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