Thursday, 23 June 2011

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, unless you are a minger.

As my friends and acquaintances know, it is a rare day indeed that I am faced with something so outrageous that I am rendered speechless, jaw dangling and brows knitted like a pair of caterpillars in a pitched battle to the death, unable to frame and contain my outrage with a barbed wire fence of neatly linked words.

This ultra rare, gold titled and holofoiled moment, this once in a blue moon phenomenon occurred this week when I saw the latest news item about that rotten little band of Narcissuses and would-be contestants for the Judgement of Paris that make up the charming community of

You may not know (or perhaps even care) that the entire premise of this exclusive dating site is that it the members are ‘beautiful.’  These poor delicate Socratic Ideals of the human form must not have their sensitive eyes birsmirched by crocopigs and thus any poor supplicants attempting to cross the threshold of have to fling their prostrate forms before the members of this society who will then decide by vote if he or she is delicious enough to skip through the fields of gorgeousness or is in fact a hideous troll (there shall be no clemency!) who needs to be shoved back under the bridge from whence he or she lurched. 

Ok!  You, dear reader, are extremely gorgeous and charming and so we will assume that you would have immediately been voted into the hallowed gang (although we all know, dear reader, that you have far too much going on in the cranial department to put yourself through the humiliation of being judged by people who think the plural of product is product, when talking about haircare).  This doesn’t mean you are safe. Thanks to 6.7 in the terms and conditions of the website yours remains a life of uncertainty.

“BeautifulPeople reserves the right to move member profiles back to the BeautifulPeople rating module to be voted on by existing members. As a consequence such action could result in removal of member profiles from the website. Such action can take place from time to time or as BeautifulPeople in its sole discretion deems this a necessary action.”

See?  Even if you are deemed beautiful enough to get in through the door, there is no such thing as certainty in the beauty stakes; you are ankle deep in the colloid hydrogel of public opinion and you will never know when that capricious harlot will shove you arse deep into the mire of rejection from the “exclusive virtual world for the aesthetically blessed only”.   

This very disaster befell a number of members in January 2010, when they were required to resubmit themselves to the vote, after observant members put in a series of complaints about some people letting themselves go over the holidays:

"We responded to complaints by moving the newly chubby members back to the rating stage. This is the same as having them re-apply," said Greg Hodge, the managing director.

So judged they were, and only a few hundred were permitted to keep their chufty badge of beautifulness.  5,000 individuals were deemed simply too grotesquely fat for the members’ delicate sensibilities and were duly requested to sling their pudgy, repellent hooks.  It puts me in mind of that scene in Mary Poppins, when Mr Banks has to do the walk of shame, which included his brolly being inside-outed and his bowler hat being punched through.   Imagine the erstwhile beauty being forced to hand back her hair straighteners and have her eyeliner pencils snapped in half before her very eyes.  She is obliged to relinquish her designer clothes, which are to be replaced with a capsule of High Street outfits, accented by some pieces that have been “designed” by Kate Moss.  Humiliating!

This is all well and good: idiot turning on idiot like rabid dogs in a pit of offal is extremely entertaining and has been many a TV show’s raison d’etre, but is it real?  Is it a cautionary tale against thinking you are all that and a bag of chips, eating the chips, becoming a chubber and then being treated like a leper, shunned by your community and doomed to wander the streets of averageness and mediocrity for ever more?  Or is it an awesome PR stunt? 

Please be upstanding, Golden Goose PR.  Yes, dear reader, I am saddened to inform you that it was indeed a very clever piece of PR called Festive Fatties.

“Festive Fatties was a moment of inspiration on a wintery walk through Hyde Park. We spotted some good-looking couples stuffing themselves with fairground food from Winter Wonderland.  It made us think of the members and whether they would be pigging out like the rest of us this Christmas.” said Miki Haines-Sanger, Co-founder, for the PR Week article .

And, boy oh boy, did it work!  They maximised every penny of their measly budget of £10,500 (plus $20,000 for PR Newswire) to get the kind of results that would leave your average marketer or PR person wracked with tears of bitter jealousy:

“Within 24 hours, there were 48,000 new applicants to During peak times, the site experienced 700 applications a minute. It received more than 2.2 million hits in the days following the story.”

And it gets better:

“Ad revenue increase of 400 per cent in the three days after the campaign launch
- Traffic increase of 700 per cent between January and April 2010
- Increase in overall revenue of 900 per cent between January and April 2010

- In January 2010, was ranked at 9,345 in Alexa's list of most visited sites. By February it had climbed to 1,700”

In essence, idiot baiting, using idiots as the bait. And making $25 per month from every Idiot that made it over the wire. I salute these brave PRs for this fantastic effort, in giving us a bit of a laugh at the expense of the Idiots as well as perhaps taking the worst of the Hollyoaks and WAG wannabes off the streets and out from under our feet.  But…and it is a big but:  it does make me a little wary of the latest story of humiliation at the hands of the beautiful people.

Apparently a disgruntled ex-employee lodged a virus in the old system which allowed 30,000 fuglies to flow out of the shadows and into the light, like a wave of cockroaches scuttling towards an open refrigerator, and gain membership to the site without having to go through the tiresome voting process.  This could not be put up with, as was explained by that perennial charmer Greg Hodge "We have to stick to our founding principles of only accepting beautiful people – that's what our members have paid for…We can't just sweep 30,000 ugly people under the carpet."

Imagine the bump that would cause.

All 30,000 little cockroaches have been forcibly removed from the refrigerator of gorgeousness and paid back, but head exterminator Hodge still felt bad for "unfortunate people who were wrongly admitted to the site and believed, albeit for a short time, that they were beautiful".

Rather than relying on traditional methods of pest removal, Hodge has gone for the option of sending the swamp donkeys a “carefully-worded email, trying to be as sensitive as possible” and, for those folks who are finding it hard to come to terms with the fact they have a face that is more akin to a melted welly than a work of art, they have kindly and sensitively set up a helpline to help the Morlocks face and accept the fact that they are fat and ugly.  These people are all heart.

Oh, yes, and did I mention that the alleged virus rapidly became known as the Shrek virus?

This latest story surrounding this website, its ridiculous premise and even more ridiculous attitude to the world, makes me want to throw my hands up in despair.  Is this what we’ve come to as a species?  If I wasn’t so plain lazy, I would invent a time machine so I could go back to that day when the first little fishy thought ‘Sod this water lark! Let’s get with the air and walking thing’ and tell it not to bother. 

As it stands, I’ll simply try and wedge my jaw back into my face, put a restraining order on my eyebrows and try to forget that this dreadful website exists. And maybe get some guidance on what real beauty is from someone whose thoughts I actually respect.

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