I still haven’t seen this episode but of course from the weekend it was filmed, it was always going to be edited as a round of high drama for the series. ‘Midway’ through the filming schedule, after last week’s topsy turvy pie episode this could be interpreted as manna from heaven for the production team. Dropped puddings, flying pastry and bloody fingers with an unforeseen conclusion: episode 6 had it all for viewers in terms of drama.
The audience are invited to identify with us precisely because we represent the everyman and – woman who bakes. The ‘lottery finger’ could be pointing at you as a participant in the next series, so people are encouraged to personalise their viewing and decide whether or not they could do better or worse with each challenge. In that, it is inevitable there will be favourites in terms of approach, styles and flavour choices, but really that’s as far as it goes. The clips of our backgrounds are there to give some context for our choices and motivations. Literally hours of filming are compressed for each episode, so it is inevitable that much will be left out, as the story must be told for that episode and also for the narrative arc that presumably exists for each of us. I don’t believe there is any deliberate attempt to present people in a negative light, but you are only seeing a small facet of the filming. I’m sure that I didn’t feature much at the beginning because I was solidly in the middle of the pack and my time in the spotlight would be coming. Others have had a different story chosen for them and have been featured accordingly. Similarly I cannot believe that Paul is as one dimensional as some believe him to be: he isn’t the lion king waiting to be fed the baby antelopes on the Savannah, even if he looks it here!
I do know that off camera Paul gave me a hug when the puddings challenge was finished and that Mary was also extremely kind. I was at rock bottom in terms of confidence in my baking at that point and it was much appreciated. It is just too simplistic to consider Paul in terms of pantomime villain to Mary’s White Queen. You as viewer are also being subtly but gently manipulated: invited to comment on decisions, to identify with the judging as well as the participants to improve the communal experience and interactivity of a pre-filmed programme.
We were promised a gentle show in which no one is edited inappropriately to come across as one dimensional and negative when we signed up, and in total fairness to the TV production company, they have kept to their word so far and should be congratulated for that. They have the sense to realise that using the material well is gripping enough and there is no need for Machiavellian tactics – they were rewarded with a BAFTA last year and hopefully this series of the show will continue to do well. Yes there are occasions of ‘judicious editing’ but we have all maintained we got on well together and were mutually supportive and this was generally the case. Boring I know, but true.
However I have been astonished at the venom directed at us as participants. The production company as part of their ‘duty of care’ to us arranged for us to have psychological assessment prior to filming, but it is actually very difficult to contemplate the completely unknown. Some of my fellow bakers have been personally upset by the degree of negative, unfounded comments they have received that have crossed over well into the realm of personal and vindictive. Family members and friends who are rightly proud of us have been coming across comments that are negative and reactionary in the extreme. Comments that would be unacceptable in person are made under a cloak of relative anonymity online. Yes free speech is to be defended, but these comments are in the public domain and directed at people who are doing something for the love of it, and with no obvious financial or personal gain most of the time. It’s fine to ‘hate’ an inanimate object (I hate grapefruit, the smell makes me want to be sick) but to ‘hate’ a person on a TV baking show based on a highly edited few minutes of TV? Can you draw inferences as to an individual’s true personality or motivations based on that little? Really????
Bullying is still bullying. Even in cyberspace.