Traditionally, we don’t respond well to reality television and its stars who get too big for their britches: remember the Heidi Montag–10 plastic surgeries in one day hullabaloo? Or the whole Kardashian family, especially after Kim’s 72-day marriage and subsequent divorce proceedings. While there are some reality stars who’ve come out on top of the collective consciousness (Nicole Richie, the MasterChef contestants, and mostly those who participate in shows based on talent and skill and from which a winner is chosen based on these things), most are destined for a life of C-list celebrity and/or the descent of their career. Being Lara Bingle so far would indicate the latter.
Almost one million tuned in to the premiere episode, in which the nude-pics-on-the-balcony violation was dealt with, but since then, the show has failed to return to these numbers, with last night’s final coming in last place amongst the three big networks. My party line when it came to watching the show was that “it’s for research”, but despite the inanity that was Being Lara Bingle, I actually like—and have some sympathy for—the show’s namesake for this reason: what has Bingle done to incite such hatred?
On a train ride home on a Tuesday night which meant I’d miss the show (that’s what the Ten video player is for), I raised this issue with friends. One shriveled his face in disgust while the other proclaimed that she didn’t like the way Bingle dragged Michael Clarke’s name through the mud. Upon further inspection, I couldn’t find any evidence to support this assertion; in fact, everything I’ve read and seen on the show indicates that Bingle and Clarke split amicably, and Bingle still speaks of him fondly.
So what did my friend mean by saying that Bingle tarnished Clarke’s image? I dare say what everyone else means when they talk smack about Bingle: that she’s “not good enough” for Clarke. That she’s an untalented famewhore who trades on her looks for money. How this is any different from the career of someone like Gisele Bündchen or Heidi Klum, who also has several of her own reality shows, I don’t know.
What I do know, however, is that the bullying of Bingle is about misogyny. We don’t like her because she’s a young, attractive woman who uses her looks and body to get ahead and is unapologetic about it. What troubles me is that we dedicate countless column inches, a trend which I’m no doubt contributing to with this article, to berating or defending Bingle, whilst male celebs like Ashton Kutcher, his Two & a Half Men predecessor Charlie Sheen, and Bingle’s former lover Brendan Fevola, get away with murder… or what could be seen as attempted murder, in the multiple intimate partner assault allegations against Sheen. (Just look at the Kristen Stewart-cheating scandal. Sure, she’s just as much to blame as her married-with-children car-sex buddy, but we seem to be heaping the shame onto only her.)
Maybe it’s because before all the sex, drugs and debauchery surrounding Sheen, he was once a good actor. Maybe it’s despite—or perhaps because of—Kutcher’s cheating, he’s a very successful businessman as well as actor. Maybe, according to Roger Franklin writing in Good Weekend, Fevola is just a “lovable larrikin” gone down the wrong path. But how are histories riddle with drugs, violence, infidelity, gambling problems, abuses of power and lewd behavior, amongst other things, spread across these three men better—or at least more acceptable—than Bingle’s relatively mundane existence?
Like Kim Kardashian, who rose to notoriety via a sex scandal and not much else, Bingle is apparently trading on her status as a “celebrity” or “personality” as opposed to hard work and talent. The quintessential tall poppy, you might say.
Funnily enough, for those who tuned out after the first few episodes and those who never tuned in at all, they missed out on seeing the “real” Lara Bingle—as the reality effort was so often touted as attempting to show—as the series drew to a close. As friend and fashion designer Peter Morrissey told Bingle last night, “you need to show people the real you,” not the perception of Lara the media presents that they initially expect to meet.
Obviously, no reality show is ever going to project a true image of someone. I dare say we can never truly project a true image of ourselves to even our nearest and dearest, as no one really knows us better and can understand our idiosyncrasies and contradictions better than ourselves. But Lara Bingle isn’t exactly the worst—or most un-real—person to grace our television screens. She may be pretty boring in that girl-next-door way, but at least hasn’t hurt anyone, which is more than I can say for some others.
Related: Shaming Lara Bingle.
Image via PedestrianTV.