‘Gordon Ramsay’s Son needs to be dropped in the sh*t’

Born Famous sees Jack Ramsay visit the council flat where his dad grew up. Das Kapital it is not

Gordon Ramsay's son, Jack, visits his father's old council flat in Oxfordshire as part of the Channel 4 documentary Born Famous. Video: Channel 4

 

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, wouldn’t it be great if Karl Marx’s Das Kapital had way less politics in it and featured Gordon Ramsay’s son. Well, good news everybody! The first episode of Channel 4’s Born Famous is kind of like that.

On the surface it’s one more TV programme in which an interesting documentary topic is obscured by the large well-fed head of a celebrity. Think: Splitting the Atom with Les Dennis or Natural Selection with S Club Seven or The Aerial Bombardment of Europe featuring Twink.

In this instance the subject is inequality in Britain and it involves the gastronomical guru’s firstborn, who for the purposes of this article, and because I can’t remember how to use Google, I’m just going to call Gordon Ramsay’s Son.

“What if I was not Gordon Ramsay’s son?” wonders Gordon Ramsay’s Son (I’m paraphrasing). “What if I grew up in poverty in Bretch Hill in Oxfordshire much like my father, Gordon Ramsay’s Son’s Father?”

“There’s only one way to find out!” says Gordon Ramsay’s Son’s Father’s Production Company (this series was made by Studio Ramsay). “We’ll send you there with a camera crew, which of course would not be possible were you not Gordon Ramsay’s Son, but don’t think about that too much or you’ll rip the fabric of time and space.”

Firstly we see Gordon Ramsay’s Son showing us Gordon Ramsay’s Son’s Stuff. This includes his private school education, his photos with famous people, his personal trainer and a very expensive Rolex. We even see footage of his 18th birthday, which like the parties of most rich people who have not read The Great Gatsby and absorbed its indictment of gratuitous, hollow wealth, is Great Gatsby-themed (you can laugh at this if you want, but where has your book learning got you?).

Gordon Ramsay’s Son (aka Jack) visits Bretch Hill. Photograph: Glenn Dearing/Channel 4 Televi
Gordon Ramsay’s Son (aka Jack) visits Bretch Hill. Photograph: Glenn Dearing/Channel 4 Televi

The only time I feel sorry for Gordon Ramsay’s Son over the course of this documentary is when I see him face-to-face with his craggy-faced self-mythologising progenitor who, after gifting him all these privileges, has the gall to say “[Gordon Ramsay’s Son] needs to feel vulnerable. [Gordon Ramsay’s Son] needs to be dropped in the sh*t to get his sh*t together.”

In fairness, he’s hardly dropped in shit. Instead he heads towards Bretch Hill, where, if I read the camera angles correctly, he’s expected to be terrified by the sight of terraced housing. Gordon Ramsay’s Son and Gordon Ramsay’s Son’s Camera Crew are then introduced to a kind, vulnerable young man named George who is unemployed and homeless and staying on the couch of a friend.

George knows that Gordon Ramsay’s Son, with his camera crew, is not just any old person, so shows him how sleep on a couch. Sleeping on a couch is a Bear Grylls style survivalist stunt for Gordon Ramsay’s Son but he is game.

“I want to prove to myself and dad and my family that I’d be alright if I lived here,” he says at one point. Soon he’s out signing autographs for local children just like a normal regular person out filming with their normal regular television camera crew.

Gratuitous cruelty

The next day Gordon Ramsay’s Son is shown the old youth centre that helped his father, now shut down, and the council flat in which his father lived, no longer available to young people like George thanks to a Tory policy of gratuitous cruelty.

It’s quite hard not to start humming Pulp’s Common People or, indeed, The Internationale, as the programme progresses. This is particularly acute when we’re meant to believe that Gordon Ramsay’s Son might have to sleep on the streets and that, if that happened, those streets would not be lined with underfloor heating and cushions and soothing dolphin sounds.

Of course, it doesn’t happen, because a relative stranger is thrilled to see Gordon Ramsay’s Son and his camera crew and offers him a couch for the night. You know, the kind of thing that happens for regular homeless people and their camera crews.

He tells his father that he thought that he managed to fit in really well in his old ’hood
 

The next day George has an appointment at the job centre where the interviewer seems completely unfazed by the additional presence of Gordon Ramsay’s Son and his camera crew. “Gordon Ramsay’s Son? That’s nothing. We had a job seeker in yesterday with Keith Harris and Orville.”

You can’t throw a stone in British suburbs these days without hitting a celebrity poverty tourist and their documentary crew, because that’s what Britain has now instead of a functioning social security net. The morning after this, Gordon Ramsay’s Son oversleeps, causing poor George to be late for an important job trial at a restaurant.

If this is a real job trial and not some televisual set up, this is high-level callousness. At moments like this I think I can see streets aflame and a shiny guillotine in George’s irises when he stares at Gordon Ramsay’s Son, but I’m probably projecting.

In fact, George, like every non-celebrity who appears in documentaries like this, is sweet and forgiving and deserves better. He gets offered a low-wage kitchen job which is presented as a big opportunity that could help him break the cycle of poverty. And then, Gordon Ramsay’s Son’s mission complete, he returns to a family mansion in LA to sit by the pool contemplating what he has learned.

He tells his father that he thought that he managed to fit in really well in his old ’hood, in this completely scientific experiment where he lived exactly like a regular person with a regular person’s camera crew. Okay, it’s not his fault. He means well but knows no better.

And he does manage to make the only good observation in the whole show – one worthy of being the basis of a much more interesting documentary – that his father would not have made it out of poverty had he existed in the austerity-ravaged Britain of today and hadn’t instead benefited from post-war socialism and been the recipient of a council flat.

Stick-to-itiveness

Gordon Ramsay rejects this out of hand, of course, because in the eyes of the wealthy, wealth is a consequence of stick-to-itiveness and pluck, not scarily depersonalised concepts like access to resources, historic good fortune and government spending.

Anyway, I’m devising another television programme I’m calling When the Revolution Comes which explores these issues and in which the celebrity participants aren’t mere “volunteers”. I might tell you about it next week during the episode of Born Famous featuring Mel C’s Daughter.

For now, having had enough of Celebrity Babies I flick over to BBC1’s Animal Babies (this is the correct zoological term for beast progeny) where I have a much more enjoyable time. This week a number of world class camerafolk (including Ireland’s own Colin Stafford-Johnson) document various gorillas, hyenas and otters as they try and get their workshy offspring off the family payroll and fending for themselves.

“Hashtag Adulting!” trumpets an adorable baby elephant before using her trunk all wrong at the watering hole. “LMBL!” cries an otter child as it breaks open a mussel on its belly with a stone. Millennials! What are they like?

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