June 09, 2007

Pomo as physiology

Fascinating interrogation of Davina McCall last week in the Guardian.

    Davina McCall is posing for photos and struggling, it seems, with the range of faces available to her. The TV persona, once sprightly and uncontrived, now shouty and camp, keeps surfacing to corrupt her features, whereupon the photographer pleads for neutrality and she tries with an almost physical effort to suppress it.

McCall as a carrier of a set of gurning, twitching tics, like some leering Jim Carrey monstrosity: idiot reflexivity gone anatomical, her face stolen by a screaming Mr Punch mask which cannot speak except in a circus-barker yell or hyper-histrionic panto conspiratorial whisper-to-camera...

Incidentally, I've managed to largely avoid BB so far this year, perhaps because I had given up all resistance to it and accepted that I would watch it. Perhaps it's only when I make a decision to avoid it that it ends up seducing me, like Death at Samarkand.

    Consider the story of the soldier who meets death in the marketplace, and believes he saw his making a menacing gesture in his direction. He rushes to the king’s palace and asks the king for his best horse in order that he might flee far into the night from Death, as far as Samarkand. Upon which the king summons Death to the palace and reproaches him for having frightened one of his best servants. But Death, astonished, replies ‘I didn’t mean to frighten him. It was just that I was surprised to see this soldier here, when we had a rendez-vous tomorrow in Samarkand.' (Baudrillard, Seduction, 72)

In other reality TV news, how can it be that clueless Cambridge twit Simon has made the final of The Apprentice? Oh, I suppose I've answered my own question. The bumbling, ineffectual Simon - described by Charlie Brooker today as a 'shivering puppy' - was the opposite case to Katie Hopkins. Hopkins' baseless confidence blinded everyone - including the supposedly bullshit-sniffing Sralan - to her actual incompetence. As I argued before, it was the discrepancy between Hopkins' confidence and her limited ability that most galled about her. Sadly, her exit this week - she left when Sugar forced her to admit that she didn't really want the job - meant that the illusion that she is talented (but unpleasant) is preserved. Revelations that Hopkins "went on the show to make herself a Simon Cowell 'Mr Nasty' figure" come as no surprise, but Hopkins' witless put-downs betrayed a cliched level of thought far more limited than that she attributed to the one-dimensional caricatures she tried to ridicule.

Simon Ambrose, however, doesn't need to be confident, because his university is confident on his behalf. His career since leaving Cambridge has been shambolic - but never mind, he doesn't actually have to do anything, because his being to Cambridge means that he is ontologically talented. Going to Cambridge or Oxford is a magic talisman which ensures that graduates are like the Brazil football team - only the good things they do are perceived, everything else is treated as an aberration.

Just for one week, wouldn't it be good if everyone appearing on television who went to Oxford, Cambridge or Eton - presenters, politicians, captains of industry, etc - had to wear a temporary tattoo on their heads (O for Oxford, C for Cambridge, E for Eton)? That would produce some good resentment, I reckon.

Posted by mark at June 9, 2007 11:38 AM | TrackBack