Now women are behaving badly too
Laddettes are the new breed of babes that have outstripped their male counterparts when it comes to acting the maggot. Ian O'Doherty reports
They're loud, they swear, they drink a lot and they drop their pants in public. They have taken over the media with their relentless carousing and their sexual exploits have filled column inches in everything from the Sun to Loaded.
They are, of course, the Laddettes. That ghastly media term coined to describe the new breed of uber babes who have outstripped their male counterparts when it comes to acting the maggot. Realising that the New Lad is currently suffering a hangover from which he may never recover, a whole host of ballsy females has stepped in to fill the breach.
A few of the most successfull and most lusted after ladettes are part of ITV's much vaunted new comedy series, Babes In The Wood.
Premiering on UTV at 9pm tonight the show centres around Samantha Janus, Denise Van Outen and Natalie Walter as three free spirited gals sharing a flat, gossip and their lives without any help or hindrance from what Samantha Janus once described as ``the most over rated accessory'' men.
If Men Behaving Badly was Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads for '90s, then The Liver Birds may well be a grandmother of Babes In The Wood. But the last few years have seen an interesting new development in the way women deal with the media.
While men's magazines like Loaded and Maxim may have been heavily criticised for the amount of naked flesh plastered across their glossy pages, they can also claim to be responsible for a whole raft of women performers, Janus and Van Outen being just two, who bare nearly all in such publications before playfully slagging off the men who buy them.
Babes In The Wood is just the latest example of a growing trend in British comedy, where all men are ever so slightly pathetic and hopelessly reliant on their women. A feature, Janus has said in the past, of real life as well. ``Blokes are just that little bit thick, aren't they'' she laughed in one interview last year. ``They complain about women not taking the initiative but then when you do take the lead sexually, emotionally, whatever they get terrified and run a mile.''
As the man-eating Mandy, Janus became something of an icon to women and a pin up for men in the BBC2 comedy, Game On. Sharing a flat with two perennial losers, Mandy became the media friendly, socially acceptable female role model for the nineties. If, as the Spice Girls have so wearisomely proclaimed, Girl Power means you never have to have a boyfriend the slightly more grown up equivalent means it's okay to have one, just as long as you don't give up your independence.
``I have my own money, my own career and I pick and choose what I want to do,'' said Janus. ``If a bloke fits in with that then great. If they don't conform to what suits me at the time I'll dump him. It's like the old bus gag, you just wait five minutes and another one comes along, innit?'' But, just in case her large male following found themselves disillusioned at their seeming redundancy she added, ``but I would definitely give myself ten out of ten in bed. I have never had any complaints.''
But for all the pandering to Loaded readers, the likes of Janus and Van Outen have become willing role models in a society that is, depending on your point of view, either increasingly coarse or increasingly open. Or so it would seem.
Often described as the yobbification of society, the lad/ladette phenomenon may well be the most egalitarian social movement of the century. While it may seem difficult to believe in this climate, there was a time, not so long ago, when women weren't served in pubs, and there have several cases of male barmen refusing to serve pints to women this decade. There is no such discrimination in this world. The girls can get drunk as well as the blokes, and these days you are just as likely to see a girl wearing a Manchester Utd football shirt as the more traditional football fan. But as the critics of current youth culture consistently point out, equality between the sexes often merely results in girls behaving as boorishly as their male counterparts.
This is certainly reflected in recent holiday trends, with one holiday rep moaning, ``I have always been concerned about the behaviour of big groups of men, but these days women are just as capable of behaving just as badly. More women are coming away in groups than ever before.''
Andy Tidy, marketing manager for one holiday company that caters specifically for the youth market says, ``lads and girls have moved closer together in terms of what they want from a holiday. We don't market separately to lads and girls anymore, because they're all looking for the same thing. Girls are less girly now and they are out for a damn good time. They want good entertainment with sun, sand, sea and sex if they feel like it. They want action and to be told where the best bars are without having to spend four days looking for them.''
Annette Mulhearn, who works for CCM, a leading medical recruitment firm, has enjoyed several holidays with female friends and says, ``all the talk about ladettes is fine, but you do get girls who just try to imitate blokes and that's just as bad as following them around like obedient little puppies. Myself and my friends would be independent, in the sense that we don't rely on men. I actually feel sorry for those girls I see who are constantly on the lookout for men.'' But she continues, with the kind of remark that has had men scratching their heads in puzzlement for millennia, ``having said that, I don't think anyone wants to be too independent.
``If you want to go away with a mixed bunch of people fine. But it can cause hassle after a while whereas if you go away with a few decent friends you know there will be somebody there for you all the time.''
Holidays are renowned for breaking up friendships, but as Mulhearn says, ``I reckon roughly 40% of women I have encountered would dump their mates for a man, which is just so pathetic. I think a lot of men will just never understand that women can sit around and flirt with a guy and have no intention of taking it any further. Men get any sense of attention from a girl and they think they are a hunk. That's what makes men so funny. You have to like them, but God love them, they are easy to predict at times.''
Hazel Kaneswaran, singer with one of Ireland's most highly rated new pop acts, Dove, says a lot of women have seen their mothers sacrifice any hopes of a career for the sake of the family and says, ``women are getting married a lot later than they used. I know that me and my friends have no intention of getting married before we have seen as much of the world as we can and gone as far in our careers as possible. Even then, getting married doesn't mean having to stop everything the way it used to. But a lot of '90s women have decided that they are sick of men having all the good times. We can go out in a group and enjoy ourselves without relying on men and some of them seem to resent that, not that we care. I have a boyfriend and he's cool with that. Most blokes are great, but if you're out for the night, it's only your girlfriends who can give you a lend of their lipstick. I don't care how liberal you are, if your boyfriend did that you would get a little bit worried wouldn't you?
So it would seem that while standing behind a velvet VIP rope boating about being a ladette may be fashionable these days, it's hardly unique.
Babes In The Wood starts on UTV tonight at 9PM