Dooley, Unduly

Yesterday afternoon, I opened YouTube to look for a video – probably a song from Hamilton or a clip from Family Guy – and the first thing that came up on the recommended videos list had a thumbnail of a confused-looking redhead, and was entitled “Kids for Sale.”

So, naturally, I had to click…and I might have been sorry that I did, because the last 24 hours of my life have been occupied by one Stacey Dooley.

Ms. Dooley, who is just a few months older than I am, is a British TV journalist/documentarian who presents shows where she goes to different countries and investigates/attempts to solve/ingratiate herself in a local social issue, like human trafficking in Cambodia, cybersex in the Philippines, and the hard-partying lifestyles of the tourists of Magaluf.

Stacey Dooley gained fame on a show called Blood, Sweat, and T-Shirts, where she was one of a few unknown fashion-obsessed British teenagers who went to India to see how much illegal child labor goes into making the bras, jeans, and sweaters that are so readily disposed of after one season in the UK. Dooley was so inspired by either the plight of the people or the attention that she decided to extend her one-off appearance into a television career.

I watched first the episode called “Kids for Sale,” where she goes to Nepal in order to free children who are illegally working in sweatshops. I was actually kind of impressed; she seemed to take no shit from people, have a genuine interest in learning about their lives, and in the welfare of the children in these situations. She managed to free a little boy completely in no time at all, which was incredible to watch, and then joined another boy on a long trek to find his parents, which ultimately failed, but at least she (or her producers) had the wherewithal to take the boy back to Kathmandu with them rather than leave him in the company of some shady relatives. The whole piece had a very positive, uplifting attitude about it, and I wanted to see more.

In my research, I found a few websites which threw her under a double decker Routemaster bus. There was an article about how her piece on Japanese suicide culture was so lame that it actually seemed to glorify suicide at times. People picked apart everything about her, from her constant crying to her lack of journalism experience to the fact that while we see subtitles when non-English speakers appear on the screen, she seems to be listening to them intently and nodding along, as if she speaks fluent Spanish or Filipino or Thai. Several comments sections and derogatory remarks later, I returned to YouTube to watch some more from her.

The next one I watched, about Cybersex and Children in the Philippines, made me cringe a little at first. After reading the comments of others, I saw the whininess, the crying, the repeated lines, and a few moments where I was going “really, Stacey? You’re just going to walk away as this tween continues to flirt with sexagenarian British men on Facebook? You’re going to get in a stranger’s face and tell him he is a bad bad person?” (As a side note – the raid scene was incredible to watch. I can’t believe they pulled it off, especially foreigners with camera equipment) Overall, this hour made her seem more like an uninformed, blithely attempting do-gooder from the West who was either ineffective or making things worse.

But I decided to watch just one more, and I definitely picked the right one, about Tourism in Magaluf, a hot spot on an island off the coast of Spain where British teenagers like to go and get knackered (or is it knickered? I don’t know). This episode just struck me as something that could apply to teenagers everywhere, not just in Britain – it should be required viewing for high schoolers. In the first part, Dooley tries to enjoy herself despite all her crazy peers who are not documentary-makers, and then she continues on as a worker in the resort town, volunteering with the police and the paramedics on different nights, and seeing how disruptive the behavior of British teens can be, not just for themselves but for an entire island whose population they outnumber each summer. I used to be curious about going to Magaluf as a tourist and seeing what it’s all about, but now I kinda want to do what she did and volunteer with the police to see all the crazy people. I’m sure that if any teen from the UK – or the USA – were to step into Dooley’s shoes on one of those nights, they would never drink again. And if my rowdy neighbors would watch the bit about the hotels, and how annoying all the drunk people were, maybe they’d cool it on Saturday nights (as in: right now, where every thought I have is punctuated by a door opening, noises and bodies spilling out, and then said door slamming shut). Even though drunk and entitled teenagers isn’t as groundbreaking as child sex workers, I do think that Dooley made some really good points and showed me, at least, something that I would not have seen otherwise. Because we’re almost the same age, it does feel like I’m traveling along with her, and that I’m glad to not be rotting in a ditch on the Punta Ballena. She doesn’t get particularly emotional in this piece either, and on the whole, it seems like a responsible journalistic work. Except for the part when she ran after some thieves, wanting to interview them, that was kind of stupid, she could have gotten hurt.

In the past 24 hours, I’ve gone with Stacey Dooley to visit the homes of tourism workers in Thailand and Kenya, and the mean streets of Cambodia where pimps and child prostitutes roam, and I’m not done yet.

But my feelings about Stacey Dooley have gone back to the admiration of how I initially felt about her. I don’t know about the British public, but in terms of their misgivings about her and her shows, as far as I’m concerned –

1. Yes, she’s young and emotional, and that’s okay. She’s braver than most of us are, and is probably in even more danger than her show leads us to believe. She doesn’t always ask the most rational questions, because she’s interested in the humans and their experiences, rather than delivering history lessons and listing off facts. And yes, she cries a lot. But I think I would too if I was sitting with a child prostitute in Cambodia or in a morgue for dead British teenagers in Thailand. She’s a human, with emotions, and if that annoys you, go do something else.

2. She’s doing something that you are not doing. So yeah, you donated twenty dollars, but she actually went there



Who Ya Gonna Call? Part II

Ever since I finished reading Call the Midwife, I’ve been dying to get my hands on one of the sequels. Despite only having seen about half of the first season, I decided to forgo any and all spoilers and interlibrary-loan a copy of Part II: Shadows of the Workhouse, once again, by Jennifer Worth.

Shadows has a very different tone and focus than its predecessor. The foreboding title notwithstanding, it ventures away from some of the more lighthearted tales of Jenny’s adventures to some darker places further afield from Nonnatus House, from the workhouses of turn-of-the-century London to war-torn France. Most of the book has little to do with Jenny and the other nurses. The first and last sections focus on characters who are mostly tangential to the plot of the book and to Jenny’s life, but appear in other contexts both in the previous book and on the TV series.

The first section revolves around Peggy, a cleaning lady at Nonnatus House, and her relationship with Frank, a sometimes-handyman for the ladies. I actually just watched this episode last week, so I knew what happened with them, but the TV show did not figure in the third character in this section, Jane, and kind of gave most of her traits to Peggy – unless there is a episode with Jane in it that I have not seen yet, and I’m not going to go looking in an episode guide at the moment because I want to remain surprised. The Peggy/Frank/Jane story line really brought to life the horrors of the workhouse. Before reading this, I had no idea how squalid it really was; it’s almost as if living on the street would have led to a better and healthier life than being trapped in the bug-infested, lifeless, prison-lite conditions of the London workhouse. Yes, I understand that it was an effect of social services, and one of those “it seemed like a good idea at the time” things, but it obviously spiraled out of control, leaving its mark on people like these three. Ultimately, in both the book and the TV series, I thought that this story line was more bittersweet and heartbreaking than troubling. Peggy and Frank’s situation was so unique that I was just glad that they were able to lead the lives they led.

Skipping ahead to the third section, we meet Joseph Collett, an elderly, ulcer-stricken army veteran with whom Jenny takes a shine to; not in that way, rather in more of a grandfatherly way. The harshness of Collett’s life and the circumstances surrounding his death were counterbalanced by the sweetness, honesty, and loyalty Jenny showed him in his waning days. I think I said this before, but of all the midwives, Jenny is my least favorite (ironically, since she’s the main character and all) but in this vignette both on TV and in writing, I came to admire how she treated this man and actually cheered for her. Good on you, Jenny. The TV episode about this vignette is absolutely riveting and does Collett justice, as well as driving home the importance of honoring all veterans of wars, young or old, American or British.

And then there’s the middle section: a quasi-comedic look into the hijinks of Sister Monica Joan. I was sitting in Short Stack last night as I read this part, and I couldn’t put it down. I won’t tell you what happened, but it’s a nail-biter. Just when you thought that Sister Monica Joan couldn’t get weirder…she does. This section really brings out the individual qualities of the ladies of Nonnatus House, from plummy Chummy to goody-goody Cynthia to mischievous Trixie to the kind but judgement-questionable Jenny. Overall, the real winner was Sister Julienne and her equanimity, in addition to the deus-ex-machina twist, she’s more and more like Meryl Streep’s character in Doubt. The moral of the story: the real S.M.J. must have been the biggest pain in the ass to put up with, but one of the best to watch if you don’t have to watch her.

I’m ready for Part 3!

Some new words I learned:

  • Serried – packed in rows
  • Turbot – a type of European food fish
  • Quinquereme – an ancient Roman galley with five oars on each side
  • Golliwog – a type of black doll
  • Drachm – another word for dram
  • Flavine – a type of antiseptic

This book review has been brought to you by PBS and the Pennsylvania State University-Mont Alto Library


Who Ya Gonna Call?

Alert the media; I finished another book! That’s TWO so far this summer vacation. This one is a special one in particular, because it was not only amazing but also has an amazing television adaptation. I finished it this afternoon at the Starbucks on W. Washington Avenue, so here’s my take on Call the Midwife, by Jennifer Worth.

Call the Midwife is the memoir of the late Jennifer Worth, who was a midwife in the East End of London in the 1950s. In the book, she calls herself “Jenny Lee” (her maiden name), and her journey begins when she steps into Nonnatus House. From the moment she meets batty Sister Monica Joan, she knows she’s in for a trip. We meet the rest of the nuns and midwives at Nonnatus House: sweet Sister Julienne, tough-as-nails Sister Evangelina, nurses Trixie and Cynthia, and of course, clumsy second banana Chummy Browne.

The situations that Jenny encounters range from inspiring to terrifying, and sometimes encompass both. Jenny doesn’t always handle things with the utmost grace; she doesn’t paint herself as a saint, which is refreshing to read, and she makes mistakes along the way, learning from them. I admit to having been spoiled a little by the excellent BBC TV series of the same name; the few episodes I have watched have magically recreated some of the scenarios from the book, but reading them is a different kind of magic. For example, the Conchita Warren storyline – the second part, specifically – was acted out wonderfully, but the language that Worth uses to break down just how powerful the maternal instinct of the human woman is makes you really ponder the miracle of birth. Really, the whole book does; as much as it is an insight into life in the poor side of London in the 1950s, it brings the experience of birth to a whole new level.