If you don’t know already Made in Chelsea is a BAFTA award-winning ‘structured-reality’ television series that began in 2001. The series follows the lives of affluent West London socialites as they gossip, date, banter, galavant and cavort their way through lives without financial consequences. It is part fly-on-the-wall documentary, part scripted-soap, hence ‘scripted-reality’ – although in truth this means it falls somewhere between a low-budget episode of Gossip Girl and a dull episode of Big Brother. So sit back and relax as Spiffy, Tamara, Leo, Archibald et al. sip champagne, go for cocktails, converse awkwardly over dinner, and pause to look meaningfully into the sunset/countryside/cityscape/oncoming traffic.
However, once you’ve watched a few episodes the basic premise becomes clear – it’s all about relationships. Conversations tend to concern who is dating whom, who wants to date whom, who used to date whom, who cheated on someone whilst dating, and who is about to cheat on someone whilst dating. But despite all this talk of relationships the one thing the Made In Chelsea lot don’t do very well is fidelity. Many tears are shed as relationships fall apart, get fixed and fall apart again. The characters/real people desperately strive to be happy in faithful monogamous relationships but just end up perpetuating the stereotypes of overly clingy, needy women desperately seeking a man to make their lives alright and louche, unreliable, wannabe Lothario men desperately seeking a woman to have sex with. This is it as far as plot is concerned (yet it does prove bizarrely compelling).
However, so much of the drama could be avoided if the Chelsea bunch embraced the social phenomenon known as polyamory. From the Greek poly meaning ‘several’ and the Latin amor meaning ‘love’, polyamory is the practice of “consensual, ethical and responsible non-monogamy” (Jillian Keenan) – it allows for multiple partners to be involved in mature sexual and romantic relationships.
So what would this mean for the Chelsea set? Well, Tiffy would no longer have to cry at night whilst Harry is off getting it off with Lara because all three could consent to a relationship style that allows for both Tiffy and Harry to see other people. Whilst Tiffy and Harry could remain ‘primary partners’ they could each agree to the other having a certain number of ‘secondary partners’ perhaps for sex, emotional support, shopping sprees etc. It would be a carefully constructed and agreed to non-exclusivity. And if it worked jealousy would fly out the window because both halves of the primary partnership would enjoy the other finding satisfaction elsewhere. Meanwhile, Tiffy and Harry could drop the small talk, which takes up far too much of each episode’s running time, and get straight to the real emotional stuff of making a polyamorous relationship work – expect numerous DMCs, honest accounts of their feelings and much energy being put into making each other feel emotionally secure. There would be no stigma to saying one feels vulnerable, insecure or jealous because in an open and honest polyamorous relationship everyone is there to look after everyone else.
Of course, the bit that people might struggle with in polyamory isn’t the non-monogamy part but the “consensual, ethical and responisble” part. It’s all too easy to imagine the label ‘polyamorous’ being stuck on a relationship that is actually unequal and psychologically upsetting. Harry could just use it as an excuse to sleep around whilst Tiffy gets miserable at something that she had no say in. That’s not polyamory, that’s cheating. Cynicism aside the Made in Chelsea-ers might well be capable of engaging in mature, polyamorous relationships. Things could actually work and then there would be a lot less back biting, far less jealousy and hardly any overblown emotional drama. Basically, what little plot there is would dissipate because no one wants to watch lots of happy people in functioning, respectful relationships. So maybe it’s best the Chelsea set stick to what they’re best at – hit and miss monogamy.