The Great British Bake Off; the title itself screams national pride and a sense of endearment towards Britishness. The programme, loved by all on Wednesday nights – from students to their grandparents – institutionalised Mary Berry as a national icon once again. A programme however, is never far from controversy. A few years ago there was Custard-gate. And who could forget Fridge-gate? This year, however, the Bake Off has used its undoubtable popularity to help broadcast the true realities of British multiculturalism today; a topic that sparked controversial opinion in the media.
The eventual winner – if you’re still catching up, look away now- was, of course, Nadiya Hussain- a British-born Muslim woman of Bangladeshi descent. Some commentators of the right wing media have since criticised her and the BBC, claiming that the crowning of a Muslim champion of the Bake Off was part of the BBC’s left wing agenda within ‘Corbyn’s Britain’.
Possibly the worst attack on the show were claims from the Daily Mail that the white contestants did not stand a chance against Nadiya in the show, sugegsting that if fellow contestant Flora Sheddon had “made a chocolate mosque, she’d have stood a better chance”.
Nadiya’s apparently strict conservative appearance (such as her headscarf) proved little issue as the nation rapidly warmed to her as she revealed herself to the cameras of the BBC baking show. 14.5 million Britain’s tuned in to watch her win the Bake Off final in which her final bake highlighted a notable symbol of true multiculturalism within the UK; baking red, white and blue wedding cakes decorated with saris. Her tears after she won (wiped away by our Bakery bae, Berry), followed by the tweet from her husband- ‘I love you more than cake’- only served as to endear her to us all.
We saw her simply as a hardworking, humble mother of three who quietly got on with her baking
Aside from the cruel remarks of some in the press, the show has used its mass audience-base to represent for multiculturalism in the country today. Nadiya Hussain has indeed, been bought up in a Muslim culture by a Bangladeshi family and yet she demonstrates the ‘Great British values’ the government compels us to have; values that the British public saw within Nadiya. We saw her simply as a hardworking, humble mother of three who quietly got on with her baking without having anything bad to say about any of the other contestants – there should not be a question of ethnic distinction.
From watching her on TV, she seemed like a genuine, friendly person. The fact that a Luton-born Muslim woman with Bangladeshi parents won the Great British Bake Off and won over the country’s hearts in the process, highlights a move in the right direction for multi-culturalism in the UK.
The show, like many others on our screens today arguably dispenses a ‘passive tolerance’ towards diversity that social psychologists believe is key to the process of acceptance. It is a held belief that through constant assimilation and interaction in your day to day lives with ethnic diversity, the rub-off effect is that a cohesion is developed between the two.
This also shows us, from the negative media response, the dire need to readdress and de-stigmatise the false conceptions towards multiculturalism in the UK, especially in the face of the supposed infallibility of the media that deconstructs the bonds made by shows like the Great British Bake Off.