Friday, February 28, 2020

About a joke

OK, it’s not the best joke in the world, and probably not the newest, but it made me laugh on a grey, wet morning. Anyway...
Q: Darth Vader goes into a boulangerie. What does he order?
I did warn you. But it’s an interesting joke to me because it ties in with my interest in the cultural canon, the idea of the knowledge you’re expected to have, the references you’re supposed to get. Like a lot of gags, it works as a sort of cultural Venn diagram, the intersection between People Who Know Star Wars and People Who Speak A Bit Of French And/Or Enjoy French Baked Goods. And I’m really not sure how many people occupy that space.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

About politicians

I’m uneasy about the simplistic, knee-jerk idea that all politicians without exception are evil and corrupt, because of the even greater wrongness that can and does poke its head through the cracks when we lose our respect for the political process. That said, this is good.

Friday, February 21, 2020

About Trump and Parasite

Donald Trump’s comments about Parasite winning the Oscar for Best Picture have done what they were meant to do – energise his base and annoy his non-base. The film has all the necessary attributes to make it a hate object for the president, being cast entirely with people not lucky enough to be white Americans, and it’s subtitled, which requires reading and concentration. His ignorance is genuine, but it’s also performative and weaponised. This is not just about people who don’t watch foreign films with subtitles, which doubtless covers most Americans; it’s about those who react to such films with an instinctive fear and loathing, as if they represent all that is wrong with the world. People who do enjoy them are weird, dangerous, the other.

And if Trump had actually bothered to watch the film, he’d have discovered that it’s about the perils of an unequal society, especially because it pokes fun at rich people who, like Trump himself, barely manage to conceal the visceral loathing they feel for the poor people without whom they would be unable to function. He compared it unfavourably with Gone With The Wind, which he obviously hasn’t seen either, because it’s too long and isn’t about him, or porn, but he does know that it’s reassuringly racist and sexist and was directed by the enthusiastically pro-Nazi Victor Fleming, so it must be OK.

The paradox of Trump when it comes to matters of culture is that, despite his feeble attempts to pass himself off as a man of the people, he was born into enormous wealth, and enjoyed an eye-waveringly expensive education; an education, however, that seems to have passed straight through him like cultural Olestra, never touching the sides and leaving nothing but a greasy residue.

PS: Maureen Dowd in the New York Times.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

About soaps

An article with the hook of two big TV soap operas having significant birthdays this year provides a window on the extent to which fandom and the act of viewing have become primarily performative acts:
“I watch EastEnders, Emmerdale and Hollyoaks but Corrie is the one I have to watch live,” Moran says. “I have to be alone and in silence so I can tweet reactions to my followers. Then I rewatch each episode so I can properly follow the story.”

Sunday, February 16, 2020

About Caroline Flack

Following the death of TV presenter Caroline Flack, fingers are pointing not just at the court system that was preparing to prosecute her for assault (even if the alleged victim argued against it), but also at Love Island, the TV show she presented, as well as the tabloid press that reported on her antics in such a prurient, intrusive way. And of course, to the keyboard vigilantes of social media who added to the pressure.

I know little of Ms Flack’s life and work, beyond the fact that, obviously, I’m very sorry she’s dead. But I will say that, while I hope a few TV and press executives might take the opportunity to stare into the dark recesses of their souls, none of this would have happened if millions of people, ordinary, apparently decent people, with lives and jobs, family and friends, didn’t lap at the foetid trough. If you don’t watch and read this vacuous crap, they won’t produce it and maybe, just maybe, the horrible events playing out now wouldn’t have happened.

So, faced with a media landscape where the raw power of money and market forces seems to be pretty much the only language spoken, the government decides once again to kick the BBC, one of the few places where eyeballs aren’t the only consideration. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

About Cruel World

Under normal circumstances, reports that a whole load of my teenaged self’s idols would be playing together in May would have me at least casually scoping flights to LAX but after about 20 seconds I remembered that most of the names on the bill would turn out to be wizened, excavated shells of their original selves, and I’d be surrounded by a whole load of other people who used to have interesting hair and nice cheekbones and we’d all be in mortal dread of Morrissey saying one of those Morrissey things and to be honest I don’t think my knees are up to it any more and oh God this means I’ve finally grown up doesn’t it?