BBUK: Angel and Noirin: Fake-fat-shaming and the induction of self-hate as a motivational tool

I’ll be posting the odd BB clip to illustrate a common conversation that goes on every day, as a conversation trigger. You don’t have to watch the show to join in; the issues are standalone, and I’ll put in bits of background to show where people are coming from.

Please don’t post to tell me how much you hate the show or how pointless it is or how only plebs watch it. Cheers.

So, Angel and Noirin. I introduced Noirin yesterday, calling out Sree for his behaviour. Angel is a 35-year-old Russian ex-rockstar, now boxer, who has taken on herself the role of exercise leader in the house. Angel has also been severely restricting her food in the house, including refusing any pizza on day one, and going on a four-day hunger strike more recently, and talking about how good fasting is for your body and mind.

In this clip, Angel takes on the role of beauty-ritual enforcer and self-esteem police (not in a good way), and Noirin is squarely in her sights. For those who can’t see the video, Noirin is a gorgeous, willowy, athletic-looking woman. Her abdomen currently does not look entirely concave when slouched on a bench.

Your thoughts? Do parts of this conversation resonate with your experiences?


Noirin and Angel are in the bedroom, getting dressed and ready for the day.

Noirin: You alright?

Angel [applying makeup with a brush]: Yes. Trying to look good all the time.

Noirin: Trying to be what?

Angel: Looking good, all the time. I don’t know, people give up on their looks.

Noirin: Who’s given up on their looks?

Angel: I don’t know, people just used to spend more time with mirrors, and now – even you…

Noirin: [changing into swim gear] OK, so now I have a fat arse and now I don’t look good.

Angel: Yes, you’re giving up on your looks.

Noirin: I’m not going to lie – I think my body’s better than your body.

Angel: No, you’ve got good female body, you know. I’ve got just, I don’t know what I’ve got, I’ve got just some – Angel’s body – and um. You know, you’ve got good face, you know, improve with me, you could look even better.

Noirin: If I wanna look good, I’ll look good. If I wanna dress up, I’ll dress up. If I don’t – [shrug]

Angel: You on TV!

Noirin: So?

Angel: You’re not at home.

Noirin: Yeah but I wouldn’t do it at home. I don’t dress up every single day at home. So I don’t dress up every single day here.

Angel: [applying lipstick] No, each day you could look better than the day before, especially when you’re beautiful. Multiplies the beauty. Am I talking to myself?

Noirin: No, I see where you’re coming from, but that’s what you feel like.

Angel: Because for me I enjoy being in front of the cameras, good looking, you know, and just like and enjoying life! As it is!

Noirin: whatever. [shakes head, walks away]

Cut to the backyard, later. Noirin and Lisa are on the benches. Noirin is in full makeup and earrings. Lisa is eating some crisps.

Voiceover: 2.59 pm.

Lisa, to Noirin: You’re pretty. How many people have stated you’re pretty now? Nothing wrong with your arse, tits, hair, face!

Noirin: I do need to take more care, though.

Cut to the garden, where most of the housemates are gathered.

Voiceover: 4.20 pm. Marcus is in the bedroom. The rest of the housemates are in the garden.

[housemates are idly singing “We’ve got tonight”. Angel, in a robe, bandanna, and sunglasses, approaches Noirin, who is sitting next to Lisa on a bench.]

Angel: You look very beautiful, but it looks like three months pregnancy.

[noises of disbelief and scoffing from onlookers]

Lisa: Angel!

Sree: Oh my god!

Angel: You need to do the exercises!

Lisa: No she don’t.

Sree: Angel, man! Ha, ha!

Lisa: She don’t look three months pregnant at all.

Angel: Oh, ok, two months.

Lisa: Angel! Why would you want to drive people to do exercises? They don’t – this is normal. This is nice. I’d rather look at her stomach than your stomach.

Angel: No, she needs to do exercises.

Lisa: No!

Angel: I like train beautiful people. Because the world has run out of beauty. Unfortunately.

Lisa: It en’t. There’s fucking loads of beautiful women.

Angel: Nnno…

Lisa: Size 12 women are beautiful. Size 14 women are beautiful. You’re saying ‘she looks so much pregnant’; I could say to you ‘you look like a skeleton’. Would you like that?

Angel: Yeah, […]

Lisa: That’s because you’re obsessed with your weight.

Siavash: “Standard” is a size, like, ten … not 2, 4…

Lisa: Yes. 10, 12. All beautiful.

Siavash: Yes.

Angel [dismissively]: Ah, ok. I’m going. [gets into the pool]

Lisa: [to Noirin] Fucking shut her up, dinnit. Just try to stop it. Fucking insulting cow. [louder, to Angel] We don’t need to train, we don’t need to do exercises, we don’t need to do anything.

Angel [from the distance]: Just starve! Survival of the…

Lisa: We don’t need to starve! We don’t need to do none of that shite.

Angel: Survival of the fittest!

Lisa: You wanna lose some weight off that tongue, Angel.

Angel: Sorry?

Lisa: You wanna lose some weight off that tongue.

Angel: Tongue?

Sree: […]

Angel: I just say what I see. Human beings getting worse and worse. I’m not here about planet, I’m not here about human beings…

Siavash: Yeah, but none of us in this house is fat.

Lisa: None of us is fat.

Siavash: If you wanted a fat person, then you could say…

Lisa: Do you think any of us are fat in here?

Angel: Uh, no, getting fat.

Siavash: How the fuck are we “getting fat”?

Angel: No, girls were complaining to me.

Lisa: Who is complaining?

Angel: I was talking to Karly…

Lisa: Yeah but they weren’t saying rude things about you.

Karly: We said ‘we’re eating too much junk food, we need to go on a diet.’

Kris: No one needs to go on a diet, here.

Angel: It’s important!

Lisa: It’s not.

Siavash: oh, god, not this…

Lisa: Angel, life is about eating, and enjoying the good foods.

Halfwit/Freddie [who came in late]: You don’t have to convince everyone, Angel.

Angel: No, I…

[I’ll leave that one there]

[Cut to inside, Freddie/Halfwit and Angel.]

Freddie: Hi Angel.

Angel: Hi. How you doing, Freddie?

Freddie: I’m doing wonderful, thanks. How are you doing?

Angel: Thank you for standing over me, I just…. stupid things, I think.

Freddie: That’s ok. Yeah, yeah, don’t ever use the word ‘fat’ to describe an English person.

Angel: Yeah, I know.

Freddie: Ever, even if they are.

Angel: No, I see, I see, I [….] her pregnancy, I didn’t say ‘fat’.

Freddie: [laughing in disbelief] OK.

Angel: I said ‘pregnancy’ I know, I know, I didn’t say ‘fat’.

Freddie: Who did you say – what did you say, exactly?

Angel: I said ‘you look beautiful, but looks like three months pregnancy.’

Freddie: To who?

Angel: To Noirin.

Freddie: ooooof! Ooof! That’s – Angel, don’t say things like that! OK?

Angel: But she wanted to do exercise! All the time, and then she’s ‘no, no’ and the only way to kick her is to make hate her, herself. Because she hate it, she told me. But she’s still very weak to do exercise, I don’t know how to kick her to do exercise.

Freddie: Yeah. Mm.

Angel: I know, it’s not professional, I know, as a personal trainer.

Freddie: Naaahh…

Angel: But I don’t have no – I said before, ‘let’s train’, she says that she’s getting bigger, I said ‘let’s train’, because I care about people I like. And for me just, before it was glasses, now it’s a stomach, and … for me it looks painful. And people say ‘no, no, it’s ok’, it’s not ok, it’s very big. Believe me, look, it’s very big.

Freddie: Remember also, she’s been quite a serious athlete…

[It goes on, but I’ll leave it there.]

Categories: Sociology

Tags: , , , ,

10 replies

  1. I think it’s actually a form of bullying.
    I see statements like this used by parents to tell their children “you don’t really hate Jennifer” or “you like school”. What the speaker believes is morally and emotionally right and will be reinforced until the subject complies.
    Caving sometimes seems like a good idea at first because it stops them ragging you, but then you’re expected to act as if you really believe it. Heaven help you if you don’t, you get more “re-education”.
    God, I hear echoes of my sister now, haranguing my niece about how my niece does too want to get good grades to go to college to get blah blah job, and she could still live at home and have a nice car, but niece didn’t want to do that kind of job, didn’t like college, she especially wanted to get the hell out of my sister’s house.
    I have to wonder if this kind of emotion-denying and emotion-shaping statement was common for Angel when she was a child. It seems like it’s almost automatic.

  2. “I said ‘let’s train’, because I care about people I like.”
    No, you said ‘let’s train’ because you make your money as a personal trainer, and the more you can make people hate themselves the more money you can make from them luv.
    Quite refreshing to hear someone open about actually TRYING to make someone hate themselves though rather than pretending it’s all about making you feel better/healthier. If Angel’s a qualified personal trainer in the UK I think the licensing body might need to have a second look at her accreditation – bullying and advocating starvation isn’t what I’d consider appropriate health advice.

  3. Hmm, having now had a look at the film I feel confident in making a prediction. If Angel keeps harping on about Noirin not being attractive enough, the likely comeback is that the others will question her sexual orientation and say she looks like a man for being so muscley. In Australia, sport is still an acceptable outlet of excellence, in the UK it’s considered gender inappropriate and you’ll get called a dyke for it, hence the overwhelming numbers of teenage girls who stop all physical activity in high school. For some reason going to a gym for private self-flagellation in order to look good is fine, but not participating in physical activity for your own enjoyment.

  4. DEM: Angel is very out about being bisexual (pansexual?), and I’m fairly sure that Angel identifies as at least somewhat genderqueer and/or androgynous, though I’m not sure what words she uses. She went into the house in a black suit and mime type outfit, she has talked in the house about not having “a woman’s body, but I don’t know, an Angel body”, came out in a similar suited outfit with a moustache drawn on her face, and has snogged both men and women in the house.
    As far as I know, this particular aspect of her identity has been a non-issue in this season’s house, which also includes an out gay man, an out lesbian, at least two other openly bisexual people, and a whole lot of cross-dressing.

  5. Eeesh! I don’t think I’ve ever been told as an adult, quite so directly, that I’m fat or to ‘try harder’ to fit the cultural beauty standards. It’s still always around implicitly and is something that I find really difficult to deal with – listening to people criticizing their own, or other women’s bodies and indirectly then, critisising mine. The most disappointing part for me was the other women critisising Angel’s body in retaliation. Noirin says something like “I think my body’s better than your body” and then Lisa says that she prefers Noirin’s stomach and asks Angel -how would you like it if I told you, you looked like a skeleton? – The whole comparison game and who best fits the mould – instead of … just. fuck the fascist beauty standards.
    Also, all those cries that no-one in the house is fat, as though what Angel is saying would be ok, if anyone in the house were actually fat.
    And what’s with the survival of the fittest stuff? Survival of the starving? I don’t get it? I can conform to the standards better than you and therefore reap the material benefits that living up to those standards brings?

  6. billie: Definitely, it’s a good point. And then the blokes started kicking in to talk about what size they saw as “standard”, again implying that being more than that was Not OK.

  7. “In Australia, sport is still an acceptable outlet of excellence, in the UK it’s considered gender inappropriate and you’ll get called a dyke for it, hence the overwhelming numbers of teenage girls who stop all physical activity in high school.”
    Really? From personal experience and stats, I would say the female teenage drop out rate would be about the same for AU and the UK? I could be wrong :/
    “Angel: But she wanted to do exercise! All the time, and then she’s ‘no, no’ and the only way to kick her is to make hate her, herself. Because she hate it, she told me. But she’s still very weak to do exercise, I don’t know how to kick her to do exercise”.
    Self hate will–> self love? Gah, it’s such a paradoxical, warped psychology and yet it has so much social backing. I think it’s weird how Angel came across ( to me at least) as an extremist dieter whose obsession with weight is almost self-inflicted when compared to the rest of the house ( from the clip, I don’t watch the show). So Angel’s attempt to publicly shame Noirin was countered by Lisa’s attempt to publicly depict Angel as pathological for “obsessive” dieting. I agreed with quite a bit of what Lisa said, but part of me thinks that her response to Angel was almost as unethical as the way Angel treated Noirin. Don’t get me wrong, Angel seemed to be highly indoctrinated with exercise propaganda, and maybe it would be stupid to try to explain to her in a more private way why what she is doing is unacceptable, like Freddie *kinda* tried to do. I just don’t think Lisa’s response to Angel was all that productive, given that Angel seemed to interpret it as a personal attack on her ( by the rest of house), rather than as a critique of her fat-phobic views :/

  8. “Eeesh! I don’t think I’ve ever been told as an adult, quite so directly, that I’m fat or to ‘try harder’ to fit the cultural beauty standards.”
    Rang my mother for her birthday this week. As with every conversation we have, this one started “So… how’s the weight loss going?”.
    The public debate in the UK tends to focus on how girls hate competitive sport and the alternative options available that’ll keep them moving. The bullying is widespread and ingrained, but because much of it is girl-on-girl and doesn’t involve violence, tends to get little official attention. Sport in general has far higher social value in Australia than it does in the UK (which mainly concentrates on football, and to a less extent these days, cricket).

  9. It sounds like Angel is trying to live up to western ideals herself, and that blunt way of making her point could be due to english being her second language.
    Still, it will impact on the young girls who are watching it. “You look 3 mths pregnant” will become a new gendered slur amongst them.

  10. some of the bullying that goes on about females in high school continuing to play sport past primary school (at a representative level or even at a non representative level) is female on female, some of it is also male on female and how they insist females “play/perform” accepted gender roles, and some of it is also teacher on female…
    I did physical education in high school in years 11 and 12 – the class was made up of less than 1/4 of females, compared to year 9 and 10 where the class was about 45% females 55% males… I was also involved in representative sport, within the education system and in community sport – once again numbers dwindled markedly past the age of 15…
    when I think back, it was having self esteem, family support and acceptance, and having a group of female friends that were also involved in sports that seemed to co-relate to those who continued to study physical education as a subject, and/or be involved in sport regardless of at a representative level or not, up to year 12 and often beyond (myself included)…
    when I say involvement, I’m talking about the issue of keeping active and health, and being able to perform the sport at the level the young person desires , and not taking it to the extreme as depicted in the clip…

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