It's difficult not to be cynical about the entire concept of Vicky Pattison:The Break Up, sponsored by OK! Magazine. The one-hour special, which aired on TLC on January 30th, felt like a neat way for the I'm A Celebrity winner to earn back some of the cash she lost with the magazine after her impending nuptials fell apart.
The show was supposed to be a documentary filled with the standard bridal tropes of reality TV – twirling in a selection of wedding gowns, the traditional Newcastle hen night with the girls partying (minus their winter coats), and down-to-earth Vicky joking about kebabs with country manor staff. Instead, it’s a more sombre affair, charting her recovery in the aftermath of her break up with finacé John Noble, who was filmed engaging in some suspiciously single-lad behaviour in Dubai.
There is no false advertising here, as the first shot of the show, filmed four days after the break up, sees Pattison screaming to her make-up artist that her life has been destroyed. Pattison's USP is her cheery, likeable nature. Unlike her scrappy, downright scary cohorts, she is the approachable every girl of reality TV. There is a genuine working-class warmth to her that cannot be faked, this ethos saw the erstwhile Geordie Shore tequila-slammer going through a televisual redemption as the I'm A Celebrity viewers fell head over heels for her spirited demeanour, crowning her Queen of the Jungle in 2015.
It may be a novel idea to see the star stripped of her knockabout humour and positive disposition but an hour of watching someone having a painful breakdown is not entertainment. It's the type of tragedy that appeals to pitiful gossips, the kind that believe in the Now magazine fiction – the manufactured drama and posed paparazzi shots. There is only so much an average viewer can take of seeing Pattison's normally cheerful face creasing up in misery, her voice becoming unintelligible through broken sobs.
Katie Price may have cornered the market in this type of tragic telly but at least with Pricey, the old warhorse, (who specifically deals in creating tabloid hell for herself) there's a certain impenetrable froidure to her character, a steeliness that can never truly be broken, on camera at least. With Vicky, there's a neurotic edge to her unhappiness that can make for uncomfortable viewing. This is not about shifting cheap hair extensions or dodgy self tan, this is the transaction of pain, the reality TV version of the first-person narrative essays that have become a wholly feminine industry.
There is no male version of The Break Up following Jamie Laing from Made in Chelsea or any of the TOWIE lads, as they are bound to an idea of manliness that eschews vulnerability. They are the modern male who is sensitive enough to fall in love but macho enough not to display any sense of despair or heartache at the thoughts of losing someone. These archetypes of toxic masculinity represented in most popular reality shows are encouraged to treat women like Vicky as objects, as something to be played with and discarded.Their opinions of themselves and women formed through a mélange of Lynx ads, Michael Bay movies and internet porn.
For her first public appearance mere days after the break-up, Vicky is a panellist at a body confidence seminar in an Essex sports hall. As fans snap photos and ask questions, she wryly asserts that she’s never felt less confident in her life. Sitting on a plastic chair surrounded by glittery curtains haphazardly stuck to the walls, this attempt at glamour, papering over the ordinary glumness echoes Pattison’s attitude towards her commonplace affliction. She will survive but the real question is, will she be able to endure selling her insecurities and emotional turmoil for tabloid television once again?