And so another idol is lost - Miranda Hart has made an exercise video

Miranda Hart has made a decent career out of pillorying the kind of standards women are expected to live up to - but her latest venture, an exercise video called "Maracattack" has put an end to all that.

You may have heard that Miranda Hart – the woman who built a wildly successful TV sitcom out of jokes about her size - is wading into the dangerous arena of exercise videos. If not, let us paint you a picture: Miranda, her on-screen best friend, on-screen mother, and on-screen love interest, some weirdly interspersed comedy sketches, and a pair of maracas. Described by the woman herself as a "riotous camp, cheesy pop disco", the compilation of weight-shifting dance moves and humorous asides could possibly be the most fun you’ve ever had trying to obtain an identifiable level of fitness. Either that, or it could be as much fun as the time you tried boxercise at the gym and were reduced to tears by an ex-serviceman screaming in your face about cellulite.

If DVDs now must be used for fitness, rather than interesting things like facilitating sofa-centric Monty Python reruns and making into "thrifty Christmas decorations", you could do a lot worse than Miranda teaching you how to strengthen your calf muscles with the least sophisticated instrument since the triangle. But, of course, the aim of these Christmas-time exercise-fests is not to train you for a marathon or improve your musculature so much as it is to "help" you – and by you, we mean predominantly women – lose weight. Miranda’s entire shtick is supposed to be that she is offensively large to the types of ridiculously uptight people who populate wedding dress stores and go to boarding school reunions, but cares so little that she will tuck into an entire Black Forest Gateau at opportunities as tenuous as "it’s 4pm". Now that she’s part of the exercise video phenomenon, we can’t help but feel a sense of disappointment.

As she navigates the world of the size 20 woman who is nicknamed "Queen Kong" by supposedly well-meaning old friends in Miranda, Hart shows us a character privately happy with her size but often publicly shamed by others for it. She happily orders the three richest courses at restaurants when her weight-conscious peers torture themselves over salads and black coffees, but when confronted with a snooty shop assistant, quickly becomes flustered and tells her, "I’m a size ten. Ten-ty." The fact that the Miranda would be quite happy the way she is if only people stopped judging her for the way she looks (or assuming, as her mother often does, that she will never achieve the ultimate female goal of marriage because of it) is made very evident. And now she’s selling weight loss tips in a stocking-filler video at Christmas. In character. With maracas.

It’s particularly cruel that this development has come at Christmas, the one time of year when we’re all supposed to be able to drink a cocktail made of whipped eggs, cream and bourbon at eight in the morning, and pass into a post-roast food coma by early afternoon. The sadistic tendency of marketers to take advantage of this one indulgent opportunity by releasing a weight-oriented exercise routine surprises us with its inventiveness every year: where Davina McCall’s Fit in 15 once promised to sweat you sexy in a quarter of an hour, Josie Gibson off Big Brother can now make you "lose up to 5 pounds a week" with 30 Second Slim. Presumably, Miranda won’t be making bold claims to rid you of bingo wings in ten second maraca stints. But, strange as it seems, her latest development is certainly part of a genre dominated by Lycra-clad twentysomethings in crop tops who show off their aggressively perfect abs and guilt trip you out of Christmas pudding. Whether or not the delightfully named Maracattack is enacted with more self-knowledge and irony than your average D-list-celebrity-turned-fitness-instructor, an exercise DVD with sketches, pug T-shirts and maracas is still an exercise DVD. Advertisements make clear that this isn’t a spoof; rather, it is - in the words of Amazon.com - an "unconventional workout regime".

Those in support of Miranda’s latest career move may point to the fact that she espouses "normal person exercise" as a virtue, rather than your average super-punishing programme fit only for Olympic athletes and bound to batter your self-esteem in days. Perhaps the sight of her and Patricia Hodge in festive wear truly will encourage those whose weekly experiences of fitness only stretch to lifting the remote control to start dancing blithely round their living room. Maracattack could be the gateway drug to the gym for previously committed slobs everywhere, after all. 

Why, then, does it feel like a bit of a betrayal? It could be because Miranda previously offered a safe place from the relentless insecurity-driven market of women’s consumer goods: a market that reaches its fever pitch at Christmas. In many ways, it is comedy at its gentlest, populated heavily by farces, puns and slapstick. It deliberately separated itself from - and made explicit fun of - the pressure to "watch your weight", to "not be naughty with food", to "have an exercise routine" (however fun that exercise routine may be.) And as it blends its characters and sketches with the expertise of fitness instructor Amelia Watts in 2013, something feels like it’s gone awry.

Miranda built an entire comedy out of society’s unnecessary demands on women. Did she find out that she couldn’t beat them, and so decided to join them?

Of all the times to release a fitness DVD, Christmas is surely the most insulting. Miranda Hart's "Maracattack".

Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett and Holly Baxter are co-founders and editors of online magazine, The Vagenda.

Steve Garry
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The footie is back. Three weeks in and what have we learned so far?

Barcleys, boots and big names... the Prem is back.

Another season, another reason for making whoopee cushions and giving them to Spurs fans to cheer them up during the long winter afternoons ahead. What have we learned so far?

Big names are vital. Just ask the manager of the Man United shop. The arrival of Schneiderlin and Schweinsteiger has done wonders for the sale of repro tops and they’ve run out of letters. Benedict Cumberbatch, please join Carlisle United. They’re desperate for some extra income.

Beards are still in. The whole Prem is bristling with them, the skinniest, weediest player convinced he’s Andrea Pirlo. Even my young friend and neighbour Ed Miliband has grown a beard, according to his holiday snaps. Sign him.

Boots Not always had my best specs on, but here and abroad I detect a new form of bootee creeping in – slightly higher on the ankle, not heavy-plated as in the old days but very light, probably made from the bums of newborn babies.

Barclays Still driving me mad. Now it’s screaming from the perimeter boards that it’s “Championing the true Spirit of the Game”. What the hell does that mean? Thank God this is its last season as proud sponsor of the Prem.

Pitches Some groundsmen have clearly been on the weeds. How else can you explain the Stoke pitch suddenly having concentric circles, while Southampton and Portsmouth have acquired tartan stripes? Go easy on the mowers, chaps. Footballers find it hard enough to pass in straight lines.

Strips Have you seen the Everton third kit top? Like a cheap market-stall T-shirt, but the colour, my dears, the colour is gorgeous – it’s Thames green. Yes, the very same we painted our front door back in the Seventies. The whole street copied, then le toot middle classes everywhere.

Scott Spedding Which international team do you think he plays for? I switched on the telly to find it was rugby, heard his name and thought, goodo, must be Scotland, come on, Scotland. Turned out to be the England-France game. Hmm, must be a member of that famous Cumbrian family, the Speddings from Mirehouse, where Tennyson imagined King Arthur’s Excalibur coming out the lake. Blow me, Scott Spedding turns out to be a Frenchman. Though he only acquired French citizenship last year, having been born and bred in South Africa. What’s in a name, eh?

Footballers are just so last season. Wayne Rooney and Harry Kane can’t score. The really good ones won’t come here – all we get is the crocks, the elderly, the bench-warmers, yet still we look to them to be our saviour. Oh my God, let’s hope we sign Falcao, he’s a genius, will make all the difference, so prayed all the Man United fans. Hold on: Chelsea fans. I’ve forgotten now where he went. They seek him here, they seek him there, is he alive or on the stairs, who feckin’ cares?

John Stones of Everton – brilliant season so far, now he is a genius, the solution to all of Chelsea’s problems, the heir to John Terry, captain of England for decades. Once he gets out of short trousers and learns to tie his own laces . . .

Managers are the real interest. So refreshing to have three young British managers in the Prem – Alex Neil at Norwich (34), Eddie Howe at Bournemouth (37) and that old hand at Swansea, Garry Monk, (36). Young Master Howe looks like a ball boy. Or a tea boy.

Mourinho is, of course, the main attraction. He has given us the best start to any of his seasons on this planet. Can you ever take your eyes off him? That handsome hooded look, that sarcastic sneer, the imperious hand in the air – and in his hair – all those languages, he’s so clearly brilliant, and yet, like many clever people, often lacking in common sense. How could he come down so heavily on Eva Carneiro, his Chelsea doctor? Just because you’re losing? Yes, José has been the best fun so far – plus Chelsea’s poor start. God, please don’t let him fall out with Abramovich. José, we need you.

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 27 August 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Isis and the new barbarism