My relationship with the television has, much to my wife’s chagrin, changed over the past couple of months.
For years I simply didn’t watch it and her life was a happy festival of Neighbours, America’s Next Top Model and Come Dine With Me. I stayed well away beyond occasionally suggesting that someone might like to invite people from America’s Next Top Model on to Come Dine With Me because they certainly look as though they may benefit from some nicely decorated potato and a bowl of posh trifle.
Anyway, I had the house to myself one evening and watched a programme called NCIS and now I watch it all the time. Nobody in my house is happy about this but you know how it is, sometimes that is all the more reason to do it.
I have noticed that adverts have changed since I was last a regular television watcher. In the old days someone - Kevin Keegan for example - would tell us that buying a specific aftershave would almost definitely make you happier. Clearly, as people have become more demanding, Kevin Keegan’s advice is no longer enough and adverts have had to become more sophisticated. Right?
Well, maybe not. It seems to me that the premise modern advertisers often take is one of shared understanding. We know what you want, we want it too, you and us are the same.
Consequently, one imagines that advertisers hope that their target audience sees whatever is being sold to them and thinks: “Yes! They are talking to me, I love these people and I want to be part of their club,” and “I shall buy their trainers or aftershave, or join their dating agency.” Which reminds me that I am not much of a target audience.
It was an advert for a dating service aimed at people who want to date people who wear uniforms that made this point most forcefully. It made me flinch. The advert urges people who are attracted to people in uniforms to sign up in order to meet the nurse, solider or traffic warden of their dreams and shows - through a series of inexpensive graphics - a nurse and patient with throbbing love hearts holding hands.
Yes, it’s unattractive and unknowing but some will argue that “it’s just a bit of fun” and “like it or not, there is a market for it and it doesn’t really do any harm”. Indeed, my discomfort is not born primarily of the idea that nurses are being portrayed as unprofessional - I mean the fact that they are being fetishised is a bit galling - but maybe I’m old fashioned.
Instead, I dislike it because I think it is ugly and I think it makes nurses look crass. I think it implies - to me at least - that if you, the patient, don’t get a date from a nurse while recovering from your broken leg or prostatectomy all is not lost, you can log on and have another go. Indeed, if you are not too picky about who is in the uniform you can extend your search to include firefighters, and maybe even the odd dinner lady.
Maybe I flinch because it denigrates whatever it is a person becomes when they become a nurse. Maybe I retreat from the animated suggestion that a hospital admission is a good way to meet your next partner.
Or maybe I thought we’d come just a little bit farther than that. That, for all the so-called professionalisation or, more importantly, the attempts to articulate the place nursing has in the world, it remains, in the perception of some, the same as it did in Carry On Nurse.