Now, I know what you’re thinking, MTV’s Geordie Shore is all just drinking, sex on TV and a place for influencers to grow enough followers so that they could flog eyelashes and protein shakes. But, as a full-time fan of trash TV, I’m here to tell you it’s so much more.
In 2011, the first-ever season was released as a shoot-off from USA counterpart Jersey Shore — which provided the debaucherous blueprint for youngsters Charlotte Crosby (then 21), Holly Hagan (18), Gaz Beadle (23), Vicky Pattinson (23), Sophie Kasaei (22), Jay Gardner (25), Greg Lake (27) and James Tindale (21).
In episode one, A Warm Welcome, the housemates meet. They’re awkward, a little unsure of what’s happening — but in true 2000s style, they hit the booze hard and fast. What unravelled is a sick-infused, loud, partially nude smorgasbord of hedonism gone wrong. Dyonisis could never. But, the stage is well and truly set for the 22 seasons that would follow.
As fun as it is to be a drunk tweenager, (that’s a twenties teenager FYI), Geordie Shore found itself at the centre of headlines and accusations about slut shaming, gaslighting, domestic abuse, substance abuse, risky sex, violence and body dysmorphia, to name but a few.
Over the years, the show has faced accusations of on-show and off-show misogyny. In 2014, Gaz promoted the #bedofshame on social media, which encouraged young men to snap non-consensual images of their sleeping partners – something he later apologised for. In 2016, he also wrote in his column for the Daily Star: “I have met some unreal birds in clubs and think, you could have been Mrs Gary Beadle, but you just let me bang you after meeting you four hours ago.”
Meanwhile, the girls were subjected to an inordinate amount of body and slut shaming on social media and from the cast. It must have felt inescapable. And we were complicit, watching on as the ‘lads’ objectify the ‘lasses’, using dehumanising language, calling them “fucking tramps” and “fat slags”.
But this isn’t the only double standard that the show exposed. Often the girls would be used as comfort blankets for the boys when they didn’t have a warm body to curl up next to, but as soon as there was the opportunity to “pull a worldy” they’d ditch and dash, without apology or explanation. Understandably, and unsurprisingly, a lot of them got hurt.
Speaking in 2022, Vicky told The Times, that she drank a “dangerous amount” of alcohol.
She said: “I don’t blame the producers for anything, but I didn’t have the skills to navigate being surrounded by that much alcohol. I was young and felt the pressure to be who they wanted me to be, and that made me feel so powerless. It definitely exacerbated my issues. I became a complete caricature.”
Concerns pertaining to the amount of alcohol being consumed while on season 11 in 2018 prompted the Alcohol and Alcoholism Journal to advise brands to remove themselves, for fear of the impact it could have on under-18s.
Rewatching the whole thing, I can’t help but draw parallels between drinking culture then versus now. But it’s not just that.
Was Geordie Shore actually just a snapshot of what life was like back then?
As we’ve moved through the decade, the cast of Geordie Shore has been — not tamed, but guarded differently. In a recent interview with The Daily Star, Abbie Holborn said: “There are definitely more strict rules that have been put into place you can’t just drink an endless amount of alcohol anymore there is actually a crew member who hands us our drinks and keeps a tally of our drinks and writes down exactly what we have had. They can refuse us drinks and stuff, I’ve been refused, and I was like ’c’mon, give us a shot - I’m fine!”
What we were really seeing in the OG days was a condensed hyperbolic version of life out there for young men and women. Rewatching Geordie Shore is like getting a sick snapshot of what it felt like being a twenty-something person immersed in drinking culture and only realising for the first time how engrained lad culture, sexism and misogyny were in our language. I don’t remember it being that bad. But, maybe that’s because I was participating in it too.
I’ve come along way away from my own days of paralytically drinking myself into oblivion and one night stands (not that there’s anything wrong with two consenting strangers getting it on — I would be too, but I’m off the market). Seeing this with eyes unclouded by my own insecurities and internalised misogyny, all I feel is a great heavy sadness.
I feel like we all owe the female cast members a whopping apology for all that they experienced, especially in those early days. For being fired up by the trope-ish storylines and participating in the soft (and not so soft) trolling. In many ways, I’m glad they’ve found fame and fortune as compensation for all that they went through, but who am I to say if it’s enough?
Either way, Geordie Shore is one of many cultural documentations of how badly we got it wrong in the 2010s. If the cast was collateral damage, then so were we. It’s an alarming mirror to hold up to society and I’m glad we’ve moved on (marginally) from the Wild West days of reality TV. I just wish the rest of the real world would catch up.
A spokesperson for Geordie Shore declined to comment when contacted by HuffPost UK.