What really happened on Snog Marry Avoid? (Picture; BBC)
In news that broke up the depressing lockdown cycle earlier last month, BBC confirmed that its youth-orientated channel, BBC Three, was to be returning to mainstream television after six years off-air.
The channel, which was integrated into BBC iPlayer in 2015, has been home to some of the UK’s most-watched shows, with RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, Normal People and Fleabag having debuted on BBC Three in recent years.
But the news that the channel was to hit television again saw fans on Twitter reminisce about the show’s classic weekday evening line-up – which often featured Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents, Family Guy, and Snog Marry Avoid. Now, people are calling for the latter to return when BBC Three launches again in January.
For those of you who never caught Snog Marry Avoid throughout its original six season run, the series prided itself on being the world’s first ‘make-under’ show, obsessed with stripping back ‘fakery’ and encouraging people to embrace their ‘natural beauty’.
First airing in 2008 with Atomic Kitten’s Jenny Frost at the helm, the show’s USP came in the form of ‘POD’ – short for ‘personal overhaul device’ – a ‘robot’ that delivered acerbic barbs to contestants, decrying their fakery by showing them what percentage of the public wanted to “snog, marry or avoid them” before their make-under. Think of POD as a cross between Anne Robinson and a Dalek with an obsessive hatred for hair extensions and piercings.
While POD was voiced by the clipped tones of Rosie Bray, one of the show’s female producers, male comedian Dougie Faulkner was the driving force behind the robot’s snarkiest slights. He found himself scouted for Snog Marry Avoid after attending a music festival.
Dougie was the brains behind POD on Snog Marry Avoid (Picture: Dougie Faulkner)
‘I was with some friends of a friend, who’s a TV producer, and I basically just spent the afternoon just taking the mickey out of them,’ he tells Metro. ‘I was just being as much as a dick as I possibly could.
‘This TV producer goes back to his TV offices and someone senior asks him if he knew anyone who could be a bit of bitch, so that’s how I got in.’
The pilot episode of Snog Marry Avoid saw Dougie have a much larger role initially – the programme did not have a host, with Dougie’s POD being the star.
However, the BBC was forced to have a change of heart in the wake of the Andrew Sachs scandal in 2007, which saw then BBC Radio 2 hosts Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand ring the Fawlty Towers star and the latter boasting about how he’d “f****d Sach’s granddaughter.”
‘It was meant to be my big break,’ Dougie explains. ‘It was just going to be me as POD and the contributors, but after that, the BBC got nervous, and felt it was too misogynistic, so the format was tweaked after.
we were telling them they didn’t need these extreme looks if they didn’t want them – they were fabulous as they are
‘Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand have a lot to answer for!’
But while POD became infamous for some of her catty putdowns, Dougie is very clear that it was never his intention to cause distress or upset for anyone who appears on the show.
‘I am a massive feminist, and I was a bit concerned to begin with that maybe this was “selling out,”’ he says.
‘But for all the criticism the show got for being a waste of the licence fee, our rebuttal was that we’re talking to a demographic of licenced licence fee payers, in the language that they understand – and we were telling them they didn’t need these extreme looks if they didn’t want them. They were fabulous as they are.
‘The assistant producers did such a good job finding people with an extreme look, and who could give me as good as I got.’
As well as POD’s bitchy commentary, Snog Marry Avoid was infamous for its make-unders, stripping goths of their piercings and black lipstick, ravers from their neon hotpants and glamour girls from their long blonde hair extensions – seeing them all presented in front of POD in a much barer, more pared-down style.
YouTuber Emily Boo appeared on series one with her now ex-husband. Part of the ‘pierced goth couple’, Emily, now 32, was keen to see what she would look like without her signature goth look.
‘My ex and I went to see Marilyn Manson in concert in London and there were two people with a camera filming people attending,’ she explains.
‘They asked if they could film our look closer and asked us to pose where we could show off our piercings. We signed a waiver for the footage to be passed on and a few weeks after, I received a phone call asking if we’d like to take part in a makeover show called ‘Filthy Gorgeous’. We obviously said yes and then the show name was changed to ‘Snog, Marry, Avoid.’
‘We went on the show for fun. As our ‘normal’ was and still is different from most people’s idea of normal, we wanted to see what we’d look like without our piercings, crazy hair and black clothes. It’s always interesting to see what you could potentially look like, even if you’re sure you’ll stay the way you are.’
Pod made some very questionable styling choices (Picture: BBC)
‘The whole experience for the contestants was to be as fun as possible,’ Dougie says. ‘My job was to get a cold reading on this person and try and be funny and silly without being too personal, a bit like a roast on RuPaul’s Drag Race now, I suppose.
‘But we just wanted to show these young men and women there could be a range in their appearance. Some of our contestants had low self-esteem and needed to be a bit more compassionate to themselves. Some felt they had to dress in extreme ways for attention, but we could show them they were beautiful without hiding behind a look – and that can draw healthier people towards you.’
While Emily found some of POD’s commentary ‘rude’, she was on the whole okay with the whole experience – despite hating her make-under and almost immediately donating all the garments from her new look to a Mind charity shop.
‘We just brushed them off,’ she shrugs. ‘It was the type of comments we got every day anyway.
Emily quickly reverted back to her punk look and still rocks her piercing and tattoos today (Instagram: emilyboo_official)
‘We both honestly hated our looks! I think we both pretty much knew we wouldn’t keep the looks we were given as we were happy with our styles at the time. We didn’t keep a single piece of clothing – we literally changed back into our outfits the moment filming finished.’
While Dougie was the pseudo-‘face’ of anti-fakery, he was never disappointed if contestants chose not to keep their make-under.
‘We did have a reputation for making everyone look a bit like a librarian,’ he laughs. ‘But we did need to provide a contrast, and that was often a big job.
‘It showed what people could look like through one interpretation of ‘natural beauty’, that they may not have seen otherwise. It was a safe space for people to experiment with their look and could give people the confidence to see themselves in a new light.
‘I was never disappointed when people made a conscious decision to do something that they were passionate about. In my opinion, women should dress however the f** they like – but how we present ourselves to the world communicate some something and I think it’s important for us to be aware of what that communicates.’
Emily may not have chosen to keep her make-under, but credits Snog Marry Avoid with helping her launch her vlogging career.
Emily is now a YouTuber and has amassed thousands of followers (Picture: Instagram: emilyboo_official)
‘Not only did the show reinforce in me that I was happy in my style but I uploaded the video to my YouTube channel and had so many comments from people asking for more content from me,’ she says. ‘I don’t know if I would have become a Youtuber had I not taken part in the show as the comments gave me more confidence and a boost to put myself out there more.’
However, Emily does strongly believe that Snog Marry Avoid should remain a relic of the past.
‘People should be able to wear what makes them happy without fear of comments and judging from strangers,’ she says. ‘Looking back at other episodes it seems like just another way for the public to shame women into dressing how society deems is correct.’
Dougie does agree that elements of Snog Marry Avoid have not aged well when being observed through more modern and ‘woke’ eyes, and is particularly disappointed in his use of transphobic terms when talking to some contestants.
‘I used to use the pejorative term ‘tranny’ a lot,” he says. “I had trans friends at the time that they would use it, but that’s their business use that word. And I’ve got lots of trans friends now. And I, I do I guess I do have a regret about that. I would never say that now.’
But Dougie does stress that it was never Snog Marry Avoid’s intention to make contributors laughing stocks – it was POD that was the real joke in the series.
‘Like most critics, POD was ignorant,’ Dougie says. ‘POD only understood natural beauty. The real idiot on the show was POD. She was the ignorant one. She was the militant one. But the message was the same for everyone – you’re absolutely beautiful as you are and you should only be dressing for yourself. POD thought this was only possible through natural beauty.’
It’s now been eight years since Snog Marry Avoid finished, with POD powering down for good in 2013 after the show went on tour.
And with BBC Three returning to mainstream television next year, Dougie believes there’s still space for Snog Marry Avoid on screens – particularly in this age of Instagram artifice.
‘Snog Marry Avoid was an innovation,’ he says. ‘I’d love it to come back, because look at what we have now. There’s Instagram and fillers and filters, and there’s so much more to explore.
‘But it would need to be a bit kinder. We can do it to reinforce self-esteem people need instead of just taking the piss.
‘I would jump at the chance to come back, but it should lean more towards the experimentation you know try a bunch of different looks. It should be more celebratory now.’
Credit: Original article published here.