Samantha Brick v Mary Beard, 'beauty' takes on the 'beast'
The Mail's secret weapon is at it again, branding popular TV historian 'too ugly'
A WEEK after championing TV presenter Mary Beard when she was branded "too ugly for TV" by AA Gill, the Daily Mail has performed a spectacular about-turn and unleashed its latest attack dog, internet phenomenon and self-confessed beauty Samantha Brick on the historian.
Brick, who became an overnight sensation last month after revealing that people detest her because of her good looks, has taken Beard to task for her slovenly appearance. She even went so far as to lend her support to Gill's rather unkind claim that Beard should not be allowed in front of a camera.
Beard, a Cambridge classicist who presents BBC documentary Meet The Romans, last week responded to Sunday Times TV critic Gill in the pages of the Mail. She dismissed his "carping sexism" and suggested that he was intimidated by intelligent women.
So who knows what she makes of her latest adversary, the fragrant Brick. Showing little sign of sisterly solidarity she declares that any criticism of Beard's dishevelled appearance is "entirely justified" as TV presenters are required to look pretty. "The plain truth is that Ms Beard is too ugly for TV," she says.
It is not all Beard's fault, though. Brick of the Mail unsurprisingly blames the BBC for failing to take action to sort out the mess.
"If I were Ms Beard's executive producer, I would congratulate her on the publicity this rumpus has created," wrote Brick. "Then I would do what her bosses should have done when she signed her BBC contract: sit her down and discuss a make-over.
"The greatest tragedy isn't Ms Beard's wild hair, ungainly posture or make-up free face: it's the fact that the BBC didn't offer her guidance on her appearance in the first place."
Drawing on her own experience as a TV producer, Brick approvingly explains how other "blonde, overweight women of a certain age... went on to lose weight, have subtle cosmetic surgery and tackle exhausting work-outs in an attempt to retain their figures - and their place in TV".
Brick also dismisses claims, backed up by polls, that viewers are happy to see middle-aged women on TV. "I was head of entertainment and factual programmes at Sky One for two years and had an eye-opening education into viewer research," she sniffs. "Attractive woman on screen equals viewers stay viewing; woman exits screen, viewers switch channel," she adds.
Then, in a rhetorical manoeuvre that almost beggars belief, the beauty reveals she can empathise with "too ugly" Beard. "I was recently the subject of worldwide condemnation for daring to express the view that I regard myself as an attractive woman. The hate mail and public ridicule I experienced is something I will never forget," she laments, harking back to the story that made her famous.
However, Beard really only has herself to blame for putting herself in the firing line, as Brick explains, once again finding inspiration from her own past.
Unsurprisingly, when she was in her early 20s Brick's looks did not go unnoticed by those in the TV industry and she was urged to get in front of the camera (although presumably her area of expertise is somewhat less specialised than that of Beard, a classics professor at Cambridge University).
"I declined, convinced that I would struggle to deal with the criticism of my figure and the constant assessment of my looks by beady-eyed TV executives," says Brick. "Television is a medium where you must be prepared to do anything to get on, and it is a given that you pay meticulous attention to your physical appearance first and foremost."
Beard, who has "got on" in television and academia despite refusing to conform to stereotypes, responded to the latest attacks on Twitter. "Don't think this will give me many sleepless nights," she commented.
Elsewhere other critics of Brick were less sanguine, on Twitter she was variously described as a "poisonous viper" and "too ugly for radio" as she whipped up yet another online furore, which even prompted the Mail to carry a rebuttal of her piece.