Some things are not to be seen: like sausages being made or homemade Justin Bieber videos. And if you are a parent, your beloved offspring on their first holiday abroad with their pals. For the exact same reason why they keep rejecting your friend requests on Facebook. Obviously, as the same applies vice versa. “Parental advisory-explicit context” won’t do: Pictures from that night are really not for mummy’s eyes. Unless, of course, you took part in BBC3’s documentary which makes sure to share your shame with the rest of the nation.
“Sun, Sex & Suspicious parents” was part of BBC3’s Dangerous Pleasures season, which “follows young people’s pursuit of pleasure and isn’t afraid to show the darker side of tackling challenging subjects head on” (sic). Perhaps too much of a tacky title? Even for a reality show in which teenagers, fresh out of school, take their first holiday abroad without their folks, who are secretly watching everything that unfolds. On the spot. Hidden in stockrooms of nightclubs- their mold-covered walls echoing the music from the dance floor next door, or in minivans shamelessly following their children.
The show claimed to follow young people’s pursuit of pleasure “without being afraid to show the darker side of tackling challenging subjects head on” (sic). Except that it’s all a bit BBC3: exaggerated. Joe, aged 18, fresh out of A-levels, couldn’t stop talking about how he was going to party hard and go mental with the lads on his first non 24/7-parent-surveillance holiday to Crete. But as everyone who’s been a starry-eyed 18-year-old, all it really came out to be was throwing up after several “Happy hours”, getting dressed up in ridiculous baby costumes and tutus, and (foot in mouth) going to a strip club. Obviously, not the most comfortable viewing for a parent watching anxiously undercover, but, really, it could have been worse. Meanwhile, student Millie’s overprotective mum learned that she was a bit of a flirt and said a few sweary words. Shocker, but the programme cosily ended with the tearful cliché “I have to come into terms with the fact that my little princess is growing up”. And honestly, it’s not necessary to read the annual NHS report to be fully aware of the growing numbers of UK teenagers smoking, binge drinking and having unprotected sex. But most of all, you do not even need to live in Brit-land to “look at the state of your daughter” in the words of Becky’s mortified mother.
I grew up near the clubbing Mecca of Ayia Napa, Cyprus, one of BBC3 six chosen ‘sin holidays’ for British pleasure-seekers- the rest being Malia, Ibiza, Cavos, Zante and Magaluf. I could see the flashing lights reaching high into the warm August night sky from my front yard. Up the age of 17, the nightclub neighbourhood where all the drunken tourists were establishing Ayia Napa’s reputation as the place for unlimited sex, drugs and foam parties in the nude, was a restricted (battle) zone. Over a quarter of a million vacationists are visiting Ayia Napa every summer and not all of them are renowned for their British reserve. It’s plainly simple: what happens in Napa stays in Napa; what happens overseas, stays overseas. Locals fear the summer. They prepare all winter for it but know well that the English are coming. To be fair, it’s really not just the English. But thanks to BBC3, both the English and Ayia Napa are renewing their reputation: “It’s down and out, down the hatch, and in your face in Ayia Napa…”