Fly-on-the-wall series Shoplife follows young people working at Gateshead’s Metrocentre – the UK’s largest shopping mall.
It shows them not only at work but at home and also out on the ‘toon’ enjoying themselves. It could have been an entertaining portrayal of hard-working teens who go against the media’s wholly unfair representation of their age group. On the whole, however, it simply reinforced the stereotypes.
‘SOME GOOD EGGS’
Sure, there were some good eggs among those featured in this episode: Van Mildert worker Abbie had aspirations to become a supervisor, Helen wanted to follow her dream and become a model, and Krispy Kreme’s Jon (pictured, top right) wanted more work hours. Fantastic! Contrary to popular belief, that is how most young people feel: they want jobs, they want to work lots of hours, they want wages – but they simply either cannot find work to fit around their education commitments or don’t get a response from their application.
But then we have the infuriating ones. The embarrassments. The people who were embodied by Joey (pictured, bottom right): an employee at the Red Mall’s Skate Shack. Now, Joey simply showed himself up! He had no regard for his job or respect for his manager, boasting that he just does whatever he wants when his boss is working from home. I can only assume that the fact that he was being filmed for television slipped his mind.
It’s infuriating that people like Joey have jobs. It really is. I’m sixteen and have had two interviews in the past fortnight alone. Now, I know that I’m really fortunate to have got those interviews – some of my friends don’t even get to that stage – but I have been unsuccessful in both. Yet someone like Joey (and no doubt others who we shall see in this series, for I don’t want to blame him alone) is perpetually late and messes around at work, but still manages to hold down a job with little more than a few warnings. That is annoying. And embarrassing.
Shoplife represented the north east poorly, too. It portrayed the participating workers – although I use the term loosely – at the Metrocentre to be materialistic, greedy and foul-mouthed – to name just a few qualities. Now, I’m not saying that these people are these things, I’m sure they’re very nice people, but that is how they were portrayed. Who knows, even Joey might be decent and strive to succeed at work – although I doubt it.
I mean take Joey’s mam, Justine. On hearing that her written warning-magnet son had been reprimanded once again, she had this to say about the CCTV cameras in place at Skate Shack:
“It’s like f*ckin’ Durham jail! And ya’ve got the governor watching ya on camera twenty-four seven, they pick the phone up at the slightest little thing ya dee wrong. Graffiti on your cell wall and the governor’s at ya f*ckin’ door like a shot, that’s what it’s like: Durham jail, Big Brutha watching ya.”
It was like Stephen Fry was in the room.
So, there we go: in a nutshell, that was Shoplife – but it definitely wasn’t a fair representation of north east life. I promise we’re not all like that. When Jill Halfpenny claimed, ‘This is what it’s like being young, having fun and trying to get up for work the next morning,’ I was hoping for something to make me proud, not just as someone from the region but also a teenager looking for work. What we ended up with was Geordie Shore with job prospects – but not many of them.
Images courtesy of BBC and Dan Prince. © BBC
Shoplife is on Thursdays at 9:00pm on BBC3
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