Vogue Williams got a modest 300 points in the Leaving Cert 11 years ago, which is apparently 50 fewer than the current average. Her best subjects, so she told us in the Reality Bites documentary Vogue Does Straight A’s, were art and English.
t’s a pity that Vogue’s skill with the latter didn’t alert her to the presence of that rogue apostrophe in the title. But God loves a trier and Vogue Does Straight A’s, a documentary about education that was steeped in deliberate idiocy, was certainly trying. Very trying.
Like the classic classroom clown who can’t sit still and keep their mouth shut for more than a minute for fear the spotlight of attention will shift to someone else and leave their neediness needing something else to feed off, it was relentlessly, hyperactively in your face.
Here were all the usual excesses of documentaries aimed at the RTE2 demographic: pointlessly flashy graphics; dizzying jump cuts; odd angles; random close-ups; an irritating music track buzzing in the background at low volume during interviews, and crash zooms so violent I feared the camera operator might end up stuck head-first and waist-deep up one of Vogue’s nostrils.
Still, that might have made for a better hour than what we got: a documentary concocted by committee and painted by numbers.
The pitch: Vogue got 300 points but has nonetheless lived the dream — marrying Brian McFadden; appearing on Dancing with the Stars in Australia and Stepping Out on ITV; winning Bear Grylls: Mission Survive (oddly, Fade Street was airbrushed out of her resumé).
So does this Leaving Cert stuff, like, really matter, yaw? Does getting 300 points mean you’re, like, thick or just, like, differently, brained, yaw?
So off Vogue goes to consult her aunt, who was her year head in school. “You were a handful,” says the aunt, who seems to confirm Vogue’s own assessment that she suffered from “a woeful lack of concentration”. By now, so am I.
Vogue decides to sit Leaving Cert Irish and try the Mensa entrance test, administered by a severe-looking matron in Belfast, and goes for a jar with some members of the Dublin branch (but, alas, not Brendan O’Carroll).
It’s an uncomfortable encounter. Vogue asks them what they’d be discussing if she wasn’t there. Mmm . . . maybe stuff like nanotechnology. “I don’t even know what nanotechnology is!” says Vogue.
Not to worry; one of the Mensa guys calls Stephen Hawking “Stephen Hawkins”, so he’s obviously not as smart as he thinks he is.
There’s a chat with an educational historian, who tells Vogue the Leaving Cert basically hasn’t changed much since its inception in 1923, as well as encounters with straight-A students, whose achievements haven’t led all of them along predictable paths.
One is a comedienne who plays a harp. Another graduated from Harvard, then took a job in a carpet shop and also worked as a TG4 presenter.
Probably the best-known of them, Ruth Gilligan, used to be in Fair City, has written novels and is currently teaching creative writing to university students.
Any of their chequered histories might be worth a documentary of its own, and possibly a worthwhile one. But this was all about Vogue, gurning, grinning and gobsh*ting her way to the inevitable predictable conclusion: rejection by Mensa.
There was a lesson to be learned, though. Don’t bother trying in school, kids, and maybe one day you too can present documentaries as worthless as this.