From the moment Chantelle Houghton was introduced to the nation, the "fake" celebrity in the Celebrity Big Brother house who then proceeded to win the show, she has always seemed to me not so much an actual human being but rather a character from a heavy-handed satire about the celebrity culture. As she proceeded to date her way through the celebrity C-list, handing out gobbets of her personal life to slavering tabloid reporters and eventually having a child with the ex-husband of Katie Price, Alex Reid, who himself won Celebrity Big Brother, it was hard to fathom whether Houghton was manipulating the celebrity culture, or vice-versa.
Just as she launched her career by being a fake celebrity, a parody of a celebrity, so she has always stayed. Houghton belongs to a certain subset of British celebrities which can also count among its numbers Kerry Katona, Peter Andre and Reid who are famous purely for talking about themselves and their average lives. They appear on magazine covers on a weekly basis by flogging their lives as if they were soap operas, providing intimate updates about their romantic travails, their quarrels with their ex-partners. They would not have a job without these magazines and these magazines (OK, Now, New, etc) would not exist without them. It's an intriguingly self-perpetuating cycle, like drinking one's own urine.
Today, though, Chantelle went off-message. Mid-morning, she broke the number two Twitter rule: don't tweet when angry (the number one rule, of course, is don't tweet when drunk). She then went on a veritable rampage against Reid, accusing him of all manner of grievous crimes, the most attention-grabbing one being that he turned her house "into a sex dungeon" when she was eight months pregnant.
According to a tabloid, Reid replied on Twitter, asking Chantelle not to discuss their private business, which would take hypocrisy to a heretofore unknown level, even in the z-list celebrity world.
Now, there are several ways of looking at this. First, one can see this as merely a continuation of Houghton's modus operandi, vomitting up the most personal details of her life in order to gain attention, although it has to be said that these details are especially humiliating and she is presumably not getting any financial compensation for sharing them as she may or may not do when it comes to magazines.
Or one can say that this proves that all the time Houghton really was the young innocent who wandered into Satan's feast, who thought she knew the rules but didn't. Among her many tweets this morning she admitted she believed Reid when he told her his cross-dressing was a "publicity stunt" when this turned out to be not entirely true. Thus, she has now stepped out of the screen, like Jeff Daniels in The Purple Rose of Cairo, and into the real world, eager to show the masses the shallowness she left behind.
Or one can move, quickly, away from the distressing spectacle of Houghton specifically and look at some issues surrounding this, namely, the ultimately dead-end nature of a career based on self-revelation, and whether this is any different to the culture of self-revelation encouraged by social media. If Houghton is a parody of a celebrity, she is also an exaggeration of the basest elements of the modern age the shallowness, the celebrity worship, the narcissism, the lack of filter and the rest of us can only look after her, shaking our heads, and wondering what, exactly, is a sex dungeon.