Apparently, The Only Way Is Essex girls aren’t good role models. According to the results of a survey released last week, the ‘reality’ TV show is encouraging young girls to follow a glitzy champagne lifestyle. And, along with shows such as Skins and Geordie Shore, it’s considered “a blueprint of how their lives should look”.

Although our first reaction to this very important news might be “no shit, Sherlock”, let’s delve a little deeper, below the surface of the overly tanned faces and too-white teeth. When I was growing up, I didn’t have a role model (no sympathy required). The shows on TV weren’t much cop. As a teenager there were, Eurotrash, The Big Breakfast, The Word (Google them) and then Dawson’s Creek and Friends

In terms of female influences on TV, the choice was between giggly girls or Lola Ferrari. OK, so Amy Childs and Lauren Goodger aren’t exactly bastions of the feminist cause, but what they do represent is a shift in our societal norms. Yes, they might flaunt their flesh and wear too much makeup (go out on a Friday night and this is happening pretty much everywhere, and was happening long before TOWIE hit the small screen), but these are working-class-done-good girls; with many of them running their own businesses. If nothing more, they’re proof to the younger generation that you don’t have to be a straight-A student to have some degree of success. 

The Girls’ Attitudes Survey, carried out by Girlguiding UK, said many seven to 21-year-olds are celebrity-obsessed. But that behaviour is no different from groupies fainting watching Elvis or idolising Marilyn Monroe back in the Fifties. There are just more celebs today, and, if anything, that makes it more realistic for youngsters to star in a TV show, because there are so many. So why not aspire to do that? What’s wrong with that?

The bottom line is shows such as TOWIE are harmless, they’ll fizzle out soon enough. But if their legacy is that girls grow up believing it’s possible not to be stuck in a second-rate, nine-to-five job for the rest of their lives, where’s the harm in that?

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