Lord Sugar, You’re Fired! Why The Apprentice Should Be Cancelled

Arts and Culture editor Delphie Bond examines the BBC’s The Apprentice and its underlying racist and sexist prejudices.

Every time I watch The Apprentice it becomes clear to me that what we are seeing is the materialisation of Lord Alan Sugar’s patriarchal, inherently capitalist, sexual fantasy. There he stands in all his might whilst his measly candidates swarm around him, the women may as well stand with their backs to him, and the men may as well whisper ‘I want to be you!’. Egocentric and growing obsolete in futility, I wonder why we’ve let this remain on our screens. Do the prewritten, tiresome jokes make up for the racism stitched into The Apprentice tapestry? I don’t think so, it’s time we unravel this knot of racism, misogyny and capitalist disorder.

Watching the latest series unfold has indeed seen some unravelling take place. The series has followed the gradual undoing, or erasure, of every BAME candidate on the show leaving us with a filtered mix of white, white and white contestants. The Apprentice has been brash, bold and confident in its firings; and of course, the show claims Lord Alan Sugar makes his judgement on mere performance. However, it seems that Lord Alan Sugar’s little fantasy is an inherently white affair. Out of the eleven winners of the UK series so far (hopefully, Sugar finds something else to get him off soon as I don’t know if I can stomach another series) only one winner has been Black.

However, this is more than a discussion about an annual series of weekday television. The Apprentice embodies something much more. Instead of projecting what business should and could be like (equal, and immune to racist bigotry), The Apprentice is actively playing out what it is really like in business for BAME candidates. Even under the bright lights of the studio and the gleam of the BBC, The Apprentice cannot escape its racist embroidery – or perhaps, it is choosing not to. The UK is a society founded upon the exploitation of people of colour and these are the people who need investment. In a report on unconscious bias, The Guardian found that 43% of BAME people feel they have been overlooked in a job application. Not merely this, black people, especially black Muslims have to constantly protect their identity from white prejudices seeping in and destroying their chances of success. 

The Apprentice, if anything, should be seen as a farce, light relief. However, even on this premise I would pose the question, as viewers, why are we fueling a show which instead of being entertaining, is playing an active role in the inequality of our society? There is no need for BAME contestants if the show is going to merely use them as tokens with Lord Alan Sugar’s finger flicking them out week by week as they don’t quite fit his white fantasy. The remaining contestants, while galloping around creating lopsided ice lollies, will seemingly be unaware of the white-washed bubble they are in because, unfortunately, this is what the majority of business looks like in the UK. The Apprentice has the potential to be a show rendering positive change on the way business works in the UK, although this potential is lost with Lord Alan Sugar remaining in role. Sugar himself is a despicable elite; do not let his East London accent fool you, this Lord is no Robin Hood. How can any good come from a man who compares the Senegalese World Cup team to people selling sunglasses and knockoff handbags on tourist beaches?

Lord Sugar, I believe it is time you should be fired. The fantasy is over.

Image Credit: BBC Studios