So, apparently the luminaries at the Valletta Local Council (Malta’s capital city) have decided that the latest person to be named Cultural Ambassador for the Unesco World Heritage Site is none other than a reality-TV star who is best known for marrying a glamour model with assets the size of Mosta. His prior claim to fame was his 1995 hit single “Mysterious Girl”, which is admittedly quite catchy (in a syphilitic way).
Andre was in Malta ostensibly to attend the Malta Music Awards, where he performed three numbers while the ITV crew filming his reality show recorded the proceedings. How a reality-TV star 18 years past his sell-by date as an artiste would have added any street-cred to the ailing festival’s reputation is anyone’s guess, but that’s beside the point.
At one point before the singer’s jaunt through the island, someone whose only encounter with culture was when he/she ate live yoghurt decided this tabloid star would be a perfect ambassador for our little capital, her with the baroque buildings and the Piano-designed parliament. Instead of keeping this thought to themselves, this person decided they would propose this at the council meeting, where the gaggle of yoghurt-eaters thought Peter Andre, with his tanned complexion and washboard abs would make the perfect ambassador for Valletta’s culture.
Before anyone could rush in to explain that Valletta would not be the European capital for bacteria which make Stilton the best cheese on the planet and which turn milk into yoghurt, but rather of the culture which includes music, the visual arts, architecture and theatre among many others, the council unanimously voted in favour of the motion.
The reasons given by IT laureate and Valletta mayor Alexiei Dingli were, (and here I quote Teo Reljic’s timely report on the matter):
“Valletta will feature prominently in his show on iTV which has an average viewership of 1.7 million viewers and a peak viewership of 1.9 million viewers. An additional 300,000 viewers watch reruns of his show.”
Now, I am not a particularly voracious reality-TV viewer, but surely if a production company is happy enough to film a reality TV star carrying out mundane tasks such as speaking on the phone and going shopping, a visit to a beautiful city in the sun would rank highly on the filmability stakes, regardless or not of whether Mr Andre is bestowed with honorifics.
Instead of Andre and his viewers being inspired to aspire for higher achievements than just being himself by Valletta’s grandeur, the city stooped down and made him her representative.
I’m going to make a bold assumption here. If at least a third of the 1.7 million viewers have a relatively functional intellect and take Andre for what he is, i.e. the ex-husband of a woman with massive tits who scored a summer hit sometime in 1995, chances are they don’t take him seriously.
And if that is true, they are likely not to take any city council presenting him with awards any more seriously either.
In the same interview, Dr Dingli “deemed Andre to be an adequate celebrity to represent Valletta, citing the fact that Valletta’s nomination as European Capital for Culture in 2018 promotes a wide-ranging sweep of the definition of culture: ‘from high culture to pop culture and even particular niches’.”
Now I’m sure that Andre will have many good things to say about Malta, and I’m sure he’ll be able to say them well. He is, after all, someone who is making a living just being himself, and that means that he probably isn’t stupid. But sadly, the non-anthropological understanding of culture (which is the one presupposed when speaking about “capitals of culture” and “cultural ambassadors”) does not normally stretch wide enough to include reality television.
By appointing Andre as the ambassador of something he is no longer involved in, the Valletta Local Council is risking making a laughing stock of the city (or at least of itself) in what is more narrowly understood as the cultural sphere.
If anything, the derision expressed by many in the local cultural sphere is proof enough that Culture is alive and well outside of the Valletta Local Council offices. If this derision can get the council to revoke its award, or at least make enough of a noise, Valletta’s reputation may yet be saved.
Or we just might get a handful more ITV viewers to our shores.