Thursday, April 5, 2012

A Beautiful Storm: A Writer's Dilemma

Two days ago, on my early morning perusal of the online newspapers I came across an article on the Daily Mail written by journalist Samantha Brick with the title "There are downsides to looking this pretty": Why women hate me for being beautiful." Obviously, with an eye-catching title like that I was instantly intrigued and read on. My immediate reaction was laughter and delight -I chuckled all the way through it. I could not believe that a woman could write such an article about herself and one which, without doubt, would paint her in a very bad light in the eyes of many people and open her up to universal condemnation. Of the many thoughts that crossed my mind about Samantha Brick (and I leave it to you all to make your own opinions as to the validity of her arguments) the one thing I thought was that Samantha must have a very thick skin indeed because no way could someone write an article like that and not expect some sort of backlash and vitriol.

It now transpires that Samantha does not have a very thick skin. Over the last two days the article has become an internet storm generating an enormous amount of interest. Whilst a few people have supported Samantha Brick's premise the majority verdict has been overwhelming condemnation. Unfortunately, she fuelled the debate with another article yesterday  in which she claims the backlash to her article merely supports her argument that women hate her for being so pretty. In this second article, she claimed the last 24 hours of her life had been "horrendous" and that she didn't expect such a reaction and how she has been sobbing and crying.

Samantha's emotional turmoil may or may not be true of course -as in these media dominated times sometimes writers, actors and celebrities, especially those on the fringes of genuine stardom, have other agendas which may be simply selling themselves either through their films, TV shows and books in order to make their daily crust. If we suppose that Samantha is indeed traumatised by her experience and she is not rubbing her hands together in glee at the prospect of a forthcoming book launch then I am worried for her. I hope she is mentally strong enough to make it through this crisis because whether or not you agree with her article or even think she deserves all the criticism there aren't many people in this world who would wish on someone intense emotional trauma or even mental breakdown.

The Daily Mail has a predisposition to engaging female writes who rake up their private lives time and time again on their pages. I want to be balanced here -I don't think any subject should be taboo and there are many legitimate reasons to discuss marriage, sex, relationships and so on in a thought-provoking and intelligent way and I think it would be incredibly boring if journalists didn't, at times, offer personal opinions and events in their own lives as a point of reference. But I believe it has to be done well.  I don't think Samantha's article is actually any good at all and discusses, very badly, issues which tackled in a less personal manner might have had more validity. That said, we all make mistakes. Samantha made a huge one. What surprises me more is that somewhere along the line before this article went to press someone did not withdraw the article. The fact that it wasn't speaks more of the lack of journalistic integrity at The Daily Mail who, if anything, are now also effectively mocking Samantha by publishing even more stories on the backlash to her article containing pictures which (to Samantha) might seem offensive unless she has a very good sense of humour. Whoever the person is who let Samantha's original article go to press I sincerely hope they are not patting themselves on the back for boosting their circulation figures but ashamed that they did not pull the plug on what is, if we are to take it at face value, a very idiotic piece of  journalism. Samantha will reap the repercussions for some some considerable time.

All of this leads leads me to a question -  How much of one's private life should one reveal in the public arena? As a writer, I think it is almost impossible not to reveal something about your nature in what you write - even if that is only in the subject matter you choose and not in actual personal revelations. With regard to novels; the settings maybe fictional but often the emotions are ones explored elsewhere, transposed from one situation to another in order to explore the feelings that a writer needs to create empathy with his characters. The dullest writers are those that portray characters without crossing this minefield. I suppose what I'm saying is -that whatever you write says something, even in a small way, about who you are. It's almost inevitable.

In respect of very personal writing, such as this blog, I think one should be careful about what one writes as the consequences of not doing so could be disastrous. That is why I have a personal boundary I do not cross. As a direct result of Samantha's article though I have also been reflecting on the way people might perceive me and whether or not I am happy with my online persona. I guess on the whole I am. And when I look back over my blog I think it is actually a fairly accurate portrayal of who I am in real life. I would hope people would say I'm silly but sensible in an entertaining sort of way. Pretty harmless. Of course, I realise my humour and opinions might not appeal to all and could leave me open to a lot of criticism if someone really wanted to make a personal attack or take issue with me as they have on a couple of my reviews for The View From Here. As it is, I have few worries about receiving criticism for my reviews on The View as they are written in a professional capacity but in those few cases where I received negative feedback I have gone back and reread them to make sure I was happy with what I'd written. I think that was an important and necessary thing to do. If I were to receive personal criticism here on my blog that would be a different matter altogether and I would definitely be reviewing what I had written as objectively as possible. I think reflection is a very important part of life and learning and, ultimately, being happy with the person we are.

Without wanting to sound too preachy I think Samantha now needs to stop talking and writing and start reflecting. It can be a very long life.

Samantha Brick on national television this morning 5/4/2012


  1. I'd not heard anything about this until now. I'm not sure what the point of the original article was, but I suspect a publicity stunt. Perhaps I'm just cynical.
    Beautiful and attractive are not necessarily the same things.

    I guess she has some guts just to write this!

  2. Yes agreed, Martin. The more I think about it the more I'm not sure of the objective of the article either. Maybe it is some kind of publicity stunt - if so, it's one in very poor taste!

  3. That was a really interesting blog Jane and I really enjoyed reading it! If you post more, draw them to my attention and I will certainly have a read.

  4. Thanks, Kaleem:) I only talk about writing occasionally on my blog - mainly it's just daft stuff:)

  5. Interesting post, Jane.
    I don't hate Samantha Brick (even though she thinks I must becaue she is so beautiful) I actually feel sorry for her becaue she is not as gorgeous as me....
    Seriously though I am shocked by the amount of vitriol her cheery self confidence has brought forth on social media.
    Even if she looked like a troll she is entitled to think and say and write otherwise. It's the 'how dare she?' undertone of the criticism of her that pees me off. I think her self belief is a refreshing change from the 'does my bum look big in this?' fretting and self doubt that plagues so many women.

    Anna May

  6. I am agreed with you, Anna, that Samantha's self confidence is great. There absolutely should be more women like her in that respect. I also think many men would find her confidence an enormously attractive quality and in part may explain their attraction to her as much as her obvious good looks. ( I think the photos don't really do her justice; on the TV her attractiveness is far more obvious.)

    I also agree that she is entitled to write whatever she pleases - as we all are - I am genuinely not surprised at the amount of criticism though. I really did think she was opening herself to a lot of abuse writing her article in such a way - I am really surprised that no one else at The Mail could see it. Opening someone up to that level of criticism is pretty mean to say the least - but I guess it's fine if she and everyone else thought she could could handle it. I have no experience of national newspapers so I can only speak as a reader - to me the article appeared like a gaping wound waiting for someone to pour vinegar over it.

    Out of interest though I did read another of her articles this morning. Apparently, she spent twenty years addicted to clairvoyants. To my mind this raises a number of questions...but I guess those are better left unsaid. Probably enough has been said already!

  7. Brilliant observations, Jane! Thoroughly enjoyed reading your post on poor ol' Sam Brick and her beauty. She certainly needs the strength of character to carry this through, but I wonder whether she wasn't aware of this before it was published?
    It's also highlighted social media in all it's gory glory and how public opinion can quickly effect a rise in notoriety! It's difficult to understand the reason for her article and what purpose it was supposed to achieve, but I guess it doesn't really matter in Daily Mail's eyes...the more comments...the more readers! Cynical? Moi?

  8. Thanks, glad you enjoyed it Mummyathe schoolgate:)

    I am finding the whole Samantha saga very interesting indeed. It's a curious case as I simply
    fail to see how anyone could not see that this article is offensive to many, many women all over the world. So at the moment I simply don't know what to believe; whether it's PR stunt on SB's behalf, on the DM's behalf (bearing in mind they probably should have pulled the plug on her), some kind of bizarre social experiment or even just plain stupidity.

    What concerns me now, even more so than before - having read the SB was addicted to clairvoyants for twenty years (that's if we assume that what she writes is true) what if her perceived self confidence is actually bravado?


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