Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Gordon Ramsay: So Macho...

The concept of 'machismo' gets a bad rap in the media, and sometimes in the real world too. For instance I once wrote in a book of Sean Penn's 'authentic machismo', and a (female) newspaper reviewer thought this very notion ludicrous (which made me wonder what her boyfriend/helpmeet reckoned to such views.) I guess that from its Spanish origins to its common English usage machismo just suggests too much in the way of exaggeratedly bumptious behaviour and a chauvinistic sense of entitlement. Obviously there is a portion of personal identity that may be no more than performance and/or masquerade: a fact one expects is understood by all those gay men who affect black leather jackets, and also - one hopes - by some of the rather more slight and unimposing straight guys who affect same.
Still, Norman Mailer fan that I am, I think machismo needs defending now and then, insofar as it can reasonably describe a readiness on the part of certain men to put whatever physical fortitude and strength they are blessed with to good and courageous uses. (To get in harm's way, you could say.) Women are of course entirely capable of the very same solicitude and bravery; one might only suggest that since men tend to be physically larger and more robust then maybe more of an onus falls upon them.
Anyhow... watching Gordon Ramsay's The F-Word last night on Channel 4 I was in no way surprised to see the Great Chef teaching his young son to catch and gut a rabbit, then cooking it in a ragu for the lad and his mates following a back-garden kickabout to which the ex-Ibrox trainee Ramsay contributed keenly. Many people, myself included, love Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares and Hell's Kitchen shows for the big and untrammelled manner in which the host expresses himself while urging people to do better than what they're doing. There's something improving about it. The F-Word, though, is a different beast. Watching Ramsay jet-skiing and ice-fishing for his supper, or getting his hands gory with the primary stage of food preparation, is only what we have come to expect and seems authetic to the man. But this apart, the show seems utterly dogged and weirdly compromised by the awful self-adoring celeb guests whom Ramsay is happy to air-kiss (Last night? Kate Garraway, Jesus H...); and the equally awful crowd of general-public would-be food snobs who are encouraged to sound off throughout the show. Clearly the only thing that can stop Ramsay is Ramsay, so he will go his own way; and the foodie world is inevitably bound up with rich people, however they came to be so. But it always feels odd to me that Ramsay's media persona is bound up with being simultaneously a) refreshingly bullshit-free and b) offering further needless exposure to prime bullshitters.

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