Since leaving the cobbles of Coronation Street behind her, Helen Flanagan has not been short of media attention; her provocative photo shoots, relationship with footballer Scott Sinclair and participation in the odd reality television show have seen to that, and it is clear that her days as Rosie Webster are well and truly behind her. Her latest endeavour with The Sun sees her donning an apron and adopting the role of their “sizzling new chef” every Sunday on their online web series ‘The Real Hel’s Kitchen’. Dressed in tight clothes with plunging necklines, and complete with a full face of make-up and perfectly done hair, it is obvious that viewers are not supposed to be focusing just on the food.
The Sun has deliberately marketed her as their answer to Nigella Lawson, describing her segments as “steamy sessions at the stove”, but the series seems to have generated a very mixed response. A major part of this stems from the fact that it is not exactly clear what purpose the episodes serve; yes Flannagan manages to rustle something up in every meticulously edited segment, but her highly sexualised persona is accentuated to such a great extent that it can make even six minutes of footage difficult to sit through. It is obvious that the target audience is supposed to be men – a factor highlighted further by the stereotypical choice of simplistic and wholesome recipes including a pot roast and brownies – but some responses have shown that it is not just women who are repelled by the series; a brief glance at the comments on the show’s Google+ page reveals a barrage of derogatory comments, as well as, “she has no brains and is a waste of space”. As much as The Sun may have intended to capitalise on sex appeal to lure in viewers, their forcible nature may have backfired this time.
It is difficult to know what to make of the series. Multiple comments have likened it to pornography, and it is not difficult to see why; it is far from credible viewing if one intends to class it as a cookery show. I do not think it is necessarily degrading towards women simply because I think that most people can see it for what it is; as much as The Sun are drawing comparisons between Flannagan to Nigella Lawson, it is evident that there is actually no comparison simply because Lawson is a highly acclaimed professional in her field and the seductive nature of her shows comes off as tasteful, especially when juxtaposed against Flannagan’s. If anything, I think the series casts more of a demeaning shadow across Flannagan herself (who could certainly do better), The Sun, and those who genuinely find the segments to be entertaining.
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