With our country plunging ever deeper into crisis, and politicians and pundits alike genuinely clueless as to what happens next with Brexit, it’s quite hard for something outside of Westminster to win any prizes for being the maddest thing in the news each day.
Lord praise Lorraine Kelly, then, for the news the TV presenter has won a £1.2million legal battle with the taxman by, in part, successfully arguing that rather than being Lorraine Kelly on her ITV show, she instead appears as some dramatised version of ‘Lorraine Kelly’, thus classifying her as a “theatrical artist” and making her agent fees tax-deductible.
“We did not accept that Ms Kelly simply appeared as herself,” a tribunal judge decided on Monday. “We were satisfied that Ms Kelly presents a persona of herself, she presents herself as a brand.”
Kelly’s bizarre case, as many things do, first reminded me of professional wrestling. In WWE and the like there’s a term, kayfabe, which describes the weird dramatic separation between the characters and stories told in the ring, and the actual wrestlers themselves. For example, in kayfabe, Stone Cold Steve Austin used to beat The Rock over the head with a steel chair because he really wanted to be WWE Champion – but Steve Austin the guy wasn’t brutalising Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson because he was actually jealous of his tremendous success in the workplace. Or, to use a much better but also much, much worse example, who can forget the moment Terry Bollea, Hulk Hogan himself, in the midst of his Gawker-destroying sex tape privacy trial, somehow ended up having to distinguish between the size of his own penis and that of Hulk Hogan, the wrestling character. The Hulkster may have claimed to possess a ten-inch penis, but the real life Terry Bollea does not.
The trick to wrestling, and I guess TV presenting, is in making it all seem as real as possible, and Lorraine’s basically doing the same thing as those guys every time she interviews a celeb about their deeply-felt ghost-written autobiography. She quite possibly doesn’t care, but her viewers do, and she cares about keeping them invested – and that is the value of her work.
To really get to the point though, the core reason I have plenty of sympathy with Kelly’s claim she is not her pure self on her show is that, if we are honest with ourselves, do we not all play a certain version of ourselves at work? Don’t we all contribute to our workplace kayfabe?
There’s even a line in the judgement that says Kelly “may not like the guest she interviews, she may not like the food she eats, she may not like the film she viewed but that is where the performance lies,” and does that not just sound like every day in the office?
You may not like Susan in reception, may not be able to stand your deskmate’s constant Anchorman quotes (come on buddy, it’s 2019, get a new reference point) or may have a deep personal issue with your client’s plans to synergise your market offering to better leverage your existing portfolio while maximising growth potential in Q3, but the commonly-accepted rules of society mean you aren’t going to blank Susan, you aren’t going to tell your deskmate to never speak again, and you aren’t going to tell your client you’d like to fire them directly into the burning sun.
We all come to work with our own things going on. We all have our own hopes, dreams and insecurities and our own ideas of who we want to project to the outside world. I know I’m an introvert who’d be quite happy to sit in silence and not really speak to anyone most of the time, but working in a newsroom requires fast, vocal collaboration between teams and for me to play out that role in the external world.
And just the same, I know there will be teachers out there who don’t really enjoy public speaking but love helping kids learn, graphic designers sketching buildings on the way to work because they won’t give up their architect dreams, and migrant workers toiling away in thankless employment to give themselves a chance at a better life. ‘Dress for the job you want’ and all that.
And so I have a great amount of respect for Lorraine’s ability to present herself each and every day as amiable and kind and truly here for her guests. In the end, I like to think we’re all out here every day trying to survive and give the best version of ourselves that we can, and that can be hard, so if you can save yourself a million quid by arguing that successfully, then more power to you.