Exiles review: 'They’re brash, solipsistic, vacuous and, well, annoying'
I have a theory about why slasher movies are so popular. It’s because the victims are beautiful American youths – the most fortunate people on the planet, gifted and pampered and wholly unappreciative – and it’s so easy to dislike them.
It almost feels morally right to watch these vacuous numpties be sliced and diced by a socially maladapted creep who lives in a sewer with his wife who’s also his sister; as if this is the universe exacting retribution, restoring cosmic equilibrium. Vivacious, affluent, brash, solipsistic, with horrible droning voices and terrifyingly large, perfect teeth…who wouldn’t cheer on the two-headed freak with the chainsaw?
And I think something similar operates with fly-on-the-wall shows like Exiles: Vancouver, which began with a double-header tonight on RTE2. Obviously nobody wants these six Irish kids, chasing their dreams in Canada, to be flayed alive and fashioned into a daringly transgressive pant-suit.
But we dislike them, deep down. Specifically, we dislike the persona they put across. I haven’t a clue what any of them are like off-camera, and in fact they all came across as reasonably nice here: no stagey bitches or obnoxious Alpha types.
Doesn’t matter: we dislike these personas because, as with the slasher-movie characters, they’re brash and solipsistic and vacuous and, well, annoying. Intensely annoying.
Here we have: Sean, a fashionista so camp, it’s some sort of Event Horizon for stereotypes; Dylan, a whacked-out flake of Woodstock proportions who wants to make an online show about hipsters (that sounds made-up; it’s not made-up); Nicola the model and wannabe – you guessed it – TV presenter; India the student and wannabe – you guessed it – music star; and Jade the wannabe photographer. (Interesting fact: her full name is Jade Stone – really – which is also a kind of jewellery.)
They all talk in that irritating, fake quasi-American accent…including Jade, who’s from Wexford where they definitely don’t talk like that. Every sentence sounds like this: “Bidda bidda bidda bidda…bidda?”
Hilariously, they all speak as if they’ve been living in Vancouver for two years already. Indeed India meets a Limerick bar owner who really has been living there – for two decades – and he has a milder cross-Atlantic inflection. (Even the voiceover guy has this awful, bogus accent.)
And they’re are all so essentially, wearingly samey, in this show and across the entire genre. It’s a funny thing: the stronger the sociocultural cult of individuality has grown (which I am broadly in favour of, incidentally), the less actual individuality we see on TV.
(Tangential point: Exiles is also filmed and edited exactly as you’d expect, with the result that it looks precisely the same as every other fly-on-the-wall doc. Honestly, you could splice one into another mid-episode and nobody’d notice the difference. Too many fast cuts, that high-def sheen they always use, flipping from intrusive background song to intrusive background song way too quickly…it’s almost as if they don’t have faith in the material itself to hold the audience’s attention.)
Anyway, as I say, these may well be the sweetest, coolest folks this side of…I don’t know. Me. But the persona they’re sending out – blasting it at you, in that loud, over-confident, ‘no brakes on my behaviour’ way common to Reality TV characters – is indescribably annoying.
There is one exception here, a sixth character: George, a trained opera singer. He can sing, properly. He has a Derry accent. He wears a GAA jersey. He seems like – you know – a real person. Someone you might actually meet in real life, and I’m not counting cool Dublin clubs and the media scene as real life.
As for the others, they seem less like flesh-and-blood human beings, than sleek, mechanical constructs, precision-engineered to bug the shit out of you. And that’s why we watch these shows (so in that sense, Exiles is very well-made).
We watch to dislike, and bitch, and mock, and feel superior. Which, I suppose, isn’t the worst way to vent steam of a midweek evening.
So in conclusion: if you enjoyed hooting at the screen during Fade Street, you’ll enjoy this. If you didn’t, you’ll probably feel like driving a pick-axe into someone’s head, as happened in The Terrorising IV. That was grisly.
Exiles continues at 9pm on RTE 2 next Thursday.