In this one hour BBC special, Philippa Perry explores the world of agony aunts from 17th century Britain to the present day. Perry is an author, psychotherapist and as of September 2013, an agony aunt for Red Magazine.
With her quirky style, she dives into the topic with an enthusiasm and curiosity that flows from her to her viewers. I found myself fascinated by how advice columns transitioned from horse excrement in the 17th century to baking pies in the 1950s and sex questions in the modern day.
Perry, dressed in bright patterns and donning rimmed glasses, uses a variety of sources and brings on a history lesson in a fun but educating manner. She pulls from past and current agony aunts, historians and journalists. The most surprising thing to learn from the special is that agony aunts are not just only women, but men can also be behind the keyboard giving out advice.
Agony uncles, as they are called, exist and have helped to give readers a male perspective for centuries. On the other hand, while most readers and advice seekers tend to be women, a good handful are male. Men and boys write in about the same concerns regarding the opposite sex, giving a new perspective to who really uses advice columns.
Being more than just a history lesson, this documentary goes on to make itself relevant to present day. Though the golden age of agony aunts may have been in the 1970s, they are still a huge deal. People may now turn to Google for answers, but a majority still crave the attention of having a real life conversation with another person, even if it is on paper. Plus, it’s always entertaining for others to read of another’s woes.
I highly recommend watching this BBC special because it really captures the essence of human nature’s curiosity about problem solving and advice seeking. Perry’s sparking personality and valuable guests will keep you happily glued to the screen for 60 minutes.
Sex, Lies and Love Bites: The Agony Aunt Story is on BBC Four at 9pm on March `10