If you have yet to watch Greg Wallace: The British Miracle Meat, then you may think I am crazy for asking you to watch an episode of TV with the man from Masterchef. But I implore you, do it right now, without reading on. If you have indeed watched it and were nothing short of shocked, you wouldn’t be the only one.
Channel 4 should be commended for keeping this under wraps until its broadcast, hiding its satirical, mockumentary style. I was undoubtedly left unawares, brushing it off as another piece of ‘fluffy entertainment’ in which Greg Wallace dons a hairnet until I stumbled across scathing headlines, exclaiming how viewers were shocked when they tuned into Greg Wallace dining on pieces of ‘human meat’.
Yet this is the brilliance of this scathing satire: it masterfully disguised itself through the framework of formulaic docuseries such as Inside the Factory. The elements are certainly all there: Greg Wallace making exclamations and grinning from ear to ear whilst staring at pieces of machinery and listening to employees, statistics comparing factories to the size of football pitches, and a lively female presenter, strolling the High Street, gathering opinions from the public.
Miracle Meat succeeds in producing feelings of extreme discomfort in subtle yet sophisticated ways
Through employing this format, the premise appears frighteningly plausible: members of the public have been left with no other choice than to cut pieces of their tissue off in exchange for paying off their exorbitant bills, caused by the cost-of-living crisis.
Greg Wallace: The British Miracle Meat succeeds in producing feelings of extreme discomfort in subtle yet sophisticated ways. As Michel Roux Jr. and Greg Wallace test pieces of ‘human meat’ they talk about the type of individual who ‘donated’ their flesh and how their background impacts the way that it tastes, which speaks to the way people and services are continually undervalued, and judged against their societal standing, bodies, and jobs.
The head honchos behind the human meat corporation Good Harvest arguably represent those in power who are ignorant of the pain others are experiencing, signalled by the claim that the operation used to harvest the ‘miracle meat’ is ‘pain subjective’.
Another biting moment comes with the reveal that Good Harvest is researching human leather for the fast fashion industry, highlighting our love for consumerism, no matter the impact it has on others or the planet. And when the episode turns to interview members of the public, the enthusiasm exhibited at such a cheap piece of ‘meat’, with little care for how it is produced, or what it actually is, indicates the sheer desperation and measures that people are willing to go to merely survive during periods of exorbitant inflation.
Such satire can rupture the public consciousness
It is worth emphasizing that all of this is packed into a concise yet breezy 20 minutes. Many will be (and have been) left upset and enraged over the content of the mockumentary, left horrified at the prospect of screaming children undergoing ‘pain subjective’ medical operations to create a ‘premium’ brand of meat. But should that not be the entire point?
At times like this, where many, including myself, have become blindsided by the devastating impact the cost-of-living crisis has caused, such satire can rupture the public consciousness, alerting people to the societal problems through a format many of us turn to for mindless escapism. Satire forces us to confront that which we often ignore, are not aware of or don’t want to address.
I think it is an essential piece of viewing – a searing piece of television
The nearly 400 complaints made to Ofcom expose exactly what the mockumentary wanted to: how society is willing to live in blissful ignorance of the bleak realities of others, reluctant to relinquish the seemingly happy façade that satires such as this seek to tear down.
So, will Greg Wallace: The British Miracle Meat continue to send shockwaves through the UK or elicit a response from those in power?
No, probably not. But that may not matter. The fact it compelled me to write this article, to confront my own ignorance, demonstrates that it has succeeded in prompting discussion, however small it may be. If you still haven’t watched it (even after my imploring at the start of this article), I think it is an essential piece of viewing – a searing piece of television that will only take 20 miSanutes of your time. If for nothing else, watch it for the revelation I had: that Greg Wallace can act.