Monday, September 29, 2008

The Day that never comes

So let’s discuss politics and entertainment. Now… I’m not talking about those home movies that Nicola Sturgeon presumably has of her trying out the first twenty pages of the pop-up Kama Sutra. Oh no. What I mean is how entertainment, specifically television and movies can make or break cultural stereotypes.

The West Wing was a seminal (which means it was well written, popular and probably not watched by people who watch Corrie and River Shitty) drama in which the final season included an upcoming election between a charismatic Republican (Arnold Vinick) versus an ethnic minority (Matthew Santos) Democratic candidate. The minority candidate, like Barack Obama, dislikes exploiting his ethnic heritage for electoral purposes. Like Obama, the character faces off against a more experienced candidate to win the fictional Democratic nomination. Whether it is life imitating art or a particularly savvy writing team which spotted this coming, the increasingly impending US Elections apparently have been played out across the television before even the parties over there thought about them. A series of fictional portrayals of non-white Presidents have made the idea of a non-WASP president not merely acceptable, but likely. Aside from Jimmy Smits fictional Latino candidate, the series 24 has given us not one, but two African American presidents in the guises of David Palmer and his brother Wayne Palmer. Cut to 2008 and the possibility of one is embraced by (at least presumably) the Democratic Party.

That was an example of a real-life situation being made subconsciously acceptable by an artistic product. Now don’t start getting worried that I’m channelling voices in my head, merely read what the Guardian had to say about it:

Three hundred years ago there wasn’t a Britain in the modern sense. There wasn’t. No… I know some of you will be brushing up your pedantry skills but trust me, there was Scotland, there was England. There was that whole issue of kingship for a good hundred years, and I think we’re all agreed that the Stewarts were a thoroughly bad idea. And once I get my time machine working I’m digging out my sniper rifle and going all Terminkenny on one or all of them. (n.b. I’m going to flag that as a “joke” before I get terse emails…) But Britain, as the modern “Yer British cos yer passport says so” is a fairly new phenomena. Before that we were Scottish.

C4 on Wednesday had a curious programme on about half-nine in the morning where the Archeologist in question postulated the curious argument that the Anglo-Saxons weren’t an invasion from Europe, merely a fashion change. “This season, all the cool English people will be wearing black and talking German…” is the phrase I imagine was used at some coronation in AD 500. As facile as my joke sounds, it pretty much reflects the depth of the Archeologists argument. All throughout it, those people weren’t Mercian or Anglian or English. They were British. It’s a strange oversight of hypocrisy from a profession which doesn’t much like the idea of Civilisations anymore and prefers to focus on the particular small area where they’re digging (i.e. such and such wasn’t greek, they were the city of Alexandria in wherever…) Naturally this could be merely a geographical reference, since technically the whole Island was Britain (Greater Britain being the larger of the two Islands and Lesser Britain being the unfortunate (and almost never used to their faces) description of Ireland the Island. But given the history between the then and the now, it seems curiously small minded to be so unspecific. I mean, one lot were speaking German and the other were painting their faces with blue woad and worshipping Eagles and Rocks. I’d expect something a bit more specific from a scientist. But then, fuck it, maybe David Icke was right about most scientists not being thinkers but repeaters of other peoples ideas.

But this suggests it’s just C4. But it’s ALL television. I’m not going all tribal and caveman, I LIKE the idea of diversity in the country. I’m far more comfortable with a salad bowl of ethnicity where I’m part Irish / part Scottish and someone else is Part Scottish / Part English or whatever mix happens to come up. Luvvies clearly love melting diversity into a rather curious hybrid cheesy mix that is debatable if it actually exists in the real world. You see, it’s not that it’s a bad idea. Yes, I did just say that. Britishness isn’t THAT bad an idea. The problem is that it exists in the same realm as Unicorns and pure Communism: it’s an unattainable idea in the real world.

Every time Johnathan Ross links a Scottish person with a deep-fried Mars Bar or every time Anne Robinson wants to ethnically cleanse the Welsh. Or anytime when comedy hero Frankie Boyle suggests that the Jeremy Kyle show gets it’s guests by trawling a net past Cash Converters in Glasgow. Anytime TV descends into that playground mentality: Britishness is destroyed. But it’s just a joke, isn’t it? Sure. If you believe that, then try using the “N” word in Harlem or Compton with a joke attached. Tell me how that works out for you.

I don’t even watch much British Television anymore. I caught Doctor Who, am watching X Factor, and watch Mock the Week but for the most part stick to American Staples: The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Lost, 24, Battlestar Galactica, all the Star Trek franchises… you get the picture. I don’t need the messages UK television is sending. I don’t need to know how many Arabs we’re battering in Spooks, or how many Londoners are being scammed in Hustle, or whatever Received-pronunciation Caveman a brown-haired girl is being dressed up in Victoriana for. The fact they’re chucked us River Shitty and Taggart (which is a Whodunnit so complex that if you understand an episode you also will likely have a rudimentary understanding of the nature of Alienation in Marxist theory and how that then relates to the Means of Production whilst at the same time figuring out how we can reconcile Sub-Atomic particles with Gravity.)

Now… the fact that we get such a raw deal in entertainment I understand. It’s all about the complex nature of culture, diversity and how that’s reflected and influenced by our masters in Westminster. I get that. What I don’t get is why it doesn’t piss you off more! I mean Jesus X Christ, you get forcefed Mancunians for forty fucking years in Corrie, and the best they give you were those inbreds on Take the High Road and those Neds on River Shitty: AND YOU DON’T ASK FOR YOUR LICENSE FEE BACK!

Our television in beneath garbage. The Americans hire teams of writers to churn out 20 episodes per year of drama after drama and then sell it around the world. The BBC on the other hand gives us the complex drama of Little Britain, which if I understand it correctly is six half hour episodes of David Walliams giving Matt Lucas a blow job. Woo. Hoo.

But then a thought occurred to me… Maybe you get the television you deserve. I mean, three hundred years of servility where Scotland gets to abdicate any and all responsibility for ANY of her decisions is hardly likely to be the kind of place to ask for a fair deal in recompense, is it?

But there’s always a little chink of hope in any given situation, isn’t there… On the Scotsman and Herald newspapers they have comments functionality. And on a host of forums those news-stories are dissected and occasionally acted upon. Someone reports how Colin Fox wants a rainbow flag and the SSP offices are deluged with emails, letters, etcetera. Those people now have a name. And it’s a name associated with pissing people off. And that name is Cybernats. I love Cybernats. A Cybernats job, it appears to me, is to piss off people either the result of, or cause of, sloppy pro-British journalism. Cybernats have apparently caused the scalp of Iain McWhirter from being used on the BBC. Cybernats are thoroughly pissing off Political Editors up and down the country. And it’s a beautiful beautiful thing. Like the Corrs. (which is irrelevant, actually…)

And there isn’t just one little chink of light to suggest that you lot aren’t a servile as I’d otherwise think. Was out getting cash from a (surprise sur-fecking-prise) cash machine and noticed a curious sticker which said: Scottish Not British. That cheered my afternoon up no end. I mentioned it to a guy at work who pointed out that football forums were all talking about it and wondering where it came from. In case you’re wondering, no, I don’t know either (and I’m being unfortunately genuine in that… I’d kind of like some ).

I was at a wedding last week. And it was fun. REALLY fun. Not the kind of “I had fun at your wedding honest” kind of fun, but real genuine “I danced like a monkey for a room full of people” kind of fun. (and yes… I did being the only guy in a kilt). I was wearing my kilt on the grounds that my pal, one of the Brides, was wearing a trouser suit and at least one of us should wear a skirt to a wedding. At various times various people indulged in something curious. It was one of the ironic Mel Gibson “FRREEEEDDDOOOM!” quotes with the curious addition of “but no’ that Alex Salmond stuff that you’re intae…” Er… yeah. This caused me to question the whole nature of the “Don’t Knows” in Scottish Politics. See below.

People like me having been banging on about having a referendum on Independence. I say people “like” me, because I’m only 60% to 40% in favour of a referendum. And even then it’s basically to get it out the way so we can discuss other tactics. I don’t actually expect a yes vote. Not honestly. Typically, referendums have a sizable minority for independence around a third of the electorate. The pro-unionists are either just under that, or even going as low as being a quarter of the electorate depending on the news stories at the time. The rogue element is the “Don’t know”’s. And these are the ones I’m worried about. On the basis of being a Lanarkshire / Glasgow type I’d estimate the “don’t knows” are more Unionist than Pro-Indy.

If the day that never comes happens and we get a vote on Independence, it doesn’t mean the end of Independence if the vote comes in no. It just means a change of tactics. Trust me, I’m already planning for this day. If my plan doesn’t happen, then it just means we get Independence earlier than I expect. The odds are stacked against a no vote anyway. Getting an SNP administration in one thing, but translating that into a Yes to Independence vote is quite another. No newspaper will back a yes vote. No BBC programme will (we can take its impartiality and shove it up our collective arses). And just because a few celebs have implicitly cosied up to Alex Salmond does not mean they won’t stab every one us in the back at any given opportunity. You see, THIS is the reason why all of your cultural icons have been banging on about “Britishness” so much in film and on television. It’s an important and crucial issue. That’s why Spooks agents save BRITAIN from impending Islamic Doom; why Doctor Who (Scottish Actor / Estuary Accent “Sew-shallist Wurr-ker!”) saves the UK from hoards of Aliens (who for some reason represent our fear of technology). When Independence WASN’T on the agenda, it was okay for Doctor Who to have a Scottish Accent. This form of cultural stereotyping undermines your view of yourself. You aren’t Scottish. You are British. And in the eyes of the world your lack of resistance appears servile and accepting.

If you want to see the collision between entertainment and the tacit manipulation of culture then you need look no further than my (genuinely) favourite Englishman. He’s the kind of man I wished I’d gotten someone knocked up just so that I could get a DNA test LIVE on his TV Show. Read this and weep:

As a culture, one thing has always perplexed me. And it links to how culture is portrayed through our entertainment which I’ve been talking about. As a culture, to me, this self-loathing we have for ourselves and how desperate we all were for Braveheart to be true when we knew deep down it was just Hollywood being Hollywood (“Where’s the River Mel?” – Ted Christopher). Why are we so guilt-ridden about our Culture? And it’s not ancient culture. Half a bottle of Whiskey later any mediaeval tribal band turns us all into Clanspeople again, just one more time. William Wallace has us screaming: “YE FUCKIN MISSED WAN WILLIAM!” We seem, as a culture, guilt-ridden about our Modern Scottishness. Part of it will be the fact that the traditional Scottish Acting Voice doesn’t translate well to the silver screen. The Scottish Stage voice is cringe-worthy at best. Normal Scots is fine, but actors don’t train in that I guess… But something deepseated is wrong with Scottish Culture. If you go back far enough we’re fine with our culture. I mean, fuck sake, everyone has been really cool with BBC Alba. Anyone that’s watched it, has apparently went: “Didnae unnerstaun a fuckin word but it looked braw soitdid!” Now… the fact I suggested it perplexed me should have suggested I don’t have the answer, so you’ll just have to work that one out for yourself.

In other news, I’m still writing 100 Crappy Reasons why the Union is fucked (working title… up to about 25 so far…) I’m listening to Metallica’s Death Magnetic as I write this and have been doing so EVERY time I’ve been online. And I actually bought it just so that Lars from Metallica made some money out of me. I mean… Albannach and Amy Macdonald were the only Albums I *actually* bought recently, so you can tell I’m a giving person…


Anonymous said...

trying to email you with my address, but my emails are getting sent back to me.
Tropical storm laura heading for scotland this weekend. probably end up geting heavy rain and wind

Firefox said...

Alright bud, hit you back via gmail.