The Valleys: Why Wales Fumes.
Okay, perhaps the second part of that headline needs to be qualified as ‘why the political community and well to do celebrities of Wales fume’, because there are no shortage of people in Wales who look on at The Valleys and nod with a smirk of agreement. You see for many in Wales, The Valleys on MTV is not a reality television programme designed to shock its viewers into tuning in week after week, it is more akin to a documentary summarising the average Friday and Saturday night out in Cardiff. Most of those living in south Wales will long be familiar with the weekly flooding of Newport and Cardiff railway stations, as hoards from the valleys come down for a night out. It might not always be clever, but it is certainly not out of the ordinary. Yet we have the likes of Chris Bryant and Leanne Wood of the political spectrum lamenting how unrepresentative such scenes are of the valleys, and plenty of Welsh celebs pointing the finger of judgement. Perhaps the outcry over The Valleys can best be summarised as such: everyone knows this sort of thing happens, but we’d rather the rest of the world didn’t know.
And perhaps such attitudes are not unfair, after all, balanced representations are not the name of MTV’s game. Where for instance is the documentary on the communities in the valleys, as opposed to concentrating on people who don’t want to be there. Where is the reality television programme on a valleys rugby team, a valleys choir, a valleys community project? Okay, none of these things might be 100% representative of valleys life, but they are part of the story, and MTV’s offering is certainly not 100% representative (things are not great, but equally they are not that bad). And this is where the real concerns of Bryant and Wood should fall, not that such a programme exists, but that there is no voice for everything that represents the opposite of a cultural cesspool where fucking in a nightclub corner is the limit of ambition.
For instance, type ‘the valleys’ into a search engine. Now, imagine yourself as a potential investor, someone considering bringing business to this place that they have heard of, these valleys. Wikipedia entry aside, potential investor, or tourist indeed, will be met with a block page of reference to the MTV production of the same name, all of which highlight the depraved, base and generally despicable aspects of the programme. A ‘cast member’ of the programme was interviewed in WalesOnline this weekend, where they confidently asserted “people need to realise we’re not in there to represent Wales or the valleys as a whole”. Excellent to hear, sadly though, that is exactly what they are doing.
Chris Bryant and Leanne Wood know perfectly well that the MTV show reflects some of what goes on in both Cardiff and wider valleys communities on a weekend. They also know there are many things in both places that are the exact opposite. But the other thing they are only to well aware of, is that even amongst those who have and never will watch The Valleys, they will have heard of the programme, and this is what they will think of first when the area comes up in conversation.
This programme is clearly exploitative. It is exploiting the idiots lining up to take part in the programme, and the idiots who lap it up as some example of societal ambition – put simply girls and boys, make a career out of waving your genitals around in public, and you won’t have a very long career in anything…apart from porn perhaps, but you’ve already stooped lower than that, because you have found yourself on MTV, something much worse than pornography, arguably worse than genocide…perhaps. But it is also exploiting the name of the valleys, an area historically exploited, abandoned, and then done all over once more. The valleys are not some sort of magical rose garden full of sparkling bunny rabbits granting wishes, with unicorns dancing in ponds of crystal water, they are, in places, pretty rough. The last thing these communities need is for the masters of youth distraction to stomp in with hammer and nail, and close the coffin on the area once and for all. That is what Bryant and Wood are scared of, that is what they fear from this programme, and why they and others are so angry that this car crash of a television programme exists at all.