The Proper Gander column from the September 2011 issue of the Socialist Standard
Watching a BBC3 documentary and expecting it to give you a deep insight into capitalist society is like going into a sweet shop hoping to get a three-course meal. In both cases, you end up with something sugary and gaudy instead of nourishing. Cherry’s Cash Dilemmas was therefore like a bag of liquorice allsorts. It was the latest show from Cherry Healey, the unthinking-person’s investigative journalist. She spent a day each with five women who have different kinds of relationship with money. WAG wannabe Esma believes that “it’s the man’s job to bring in the money and the woman’s job to look nice”, and by ‘nice’ she means being bronzed and vajazzled. Amanda made her fortune inventing and selling potties but was too busy making money from other people’s children to be around her own kids. ‘Freegan’ Katharine avoids spending money by raiding bin bags, looking for food needlessly thrown away by cafés and takeaways. Claire struggles to feed her family of nine on wages of £150 a week. And Birgit went from the Hollywood high life to a council flat in London, and feels that ‘karma’ has caught up with her.
Presumably it was assumed that the viewers would have the attention span of an amnesiac goldfish, as the programme only spent ten minutes with each interviewee. But behind the hyperactive editing and Cherry’s wide-eyed zeal were some interesting observations about how people feel about money. In particular, the show revealed a correlation between how much someone fetishises money and how self-absorbed and irritating they are. Katharine, Claire and Birgit have learnt, unfortunately the hard way, that money is less important than fulfilling, warm relationships. And they have become kinder and more thoughtful as a result. But Esma and Amanda, who have allowed their alienation to take them over, just come across as tanned robots with bling. Whether or not money can buy you happiness, the love of money only seems to buy you shallowness.