Lockdown coping strategies have suddenly become a major theme in the mainstream media. Both ITV and Channel Four have rushed out new daily lunchtime shows which focus solely on how to cope with lockdown.
The Steph Show on Channel 4 is the most overt example of this. Presented by Steph McGovern the show aims to ‘provide us with information to help us navigate these unique times’.
The show consists mainly ‘heroes and heart warmers’ – visits to people who have been raising money for our key workers, interviews with celebrities, typically in their enormous, plush houses, and tips to keep the kids entertained during lockdown.
NB – please don’t miss how PERFECT the choice of Steph McGovern is as a presenter for this particular type of show at this particular time – she’s got a well-documented history of having had to overcome prejudice in the media as a working class woman, but she’s just cracked on anyway and made a success of her career despite adversity – cracking on, staying chirpy, bravely facing up to adversity… just what we need to ‘cope’ with coronavirus! And that working-class Northern accent, how very approachable….
Over on BBC 1 at the same time we have ‘Daily Kitchen Live’ – which as the title suggests is more focussed on recipes which can help you make the most of what you’ve got in the cupboard or with what food is available.
This programme features a ‘war chest’ of crucial spices such as chilli powder, cumin etc. and guest features Jack Monroe, famous for her budget cooking.
Both programmes are littered with references to ‘staying safe’ and ‘staying at home’, and feature very little focus on the public space outside of people’s own living rooms.
The ideology of ‘coping strategies’
Personally I see this mainstream lunchtime focus on ‘coping’ as ideological – it distracts us away from the shameful misreporting of the actual number of people dying of Coronavirus (rather than merely ‘with’ it), the overzealous use of emergency lockdown measures, and the normalisation of medicalised control strategies for the mass population.
All of the ‘coping strategies’ – e.g. the recipes and the tips for keeping your kids entertained are (obviously?) individualised – they come from individuals and are suggestions to individuals, and it necessarily has to be this way because of the lockdown.
This fits our society very well, which has been on a trend towards privatised solutions to social problems for at least two generations, but it normalises this. Suddenly, staying in, and ‘coping’ are normal, while we leave the ‘difficult health problems’ to the experts (read global pharmaceutical industry).
Putting a ‘chirpy face’ on these privatised control strategies and ‘sharing our private lives together’ makes this all bearable.
Meanwhile completely absent from these shows is any discussion of how little we know of Covid-19, whether these lockdown measures are necessary, how we’re going to come out of this, basically anything even vaguely critical is off the agenda.
Then there’s the whole discourse of ‘coping’ – Ulrich Beck pointed out in Risk Society that since at least the 1980s politics has been about promising that things won’t get any worse, rather than making promises about making progress.
The idea of staying in ‘to stop the virus spreading and making the effects worse’ fit this discourse perfectly – in fact too perfectly, which is why I think we should be investigating whether this virus was engineered and released deliberately.
Meanwhile one thing which isn’t off the agenda on C4 is the adverts – and what do we see featured….. life insurance, pizza, DIY and broadband deals – all the consumer essentials for life on lockdown.
So these shows are basically telling you to forget about asking critical questions about Covid-19, be happy making the best of the lockdown because ‘coping’ rather than ‘striving for a better society’ are as good as you can get, and spend more money on your home entertainment to make the whole situation more bearable.