12.1.11

It's all gone Kenneth Tong

I'm always late to the party on Twitter topics. The ones where you insert amusing words into film titles, the ones with celebrities' names mis-spelled (such as the Lilly Allen trending topic with people offering condolences), the deeply political ones that I couldn't hope to understand.
And then there's Kenneth Tong, a man who went from Z-list bit-player to worldwide buzzword overnight.
Tong hit the headlines last week when he took to Twitter to tell his followers, and the women of the world, that being a Size 0 is the only acceptable size and being fat is unacceptable, going on to highlight his 'Size 0 Pill' and other such means by which all the Beth Dittos of the world can become Kate Mosses.
Naturally, Twitter went into meltdown. High profile celebrities took to their pages to tell their fans to love themselves no matter what. And the public agreed - possibly my favourite comment, found on a news forum, strongly claims that Tong should be in jail for what he has done.
And then....Tong came clean.
Yesterday, Tong wrote this: http://www.twitlonger.com/show/82t0bf revealing that the whole thing was a social experiment - he'd made a bet with a friend to see how quickly one can achieve worldwide fame through Twitter. The friend apparently thought it couldn't be done. The friend was wrong.
In the aftermath, the debate still raged. Was Tong telling the truth, and was it actually a social experiment? Or was this just his Get Out Of Social Responsibility Free card, rather like his new promise to donate large amounts (no doubt of the money he's going to make from all his future tv appearances) to anorexia charities?
Either way, Tong has revealed and highlighted a few awkward social truths.
Everyone who was everyone had an opinion on Tong's outlandish statement, from the celebrities to the editors to the commoners. Rihanna was the most publicised example, taking a break from glamourising domestic violence and prancing round in underwear on national TV to tell all her female fans to love their bodies. Katy Perry, naturally, got involved too, no doubt using the whole incident to promote the positive message of her video for 'Firework', in which a plus-sized girl is nervous about joining in at a pool party. Journalists waded in. One journalist has since published a full, uncensored interview that he did with Tong prior to his admission of the 'hoax', and congratulates himself on exposing Tong's nasty little ways as if he were the new David Frost. The partner of Paul Chambers, the man made infamous by his Twitter threat to blow Robin Hood Airport sky-high following its closure, waded in, rather hypocritically, on Tong's violation of free speech and social responsibility. The two most topical, inflammatory issues of the day - terrorism and body image - together in one article? Oh the excitement!
And the more I read, the more I laughed. Laughed at the sheer bloody idiocy of it all, once again. It was timed nicely to coincide with my ill-advised attempt to start trying to have a reasoned discussion with a BNP supporter on Twitter. What started as a reasonable discussion ended in him constantly telling me I'm a racist Nazi foreigner (I resisted the urge to send him pictures of my quite obviously Celtic complexion) and am trying to debase his British racial identity. In the end I got bored of having insults hurled at me by an idiot who thinks that sophisticated expression is using capital letters, and left him to it.
This is what the collective 'smart people' of the media think we should have done to Kenneth Tong - just left him to spew his warped little messages and getting on with 'loving our bodies', eating wholemeal bread as it's better for us, watching tv programmes featuring beautiful, shiny, slim people, interspersed with ads for weight loss aids, and joining gyms in order to 'meet people'. While, of course, reading our magazines. This month's choice pickings have included an article about a rich husband being better than a job, how Breton stripes are back, and how to fit into your LBD for the New Year's party by surviving on roughly 500 calories a day. (Or if you're a Frenchwoman, you get this. Read it and weep - that'll lose you a few calories) No doubt, all of these magazines will have something to say on the Kenneth Tong incident, on the back of the page that tells you of X's 'shocking' new diet, which of course they'll then go into meticulous detail about in a strange double-standard attempt at shock and awe. They want us to be repulse by the ideas such as Tong's, but they also think that it's perfectly reasonable. As no doubt, twenty-odd pages after this 'shocking' new diet of the stars, there'll be a 'lose that Christmas weight...in a week!' article alongside some new season photoshoot with an unfeasibly skinny model. If they were really interested in promoting our health, the use of normal sized models wouldn't be something the editors get pats on the back for and the diet pages would be replaced with an exercise plan. 
Because that's the hilarious social truth that I spotted when the Kenneth Tong issue blew up. Sheer bloody hypocrisy. A critic came under fire recently for criticising a prima ballerina for being a bit too plump for her role, then rightly defending himself by saying if she didn't want to have her form criticised, she should have chosen another career. At least this is one critic brave enough to keep his integrity, and to remember that the world really is that shallow. So I hope everyone who has berated Tong for his scandalous remarks would merrily do the same to Lowri Turner and her ilk every time they encourage women to drop half their daily recommended amount of calories to fit into a dress. Because both are promoting the image that nothing tastes as good as skinny feels. One has just taken it too far than the other. And one is getting away with it, and will continue to get away with it as thousands of women start to prefer their concave stomachs to a well-balanced diet. 

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