The pictures are everywhere. Charles Saatchi, with his hands around the neck of the Domestic Goddess, and her in tears. They are at a public restaurant, and when they are done talking, he tweaks her nose and she kisses him, then downs a glass of wine, and they leave.
Let’s start with a bit of background. Charles Saatchi was born in 1943 to a wealthy family in Bagdhad, Iraq. The family was Jewish, and anticipating that Iraq was not long going to be welcoming for people of that faith, the Saatchi family relocated to England.
Charles spearheaded one of the most successful advertising agencies in the world, and he was a prolific supporter and collector of the arts. He launched the careers of Damien Hirst (who sucks), and Tracie Emin (who is a bona fide idiot).
Your filthy bed is not art. I don’t care what art critics say. They’re wrong.
Saatchi was a huge supporter of Margaret Thatcher, and played a vital role in the campaign that resulted in her election and the subsequent transformation of England. Apparently, he’s a bit of a dick to everyone he meets, and he was eventually forced out of the agency he founded. He backs the innovative, the controversial, the provocative, the divisive, the rebels with or without a cause.
Not exactly an ordinary man.
Saatchi also dabbled in the literary arts, penning a book delightfully called Be The Worst That You Can Be: Life’s Too Long for Patience and Virtue.
Everyone is needy, arrogant, callous, aggrieved, self-absorbed, petty, mean-spirited, spiteful, greedy, envious, ill-mannered and malicious. In some measure some of the time. Only when you accept that much of the pleasure of being alive is to enjoy your own horribleness, and the character flaws in everyone around you, will you find harmony and each day will pass more sweetly.
Sounds like a charmer, no?
He’s worth about 135 million pounds, so being an eclectic, unrepentantly intractable maverick has paid off handsomely for him.
Nigella Lawson, AKA the Domestic Goddess was born in 1960 in London to a posh family. Daddy was the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and she rubbed shoulders with the rich and famous from birth. Her first husband died of cancer and within months she had moved in with her second husband, Charles Saatchi.
Given that Daddy was an MP in Thatcher’s cabinet, it is highly unlikely that Nigella had never heard of Charles Saatchi and it would be a dubious claim to say the least that she was unaware of his reputation as an asshole.
A very, very rich asshole, but an asshole nonetheless. Here is Charles deciding he has heard enough of his wife’s blah blah blah and putting a hand over her mouth. What a dick!
Gosh, do you think it’s possible that Nigella is the very first beautiful woman in the history of the world who married a much older, much wealthier man? A man with a reputation for belligerence and anti-social sulkiness?
I recall hearing at some point or another that chicks dig really rich alpha males with a flair for jerky behaviour, but that’s probably just bullshit. Right?
Now, Nigella is no slouch in the money department, worth up to 10 million pounds herself, but the difference between 100 million and 10 million pounds is the difference between sunning in the south of France at a lovely chalet every year, and flying to one’s chateau on a private jet every weekend.
There are benefits to wealth.
There is also a price. There always is.
Predictably, the media response has been to jump all over Charles, and to conjure up a compelling portrait of Nigella as a Victim ™. Damien Hirst would be delighted. Gross caricatures, with no relationship to or understanding of reality.
Life imitates art. I really don’t like Damien Hirst.
What is this crap? Diamonds on a skull? Ed Hardy did it long ago. And the shark. Don’t even get me started on the shark. The Sistine Chapel? Art. Transformative, powerful, aesthetically perfect, compelling, evocative and technically exquisite.
The shark? Stupid.
But I digress. Is it possible that Nigella is a victim of brutal domestic violence that has blighted her life and crushed her self-protective instincts and destroyed her self-esteem, as the media claims on her behalf? Sure, it’s possible. But that is not the only interpretation of so-called “domestic violence”.
Here’s another possible interpretation: Nigella admires and respects her husband for his rebelliousness and eccentricity and his awesome command of the worlds he inhabits. Perhaps she LOVES his unwillingness to take any shit from anyone, anywhere, under any circumstances, including her. She would not be the first woman to respond to men who are domineering and physically imposing. Indeed, it seems like we ALL like men who are commanding and tall.
Most of us, in ways that we are not entirely aware of, automatically associate leadership ability with imposing physical stature. We have a sense, in our minds, of what a leader is supposed to look like, and that stereotype is so powerful that when someone fits it, we simply become blind to other considerations.
Here’s another possible interpretation: Nigella adores drama. She deliberately provokes Charles into behavior she can well and fully predict, because she likes the rush of adrenaline and the feeling of power that provides.
Here’s another possible interpretation: Nigella gives as good as she gets, but she’s smart and media savvy enough to keep her punches to the head in the privacy of their home. Most domestic violence is mutual. Nigella and Charles could be equally guilty.
Here’s another interpretation: Nigella is on the market for a new husband, and she needs some sympathetic media coverage to ensure she takes as much of Charles wealth as she can. He pled to a “caution”, which means he admitted the assault. He won’t be able to turn around later and say he never assaulted the poor dear. That’s a beautiful advantage to take to court, no?
Which one of these scenarios, if any, is true? I have no idea. And neither does anyone else. The ONLY one you will see reported in the media is the first one. Poor, poor Nigella. Abused by her monstrous husband. The new face of domestic violence.
Let’s pretend for one moment that Nigella is a completely awesome, spectacularly intelligent and capable woman utterly in control of herself and her life. We’ll pretend she’s a fully actualized human being. Oh come on now. Play along. Some women are, you know.
Nigella’s story is HERS to define. The media and the general public does not get a say in how her marriage operates. They do not get to define what does and does not constitute “abuse”. That is for Nigella to decide, and thus far, she has declined to involve the police in any way.
Whether or not the crown prosecutors get a say is another story. When it comes to domestic violence, the ground is murky. It is often said that one cannot rank oppressions or suffering, but that is laughable bullshit. Charles put his hand around Nigella’s throat. That is wildly different from banging your partner’s head off the wall until they are unconscious. We have degrees of assault and battery for a reason. Getting slapped is not the same as getting hit with a shovel.
Charles is on record saying the interaction was a “playful tiff” and that Nigella was crying because she hates to fight, and not because she was hurt.
Is that true? I don’t know. Neither do you. You know who does? Nigella.
And until she speaks, if ever she cares to speak, everyone else can just shut the hell up. Nigella’s life is hers to decide. She has choices to make and consequences to contend with, as do we all. Holding her up to reflect one, and only one story of domestic violence, which may or may not be true, is a way to paint ALL domestic violence as a story about men as monsters and women as angels.
Sometimes that really IS the story. Sometimes it’s not. Let’s not forget that Nigella is the Domestic Goddess. And some Goddesses are right proper bitches who will kill you dead.
Every culture has them: Goddesses to be reckoned with. Perhaps Nigella is the Goddess to fear in the UK? It’s possible. We’ll see.
I just pray Damien Hirst doesn’t decide to use the episode to vomit forth another piece of his crappy art. Goddess forbid!
Lots of love,