My wife loves watching reality TV, she calls it her ‘guilty pleasure’. I object to the word ‘guilty’; she works a full-time job at a hospital and works another full-time job at home as a mum to two kids.

Reality TV is her ‘pleasure’ and there is no guilt attached.

I mockingly object to the ‘guilty’ part but I’m obviously not offended by the word, that would be ridiculous, how can anyone take offence to something so innocuous?

My pleasure, by the way, is watching sport, any sport. If people or teams are competing against each other and it’s on telly, I’m watching.

We have one major rule as a family: we all sit at the table and eat a family dinner together, every night, unless one of us has an unavoidable appointment (work, training, social club). Dinner is our time together and phones are not invited to the table.

However, once that final morsel is consumed, we scatter at pace, seeking out the solitude and reassurance of a screen, our individual screen, in our corner of the house. It’s a bit sad really but not uncommon for family life in 2024.

The kids are gone, there is no retrieving them from their chosen screen, but us adults do make an occasional effort. My wife will watch England football games with me or maybe the climax to the Ryder Cup, while in return, I make the effort with one reality TV show.

Love Island, Big Brother, no thanks. I am 45 years-old and the participants in those particular ‘reality worlds’ are like aliens to me.

The show I can manage is Celebrity Jungle.

Yes, the format is a bit tired and the jokes not always the best, but the sight of Nigel Farage chomping down on crocodile anus is good enough for me.

We were all settled in for an episode last winter and there was a sudden furore bursting from our screen of choice.

One of the contestants, Nella Rose, who is described as a ‘media personality, presenter and influencer’ was not a happy bunny, and TV chef / First Dates presenter Fred Siriex was the target of her ire.

It turns out, Nella (26) had taken serious offence to a campfire comment made by Fred (51).

What had happened? What crime against humanity had prompted this furious reaction? Should The Hague be placed on standby?

It turns out the ages of our two jungle combatants are relevant, as, during one inane conversation (Fun fact: 99.7642% of all conversations are inane), Fred made the comment: “I’m old enough to be your dad.”

At the time, Nella offered no response and I’m sure the show editors had no idea this would explode into probably their biggest moment of the 2023 edition.

Nella was stewing, she was offended, and a short while later, she was ready to tell Fred what she thought.

Now, there is a sad background to this tale, as Nella lost both her parents at a relatively young age.

It is such a difficult and life-changing experience to lose a parent, my dad passed last year and I’m finding it tough to get my head around that loss at the age of 45. Nella lost her mum when she was still a teenager and then her dad a few years later, which is horrible and a tragedy for such a young person to experience. 

Fred, however, was making the kind of throwaway remark we all say and hear countless times during a normal day.

As a rather embarrassing experiment, put a recorder in your pocket for an hour in a group environment one day, and then play it back to yourself a few days later: the results are alarming, as you realise how many pointless, frankly dumb, comments we all make in just an hour of social interaction.

Back to Nella, who was ready to confront Fred for his comment:

“I don’t care how you said it, to me, that’s disrespectful and I don’t want to talk to you or be around you. I only allow people to disrespect me once. You hurt my feelings; I was very upset. Don’t bring up my dead parents, are you stupid?”

To put it mildly, Nella was offended.

Fred, on the other hand, was totally perplexed. Let’s go back to his original crime: “I’m old enough to be your dad.”

How did that get twisted into an insult, how was the link made to a previous grief in Nella’s life, and why is it ok for the ‘offended’ person to launch a retaliatory tirade.

Fred should be offended that Nella was offended.

And the other campmates should be offended that Fred has taken offence. Ant & Dec should be offended that their show has been branded offensive and all us viewers at home offended that this whole episode has taken our viewing time away from Farage and his gourmet reptile butt.

In Nella’s defence (and offence), we don’t know the full context, and I’m definitely not going to rewatch the whole episode for a better understanding. It was probably a reaction she later regretted and, if so, fair enough.

The problem that comes from this pretty embarrassing exchange is the culture of fear it creates.

We are in danger of becoming a society that is afraid to pass comment on anything, just in case it offends someone, somewhere.

Everybody of working age is now extremely conscious of what they write in an email, on a text, WhatsApp, or any other written medium, where your words are recorded and can be used as future evidence.

This culture of fear is not Nella’s fault, of course not, she has just grown up in a time when young people are encouraged to express their emotions, to call someone out if they feel upset, to talk about their feelings.

And thank goodness for that, talking about stuff is far better than bottling it up.

No individual has a monopoly on what should be classed as offensive, it is an individual response, but my argument, naïve though it might sound, is that a miniscule proportion of people actually mean to cause offence.

The tiny few who do cause offence on purpose don’t deserve a response.

Go back to that recorder in the pocket and play your conservations to another group of random people, and it’s a safe bet someone from that other group will point out comments that could be perceived as offensive. Do the experiment in reverse and the same result will arise.

The next time you feel ‘offended’, just remember that the ‘offender’ almost certainly had no idea they were causing ‘offence’.

And finally, my personal favourite in the world of offence.

During a live sporting event, microphones occasionally pick up comments from the crowd or from participants, and sometimes the language is a bit fruity, prompting the commentator to say, without fail: “apologies if you heard some offensive language.”

If you are the person offended by that scenario, we, as a nation, also send our apologies and can only hope you get the right support in recovering from your trauma.

Editor Notes: All comments made in the above article are the author’s alone and not necessarily reflected by our organisation as a whole, especially if you find any of it offensive!!

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