The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'lowbrow'
This evening, I tuned into BBC News 24. The intro ran, and on came the newsreaders, informing the audience of the big story: the English football team was beaten by Portugal, and was out of the World Cup.
The report played a clip of the goal that ended it all, and the Portuguese player's triumphant expression. Then they crossed to England supporters outside the stadium in Germany, with the reporter asking them how they felt. Not surprisingly, they were disappointed.
Then the report crossed to Lisbon, where fans were partying. The reporter asked a few how they felt; they were elated. This just in: Portuguese football fans celebrate when their team wins.
This went on for 20 minutes, discussing the mechanics of the game, the hopes and dreams of various fans, and so on, after which they briefly crossed to the rest of the day's news. And in other news: 60 people were killed in a bomb blast in Iraq, as sectarian violence threatens to escalate further. Presumably things are also happening in other parts of the world (such as, say, the Gaza Strip and Somalia, to name two recently newsworthy locations), though one can't be sure because there wasn't time to mention them.
Am I the only one who sees something wrong with this?
Last night, Murdoch cable channel Sky One aired a programme titled Chavs, a documentary of sorts, written and presented by Julie Burchill, on chav culture. I tuned in to see if it was going to be interesting or insightful, shedding any light on this phenomenon. It turned out to be more an op-ed piece, with Burchill, ever the contrarian, proudly hoisting the Burberry flag, declaring herself to be a chav and accusing those who have a problem with chav to be classist snobs.
Burchill's arguments hinged on one assumption: that chav and working-class culture were synonymous. (A piece of background: Burchill is the most self-announcedly "working class" public figure since Damon Albarn.) By her reasoning, all cultural figures of note from Mozart to the Mods were chavs, and the anti-chav camp only had horsy aristocrats and the likes of Prince Harry among them. Oh, and wearing in-your-face quantities of gold jewellery bought on QVC, drinking cheap lager and smoking like a chimney are just wholesome working-class ways of enjoying life, and those who would begrudge them that are hateful snobs and/or resentful of those who made it without middle-class privilege.
The fatal flaw in Burchill's argument is in the definitions; she plays fast-and-loose with what she means by "chav", switching between it meaning any happily working-class person at any time in history and the loutish subculture it commonly denotes. She also whitewashes the meaning to fit her argument, not mentioning the pseudo-criminal posturing (i.e., the combination of baseball caps and hooded tops, initially worn by muggers to avoid identification by CCTV cameras, now part of inner-city youth uniform) that's part of chav (or, indeed, the recent finding that 1 in 4 teenage boys is a serious or habitual offender), and sweeping things like drunken violence and football hooliganism under the carpet. It's not surprising that chav can start to look defensible and even pluckily admirable when you airbrush out all the negative parts of it.
Chavs was more of a snappily-edited tabloid opinion piece than anything else, and was also light on analysis, preferring to stick to simple assertions and soundbites. For example, while it asserted that the Mods of the 1960s were chavs (that is, if one ignores the difference between sharply-tailored suits and tracksuit pants), it failed to point out the one deeper connection between the two movements, i.e., that both appropriated (images of) black American culture (the Mods with soul and the "White Negro" ideal, and the chavs with their adoption of bling-bling and thug posturing from commercial gangsta rap).
It was also interesting to note that The Sun now has a "Chav and Proud" logo on its pages. It looks like the anti-anti-chav-backlash-backlash is beginning.
Film critic Lawrie Zion on the malaise afflicting recent Australian film; in particular, about recent films sticking to the theme of true-blue-dinky-di-Aussie-battlers vs. the evil forces of change:
What makes the recent Australian crop distinctive, however, is the way that even relatively sophisticated fare such as The Bank resorts to a one-dimensional character when it brings on its American villain. Accordingly, Anthony La Paglia, who gave us such a refreshingly understated performance in Lantana (2001), is reduced to a cardboard cut-out portrayal of slimy greed in The Bank. By contrast, the key American character in The Dish, played by Patrick Warburton, is given a chance to establish himself as a fully developed character, which not only provides the film with a less blinkered view of national "types", but also allows its "culture clash" moment to become something more interesting than a showdown between good and evil.
More troubling, still, with films such as Take Away is the way that Australians themselves are portrayed on the screen as naive and dim survivors of a laconic but cloistered culture that simply can't deal with change (though some might argue that this is a very accurate description of Australia in 2003).
Underdog motif or not, I can't recall having seen a recent Australian film where the characters weren't one-dimensional caricatures. More often than not, the actors (some of whom are footballers, comedians or both) ham up their performance, exaggerating the characters. Sometimes you even see them mugging at the camera after letting loose what they think is a devastatingly witty one-liner, as if giving the drongos in the audience the cue to laugh. It seems like so many Australian films are the bastard offspring of Hey Dad and the 10BA tax dodge.
Even in films which do not descend to this nadir, the film is usually slathered in Miracle Ingredient A, using its Australianness to sell an otherwise conventional story and one-dimensional characterisation to audiences looking for an alternative, however shoddy, to the McWorld monoculture from Hollywood. (Which is not unlike the plot of a recent Australian comedy, in fact, but I digress.) They don't see the films for quality, except in the "see, our sets/cinematography/special effects can be every bit as technically slick as American movies" sense, but for Australianness.
Which makes me wonder why Australia doesn't produce filmmakers like Canada (which gave us Vincenzo "Cypher" Natali and David Cronenberg) or Britain (too many to name). Surely it can't be a lack of talent. Perhaps the local market just doesn't encourage such innovation at anything above the Tropfest level?