The show hasn't even begun yet, but this year's bakers are already being senselessly dragged by members of the public.
The Great British Bake Off is back on our screens next week (Tuesday 21 September, 8pm on Channel 4, put it in your diary). What with that, plus the arrival of Strictly Come Dancing, we’re just about ready to settle in for a great autumn season of TV. The 12 new amateur bakers have now been announced, and among them are a police detective, a retired midwife, and a student.
But sadly, one contestant has already been struck by abuse from online trolls – before the show has even started. The comments have apparently got so bad, 19-year-old Freya Cox is reported to have deleted a social account because of it.
Freya, who is currently studying for a psychology degree, is not only the youngest contestant for this year’s series of Bake Off, but is also the first completely vegan baker to partake in the show. And that’s where the online abuse has stemmed from.
Announcing that she’s competing in the popular baking show this year, Freya wrote on Facebook: “I am so passionate about ethics and feel completely blessed to have the opportunity to share this with the world. To say I am the first completely vegan baker on GBBO feels like such an honour.
“I will be posting loads of updates, bakes and behind the scenes pics over on my Instagram page if you’d like to follow me on there. Speak to you all soon…the future really is vegan.”
On Facebook, the Yorkshire-born student previously had a page dedicated to her horse riding, called ‘Freya Cox Eventing’, but users took to the page in their droves to criticise the young woman for her hobby considering she’s vegan. The suggestion was that the equestrian sport is cruel to animals, and objections were raised about how horse riding goes hand-in-hand with being vegan.
“Please don’t say that you are passionate about ethics when you still ride horses,” wrote one person. “She’s not vegan. Just plant-based obviously,” added another.
“If you are still riding you shouldn’t be calling yourself vegan and you most definitely shouldn’t be going on TV calling yourself vegan. It’s no wonder people get confused what veganism means when the ethos is constantly being watered down,” read a third comment.
Since the flood of comments, the ‘Freya Cox Eventing’ page no longer appears to exist on Facebook, suggesting that Freya has deleted it or at least made it private in a bid to protect herself from unwanted judgment. It’s understandable that some people feel very passionately about veganism and animal rights, but when the comments come in thick and fast to someone who has never been in the spotlight before, it can feel like a pile on and can no doubt become very overwhelming.
Online abuse is something Great British Bake Off stars have had to deal with time and time again. Last year, contestant Laura Adlington took to Twitter to share the emotional toll trolling had taken on her while the show aired. “It’s ok to be sad your favourite person didn’t go through, but please remember it’s not my fault. I don’t make the decisions,” she wrote. “GBBO is all about kindness and I haven’t seen much of that on here,” she added.
In a later tweet, the home-baker continued: “It’s easy to sit there on your sofa and judge. But I am a real person with feelings. Please take a moment to consider your words before you judge someone you’ve never met and whose food you’ve never tasted.”
Ahead of this year’s GBBO series, Judge Paul Hollywood urged viewers not to turn their opinions into hateful comments. Describing the contestants as “raw” and “not used to this,” the professional baker added: “This can damage people, this really, really hurt people, and I think you’ve got to be really careful. There’ll be a backlash and you just don’t want it, it’s not fair.”
Let’s hope, for the sake of the Great British Bake Off 2021 participants, that online trolling is kept in control this year. They are real people with real feelings, after all.