Why Grace Dent on ‘I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here’ Is Worth Watching
Words: Shamim de Brún
Words: Shamim de Brún
The Jungle is finally worth watching again. In part because Jamie Lynn is set to embarrass herself, but also because it features a renowned food critic for the high-brow left-wing paper – The Guardian: Grace Dent. Not since Jordan and Peter Andrée met on set has there been a Jungle like this one?
Grace Dent, a Master Chef judge, may seem an unlikely candidate for a show notorious for its gruelling challenges but I think watching Grace on ‘I’m a Celeb’ will be as compelling as Christine Quinn crashing Mary Fitzgerald and Jason Oppenheim’s dog birthday party on “Selling Sunset”. Grace Dent will make you scream like you did when you realized who exactly screwed over Shiv, Roman and Kendall Roy’s chances at leading Waystar Royco on the Season 3 finale of HBO’s “Succession.” Because Grace Dent is entertaining.
Grace Dent is a girl from a working-class background who didn’t have the benefits of a polished, connected upbringing. Despite that, she has conquered media. From newspapers (The Guardian) to magazines (Marie Claire), radio, and some of the most popular shows on TV, including The Culture Show, Charlie Brooker’s Screenwipe, and The Apprentice: You’re Hired. She has also written eleven bestselling novels which have been translated into twelve languages. Her two memoirs stick out as some of the best food memoirs I’ve read, and I’ve probably read more than my fair share.
Originally from Carlisle, now living in London, Dent is bright, sassy, and has a warm, no-nonsense approach to life that is funny and refreshing. She has won thousands of fans on OG Twitter.
When speaking of that era she said, “I pretty much said whatever I wanted on Twitter. It was like spraying rude words on a fence in neon, foot-high letters and never, ever getting detention for it. It was the perfect place to put out all the extra thoughts and funny one-liners that didn’t get to editors. And the unedited, unfettered me was like a dog whistle to thousands of women all over the world to come together and chat”. If we get to see even half of those in the jungle, it will make for incredible watching. I love a razor-sharp-witted woman, and Grace certainly is that.
Across the centuries, people have watched transfixed as others dare to eat disgusting, torturous, or sickening amounts of food. Disgust grabs our attention, draws us in, and when shown on a screen instead of in real life we love it so much we’ve created whole subgenres of YouTube content around it.
The specifics change with the venue, but it is a consistent form of entertainment. It’s a quintessential part of the ‘I’m a Celeb’ experience. But the fact that Grace is a professional eater of posh foods for a haughty newspaper means the stakes are higher. It will be more entertaining for people to watch her eat gizzards than Nigel Farage.
But Grace has a secret weapon up her sleeve. Loads of posh tripple Michelin level food is ‘gross’. Go to any high-end once-in-a-lifetime place, and you will be confronted with nose-to-tail eating that invariably includes things just as conventionally disgusting as testicles. Grace has likely seen it all and won’t crumble in the face of a Kangaroo penis. I personally can’t wait to see this.
On top of all that, she’s not afraid of conflict. Reality shows are cast for conflict, and contexts are controlled. As Dent’s colleague Jay Raynery once said, “Where restaurant criticism is concerned, it is hate that springs eternal”. If her Twitter is anything to go by, she has opinions out of the wazoo and is not scared to let you know. I can genuinely see her calling out Nigel Farage on the daily and letting Jamie Lynn know that she is just a coattail surfer, loyal to an abuser. This is the tea I am here for her to spill.
Grace would likely say it better than that because she has a way with words. Her books are laugh-out-loud funny. In the opening chapter of How to Quit Twitter, she says, “This book is a whole lot of my thoughts, feelings and experiences of Twitter. I’m pretty sure you’ll disagree with most of it. I chatted to scores of people about Twitter as I was writing this book. Absolutely nobody agreed with anyone else’s view on anything.”
Grace has also been through some hardships of late, having lost both her parents in a short window of time. While this sort of thing is ethically uncomfortable to talk about in the sphere of reality TV, often those with what is derided as a sob story do pretty well. They can give a voice to the universal experience of grief and highlight causes that need time in the limelight.
Grace herself, has been candid about how her job affects her body image, and it’s hard not to look at this through a media-critical lens as an exercise in dieting. Watching Grace confront some of her food insecurities and psychological crutches will be interesting to watch and make her even more relatable to viewers. At the same time, everyone in the camp will likely look to her to make something decadent out of the rice and beans weeks.
Reality television reveals a lot about humanity. It is at once a window and a mirror, showing how real people react and interact in extraordinary situations. Grace Dent popping up on ‘I’m a Celeb’ reveals that Reality TV isn’t just for fame-hungry youths. Reality TV can be frighteningly raw and deliciously entertaining, just like Grace herself. While fiction comforts us with the knowledge that actors are delivering lines crafted by writers, reality television offers no protective cover. In the Jungle Grace Dent along with society as a whole must face ourselves and each other. Now that’s television worthy of our attention.