Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Melting Alaska, Bin-gate and the editing of moral fibre?

Hello!  It has been a while! I have been busy planning the new direction of my blog (and my life post-degree of course) but I could not resist writing a quick entry on what seems to have taken social media by storm this last week: Bingate.
Like countless others across the nation, I LOVE ‘The Great British Bake Off’. For years the baking competition has built a reputation for ‘amateur’ bakers who have an incredible amount of skill to fight to the death and become the metaphorical ‘cherry on top’ using swords made of Ciabatta loaves, shields made of Apple and Lavender Tarte Tatins, catapults of sherry-infused Trifle with volleys of innuendo arrows.

The contestents of GBBO are seldom foodstuffs, but this is pretty much what goes on in a baking show...right?

Not quite. In fact the format is much simpler, and a lot less violent. 

The bakers simply bake recipes based on the ‘theme’ of the week, such as breads, cakes, biscuits etc. Three bakes to be exact: a ‘signature’ or recipe which is regularly made at home, a ‘technical’ in which the contestants attempt to mimic a recipe from one of the judges and a ‘showstopper’ in which the bakers use the essence of creativity to construct the most extravagant item to impress the judges (who happen to be Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood). Each week a baker leaves while another is crowned ‘star baker’, and the process is repeated for 9 or so weeks until we reach the final. Audiences even are given some interesting food history lessons all of this in a wholesome hour.

Nonetheless, audiences were thrown into a state of furor as last weeks episode, which was focused on 'Desserts' caused outcry. Contestants attempted to make the best Saucy Pudding, Tiramisu and Baked Alaska possible. It was the latter that caused the #Bingate and #PoorIain hashtags to trend all over the UK on social media. 

I will try to find  the dramatic moment where you can just about see Iain's soul shatter into 1000 pieces below as he discovers what was supposed to be 'Chocolate, black seasame seed and coffeee caramel Baked Alaska' was put outside the freezer and left to melt, causing him to go into meltdown *pun intended!*, binning his melting mess and storming out of the baking tent to cool off *sorry Iain*. 

On the hottest day of the year and with a time limit, the task of making a successful Baked Alaska seemed to be impossible. While a hot day has very little effect on baking a cake or making a meringue, the other two main components to the dessert, ice-cream is much trickier. My heart sank for Iain, whose ice-cream looked more like... a mess really. In the spur of the moment it is fully understandable to want to get rid of such a melting monstrosity and bin it.

The tricky Baked Alaska in all it's frozen glory.

As a result of his actions, which ultimately led to the dramatic and somewhat humilating moment of Iain 'presenting' his bake to the judges - aka bringing the bin to the judges table - he was asked to leave the baking tent that week.

As a member of the audience, I was outraged to see Iain go. I wanted justice. My feelings were not in isolation, as over 800 complaints were made to Ofcom about the BBC letting go of the bearded Northern Irish baker. 

However, there is a much darker side to this tale. Diana, the 70 year old baker was heavily implicated for the worst baking crime of all: sabotage! The edit of the fiasco implied it was her fault that Iain's ice-cream was not set correctly. Audiences took the show, which has the reputation of being so wholesome as gospel and went on a scathing attack on Diana on social media. Some simply wanted her kicked out or reprimanded her for 'actions', others took a much more violent approach of which I will not divulge on here. All of this... for ice cream?

Audiences forgot that this in fact, was a 70 year old woman. As I type this entry, the latest episode is starting to air. Somewhere early on in the show it will be explained that due to illness Diana has had to leave the competition. It turns out that as a result of a fall, she is now has lost the majority of her sense of taste and smell. Just desserts some would argue, but I think this is a moment of tragedy. It would be fair to say that the bakers only enter GBBO to showcase their passion and love for baking, cooking and food. To have one of the most crucial and pleasuable senses, taste, taken away from you is a devastating and tragic event.

Unlike other reality tv that saturate modern media, there is no prize money or million dollar record deals which are up for grabs. The prize is nothing more than an honorary title, although previous winners have gone to start a career in baking: publishing a range of books, making regular appearances on morning television or even opening retail stores of baked goods in their local area. Taking this into account, it seems highly unlikely that a 70 year old woman intentionally made an effort to ruin the chances of her fellow bakers.

Whether Diana intentionally or accidentally played a role in this debacle, the audiences will never truly know.

Nevertheless, it seems surreal that such a seemingly simple programme could cause so much outrage. Even more bizarre that the producers and editors of the show felt the need to present the drama in such a passive-aggressive way. Sure, it is slightly reassuring that a group of viewers dotted all over the nation can come together to fight for what they percieve is justice, I think this incident easily outlines how easily the moral fibre of society can be bent and led to believe something that may or may not have possibly happened.

In the aired show, there was no sense of real remorse or apology from Diana and her tone was particularly pointed and coy towards the cries and growls of Iain. It is too easily to forget the process of editing (which as a student I am certainly guilty of from time to time!) which is used in all forms of media to portray a particular conclusion.

For anyone who would like to attempt this can found here and good luck!

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