notion that she'd been trying to fit in but got it wrong.

"I had brought six ostrich eggs with me, and I was dropping them carefully on the red carpet," she pointed out.

The fashion world claims qualities like originality and freedom of thought are at its heart. They are, in fact, anathema to its being. A break-out of such traits would destroy the industry in a month.

The problem with telling Sarah Millican to put up or shut up is that what you're really saying is nothing can, or should, be challenged or changed. That there's no point noting that lists of imperfectly turned out or overweight female performers are just a grown-up version of playground bitching.

Or that a culture which rates high-profile women according to their stylist and/or personal trainer leads to a situation where, as Gemma Arterton said this week: "A lot of the time it's quite boring when you read film scripts – it's always the same old s***, girlfriend or victim."

Meera Syal said a similar thing a few days ago about the absence of TV roles for funny women over 40.

The effect of this mass market juvenilia isn't just intellectually shallowing, it leaves talented women splashing about like children while the men get to dominate the deep end. Put up or shut up? Frankly, no.

Let's give red cards to the right men

Premiership boss Richard Scudamore's (above) fantasies about having sex with skinny, big-breasted women are a bit puerile. And his jokes about women being irrational are awkward, as he's supposed to be encouraging them to work in his industry.

Then again, I myself have jokingly generalised (well, it was sort of a joke, a sort of truthful one) about men being oblivious to seismic shifts in the emotional atmosphere.

And shared the odd lustful comment about the opposite sex to a friend.

Far more worrying is the instinct to get someone sacked for a fallible train of private thought. Let's pick our battles girls, we have real ones to fight.

Yes! Pulp Fiction's back in big picture

Twenty years after it blasted its shellshocked peers off their perches, Quentin Tarantino's wondrous Pulp Fiction is back in cinemas, returning its glorious technicolor-soaked version of QT's wild-eyed, fast-talking universe to the immersive thrill-ride setting it was made for.

I remember the first time I saw Uma Thurman and John Travolta, perhaps the most effortlessly cool double act in modern film history, do the Twist to Chuck Berry in Jack Rabbit Slim's. The hairs on my neck prickled, and I knew I was watching what would become the stuff of movie legend.

Yet you could argue it wasn't even the best scene in Pulp Fiction. Awesome.

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