Everyone loves a good sneer. Yes you do, be honest. But most of us keep our best sneering for home and like-minded friends. T.V. pundits do it in full view of the public, on screen and in print. And their favourite object of derision is trash T.V. Pap for the masses, they say. Rots your brain. Made for idiots, fools and couch potatoes. What they never admit is that it can be entertaining.
Much as I love a jaunt through the history of Rome, a documentary on the lost tribes of the Orinoco or Brian Cox musing on astrophysics, there are times when all I want from the box is coloured pictures in front of my eyes and no strain on the brain. I like to be able to sit back and drool. Maybe sip a little wine. Maybe grin. Trash television is perfect for this. And, if you keep your eyes and ears open, you might even learn about the human condition. I call it research.
I live the life of a Trappist, at the computer, playing with my imaginary friends – it’s called writing. The few people I meet are family and friends. But a writer needs more. Where would I meet mad, young ones aching to make it as Models? On America’s Next Top Model of course. Or deluded teens who want to be Pop Stars? X-Factor. Or people being rude about their host’s food and taste in décor? Come Dine with Me. Or a T.V. newsreader, spangled in sequins, failing to learn how to Tango? Strictly Come Dancing. Or spoiled Daddy’s girls spending outrageous amounts on a party. My Sweet Sixteen. And as for Big Brother it’s an encyclopaedia of naivety, madness, bitchiness, lechery, cliques, betrayals, crushes, insecurity, over-confidence and backstabbing.
Trash T.V often has a competitive element and competition affects people in so many different ways. It lets you see how people present themselves. And what happens when the mask slips. And the gap between what they say and what their body language says. And the gap between what they say and what they actually do. For a writer that’s endlessly fascinating.
The idea for Burning Bright came to me from reality T.V. While flicking through channels I caught sight of a wedding planner on RTE. He was perma-tanned, medallioned, white-suited and tossing his luxuriant locks while arranging the transport of elephants for an Irish country wedding. What? Elephants! For a wedding in Ireland! And with that, Kirsty Kerrigan sashayed into my mind with her motto “Because I’m worth it” and her aching desire to be the Paris Hilton of Ireland and her insistence that that I write a novel about her. And I did.
Thank you trash Television.
Catherine Brophy is a writer, story-teller and broadcaster. She writes film, T.V. and radio scripts and she also writes short stories. Her previous novels are The Liberation of Margaret Mc Cabe and Dark Paradise. She lives a blameless life in Ireland but escapes whenever she can. She’s been rescued by a circus troupe in Serbia, had breakfast with a Zambian chief, ate camel stew in the Sahara, and was kicked by a horse on the Mexican plain.