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January 2011


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"What a frightful woman" - fashion on TV (Hustle 7.1)

By Amy CT · January 8, 2011 · 0 Comments · 22 Views

I don't know about you, but I always love it when TV shows feature fictionalised versions of the fashion industry. I don't claim by any means to know a lot about it, but it always fascinates me to see what people think this industry is like. Watching Hustle (series 7, episode 1) last night was essentially like watching every well-known fashion industry stereotype in one friendly, sixty-minute bite.

Predictably, the fashion industry (or, one modelling agency in particular) was the villain in last night's episode, which saw the gang attempt to con Wendy Stanton (Anna Chancellor, St Trinian's, Spooks) after she had taken money from Eddie's beautiful blonde niece with dreams of modelling.

It was based on a well-known industry scam: asking unsuspecting girls to pay for portfolios to start them out on a modelling career with no intention of giving them a job. And, it provided plenty of opportunities for the bad side of the industry to be presented to the viewer. In fairness, the villainous nature of the characters didn't really need to be accentuated at all - it was very much self-explanatory.

The bitchy, unsuccessful former model wants to get herself into the mainstream industry as a model agent. The bright white office, the colourful slightly socially unacceptable outfits and the words "sweetie" and "kisses" make her the archetypal fashion industry witch. Chancellor played it perfectly - but then past experience has shown that she's good at playing the bitch (this is not a comment on her person, I promise - it's just that I've only really seen her in "bitch" roles...)

It was refreshing, though, for a TV show's critique of the fashion industry to focus on a lower-end target. We've all seen The Devil Wears Prada and Ugly Betty - we all know that Anna Wintour isn't famed for her friendliness... but it seems just as likely that the lesser-known people in the act of clawing their way up the ladder are equally heinous.

In true Hustle style, the main characters fluctuated between themselves and their assumed roles - and although Adrian Lester's absurd fashion designer Hillary King played on every stereotype in the book (gay, bright, "OH EM GEE", and far too cheerful), the way that he snapped in and out of character was simply extraordinary.

But, as ever, the truly remarkable thing about this particular episode of Hustle was the stunning script. The detail in them, and the way in which the writers' minds can seemingly be seventy seven steps ahead from the very first moment always astounds me (you can read an example script free here) - and, every time this episode had me grimacing at its portrayal of fashion (which surely can't be that heinous?!), the script went ahead and dazzled me in to submission.

With clever touches such the above (a box in to which the portfolios of "unsuitable" girls were put), and cutting lines like - "She's too fat." / "She's only a size six!" / "Exactly. Tell her to come back when she's got an eating disorder!", I have no doubt that the Hustle scriptwriters are back to their absolute best. Whether their viewers will ever look at the fashion industry in the same way remains to be seen.

What do you think of the way fashion is portrayed in the media? Is it fair?


PS - all images are my own screencaps from the BBC iPlayer version of the show. All credit clearly belongs to the BBC.

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