On this most awful of anniversary’s, please take a few moments to remember the 96 souls who died at Hillsborough 23 years ago today.
I’ve written much about that fateful day over the years, much of it admittedly controversial, but the bottom line is that people died simply because they wanted to watch a game of football. Even now those words seem shocking.
Thankfully, we will never see the like of Hillsborough again in this country again and tragic though it was, as a lasting legacy that’s a pretty damn good one.
Like many chaps, I have looked on bemused as the drama (or should that be saga) of the Samantha Brick story has unfolded across the media.
Now for those who do not know, Samantha Brick is an average looking woman who wrote a piece in The Mail telling the world that she thought she was beautiful and that she received all kinds of compliments and attention from men who clearly agreed. As a consequence, other women not only felt threatened by her beauty but they were often less than friendly. If you haven’t read it, the initial Samantha Brick article can be found here and speaking as a bloke it’s worth a perusal for one particular reason. I’ll get to that later.
Whatever the truth of her claims regarding blokes walking up and paying for cabs or buying coffees etc, (and I don’t know, nor really care) what is fascinating about this story is the reaction from the sisterhood of women because to say she attracted a negative response is an understatement. In fact vitriol doesn’t come close whilst even hate could be judged ‘abuse-light’. Both in the media and on social networking sites women went for her with a ferocity the like of which I haven’t seen since my days living amongst the legendary hunting females of South Wales! The notorious Valley Commando’s.
Amongst other things she was accused of being self-centred, having a mirror made of beer goggles and being seriously deluded. It was to be fair, quite funny primarily because it did kind of prove her point! However, looking at it objectively as I am want to do, there was one simple reason for this bitch-fest and that is that she had broken the golden rule of womanhood; she had admitted that she is happy with her looks. Or to look at it another way, the female way, she’d become arrogant.
Oh yes, women spend their lives trying to feel great about themselves and read countless magazines and books packed to the gunnels with information on how to try and achieve it. Indeed, it’s the fundamental ideal which underpins the entire chick-lit genre! But for a woman to actually come out and say that she feels fabulous and that men adore her….. well, that’s not on. Especially when she’s only average looking.
And that is the fundamental reason for this jealousy –and that’s what it boils down to- because it’s not her looks but her confidence, her self-belief even. If she’s that secure in her appearance, why aren’t I? If random men pay her attention, why don’t I get it?
I, of course, made this point frequently and was shot down for my trouble. I wasn’t the only one either. When she was interviewed by Ruth and Eamonn Holmes on ITV’s This Morning, Ruthie was almost struggling to control her fury whilst poor Eamonn was clearly fearful of saying anything which might result in retribution from his angry wife later on. Fair play to Ms Brick though, she gave as good as she got in pretty much every interview she gave.
In the following days, Samantha Brick wrote more articles about her life and provided more explanation for her self-confidence. She lives in France where men are more attentive and has a loving husband who adores her. But most importantly she also has a father who told her from a very early age that she was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen.
Now other than providing me with a great deal of amusement as I’ve watched (and heard!) the wrath of women unfold and leaving aside the fact that as a career maker, Samantha Brick’s original article was as fantastic a pitch as I’ve ever seen, for me as a male this last sentence is the one which struck a chord. Because speaking as a proud dad, my two daughters are the most beautiful girls/women I’ve ever seen and every father I know thinks the same thing. And quite right too.
And the more we tell them, the more we hope that they believe it because I never wanted my girls to grow up feeling anything other than fantastic about themselves and I’m proud to say that they don’t.
Writing in her autobiography Dawn French makes great play of the fact that her father told her every day that she was beautiful and Gwyneth Paltrow says the same thing. Both took it as gospel because it came from their dads and it shaped their lives which is exactly what it should do. Yet neither of those attracted any condemnation when they put those words into the public domain because they are famous. Yet Samantha Brick isn’t or wasn’t and so she is an easy target.
Yet rather than have a pop at Samantha Brick, shouldn’t we all be giving a hearty pat on the back to her father because whilst his daughter might be lacking in the humility department, in terms of instilling confidence he did a fantastic job with her.
And sadly, there are an awful lot of dads and indeed mothers who could learn a huge lesson from him.
Could I once again say a very humble thank you to everyone who has kept my books so high up in the various online charts. The Crew and Top Dog have been at the top of the Amazon football download charts for over 6 months now which is some achievement so thanks to you guys for downloading them.
A new book is on the way and this will almost certainly be followed by the third book in the Billy Evans trilogy!
More news and details on my website which you can visit via this link!
It is fair to say that few very few things have the capacity to impact on an individuals’ status more than a fart.
Sometimes this can be a good thing. After all, if one is in the company of a group of lads out on the lash the ability to let one go -especially if accompanied by an odour with the capacity to strip wallpaper- can quickly elevate you to legendary status.
In most other social settings however, it is not a quality to be admired and therefore it is vital that farting etiquette is both understood and observed.
However, before we dive into the ‘do’s, don’ts and how to’s’ we should examine just why the two sexes react so differently to flatulence because it is fundamental to pretty much every aspect of this section if not the entire book.
As I have already stated, I love farting and to be honest, so does pretty much every male I know. There is nothing quite like the feeling of brewing up and the satisfaction of letting one go is frankly, unrivalled.
In fact, given that the vast majority if not all of people reading this book will be male and will be doing so because they too have an appreciation of the anal art form, do I really need to spend time explaining why we love it? After all, you will already know pretty much everything I can ever say or write if not a great deal more!
Women however, are a different beast entirely and if ever there was a subject that confirms the belief that we are indeed from two different planets, it is the subject of farting.
Or does it?
After all, women fart. I know that might come as a shock to some of you but they do. All of them. That gas has to be removed somehow and it’s certainly not taken away in the dead of night by fairies using Tupperware pots. Therefore it stands to reason that it is ejected in one of only two ways, one of which is fart form. And occasionally they smell. Not like Pot Pourri either.
Yet generally speaking, the vast majority of the gentler sex would have us men believe that they regard farting as nothing more than a basic bodily function and a disgusting one at that. Yes, I am well aware that there are exceptions to this and I know a couple of females who are more than capable of clearing a
room if the mood takes them. Furthermore, as the father of two daughters I am also well aware that in private there are plenty of women who enjoy a good gruff just as much as most men even though they might feign embarrassment if overheard or one slips out by accident. So why do the so-called gentler sex seem to have such a problem understanding why we males are able to derive such humour from farting?
Well to me, the answer to that question is fairly obvious when you think about it. It’s because we enjoy it.
Yes, that’s right. It might come as something of a shock to discover that women don’t actually like men to have fun doing something which doesn’t involve them. Why else do you think so many of them have started tagging along to football? It’s not because they enjoy it, it’s because they want to make sure we don’t!
However, since unlike football, farting is an activity that we can enjoy on our own they are forced to try and discourage us from partaking by brainwashing us. A tactic they do by repeatedly telling us from very early on in our lives that we only do it because we aren’t clever enough to find humour in anything else or that it is ‘disgusting’. It’s bog standard word association hypnosis: Oven = hot = burn, road = traffic = death, fart = bad =stroppy woman.
But the primary tool employed by women as a brainwashing tool to discourage the enjoyment of anal activity is the suggestion that it is childish. The key weapon used here is the phrase ‘grow up’.
This expression is important for many reasons and it is vital that all men understand why. Because it is fundamental to the acknowledged truth that when a woman gets her claws into a man, her primary goal is to mould him into the ‘man’ she actually desired as opposed to the one she ended up with. Central to this is the modification of his behaviour and the separation from both his past and especially his mates. Hence the concerted efforts to discourage any behaviour which might be perceived as being either ‘childish’ or ‘blokey’.
The sad fact is that it is women who are missing out. Not just because a happy bloke is obviously going to be far more fun to be around than an empty shell of a ‘new man’ but because they are unable to enjoy one of the natural wonders of life.
Indeed, it is my belief that women are secretly jealous of us in our love of the anal art form but having backed themselves into a corner, they dare not admit it because that would mean admitting that they have been wrong all along. And we all know what a problem that is for women.
Ironically, they had the perfect opportunity to do just that when the so-called ‘Ladette’ culture took hold back in the 90’s. For that period in our great nations history provided the female with the ideal point to embrace what I regard as being quite possibly the greatest of all human habits.
Yet instead, they blew it. Preferring instead to adopt the delights of getting shit faced, swearing in public and thinking shagging anything that moved was a good idea. All things which they had spent decades slagging us off for and which most blokes eventually grow out of anyway!
And so when it comes to women and farting, we are where we are and it is unlikely that things will ever change at least where they are concerned. However, the fact of the matter is that it is not our fault, it is theirs. They after all are the ones missing out because there is nothing wrong with enjoying farting. It should be celebrated as a sign of confidence but above all, of honesty. If you take nothing else from this book, take that simple truth because it will change your life.
After all, as the legendary rapper P. Diddy once said, “you can’t trust a woman until she farts in front of you” and that says it all.
As a lifelong football fan and a passionate supporter of fans rights, I am often asked to become involved in campaigns. These can involve huge protests about clubs being taken to the edge of financial ruin by useless owners through to charity evenings being run by fans to raise money for sick children.
No matter what they are, as long as I have a degree of sympathy with the cause then I will do whatever I can do to help be that by going along to show solidarity or by donating books to raffle off as prizes. And I do that because I am one of those who believe that no matter where they watch their football, fans are one huge community. Yes of course there are exceptions (we all have rivals after all!) but at the end of the day, it’s the game that really matters and if a club are in trouble or something is being done which is fundamentally wrong, we should all pull together to help. I actually wrote a book about this very thing –Rebellion- which examined protests at clubs ranging from Manchester City to former FA Cup winners Wimbledon FC.
The reason I mention this is that this very week we have seen two clubs go into administration here in the UK including one of the legendary names of world football. No, not Pompey, but Glasgow Rangers.
Now I won’t go into my usual rantings about the way football is run but there is a sad inevitability in the fact that as with all such things, the only real hope for ultimate salvation will lie with the fans. Only recently we saw little Darlington put out a call for help when closure seemed just days away and to the credit of all those who follow the game, even though they are a relatively little club that call was heard and a small fortune raised (including one single donation of £25,000) to keep them going for a while in the hope that some way of saving them will be found. And to be fair, if history is anything to go by it probably will be. Sadly too many clubs have been in this position before including such giants as Chelsea, Leeds, Wolves and even the great Manchester United.
To me, things like this actually show football fans at their very best. We get a lot of bad press thanks to the hooligan and racist elements but we should never forget that they form only a tiny minority and the vast majority love the game and everything to do it. Long may that continue.
However, whilst news of a club in crisis being saved by the community of football fans always fills me with pride, it also fills me with a sense of anger. Anger which is directed at one specific group.
It would be reasonable to assume that the target of my fury would be those who administer the game. After all, their consistent failure to impose any kind of strict control over how the individual clubs manage their finances is ultimately responsible for things like this happening. But it is not. No, my anger is directed at players.
I do not for one second begrudge anyone earning a decent living out of the game because if I could, I would. I don’t like the amounts involved when we get into the top flight, that’s true, but I certainly don’t blame them taking it. That’s market forces after all.
What I do have a problem with is players taking that money and never putting any of it back into the game. Yes of course there are exceptions to
that but in the main, players take a fortune from out of the pockets of fans and then when trouble hits a club, we are the ones they expect to dip into our pockets to keep that the club alive. That’s not right. Not right at all.
Here in England there are 92 professional and hundreds of part-time clubs and together they form what is in the opinion of many, the greatest league structure in world football. If one of those clubs goes under, especially in the current financial climate, it can only destabilise the rest and as Rangers have shown, no one is immune from the danger of financial collapse especially when the tax man comes calling. Indeed, there are a number of Premiership teams in serious trouble at the moment and one can only imagine the consequences should one of those go out of business.
So with so much at stake is it really too much to expect that the people who take the largest slice out of the game contribute a small percentage of their huge wage to help keep a struggling club alive?
Or is that responsibility always going to fall on that group of people who in far too many cases these days are already struggling to afford the cost of a ticket to walk through a turnstile?
Two quick plugs, I’m currently giving away ebooks versions two of my best-selling books (The Crew and Everywhere We Go). Further details can be found by clicking here Free Books
Could I also thank all those who have downloaded my most recent book, The Art of Fart. If you liked it, please leave a review at the store where you obtained it from. As with all my books, they really do make a difference.
And I recently gave a short interview to the excellent It’s Round & It’s White website. Please click on the link to visit.
As anyone who knows me will be well aware, I have an intense dislike of the festive period and in actual fact, am something of a Grinch. There are all kinds of reasons for this ranging from my distrust of religion to the fact that my birthday is the 7th January (which meant crap presents when I was little) although to be fair, none of this has never stopped me planting myself in front of the telly for the duration and consuming both food and drink as if they were about to be made illegal.
However, as the ongoing farce that is my life meanders (or should that be bludgeons?) its way into yet another year, it might come as something of a shock to discover that I have spent much of this last festive period working feverishly.
The reason for this bizarre and totally unexpected turn of events was the launch of my latest book, The Art of Fart, which was released in December and is the first I have ever written solely for publication as an eBook.
Normally, when a new book hits the shelves, I leave the bulk of the promotional work to the publishers who will deal with all the pre-release publicity and arrange various interviews and appearances as well as sending out review copies to interested media outlets. The result being that they tell me what to do, I do it and all being well, books are purchased by the fabulous people that are the general public.
This time however, there is no PR department meaning that it’s all been down to me! Not only that but being an eBook it was fairly pointless doing any pre-launch work because there was nowhere for potential readers to even pre-order let alone download the finished article. The upshot being that I had to sit twiddling my thumbs until the day The Art of Fart hit amazon at which point, I went into a frenzy of self-promotion!
However, I quickly learnt that what little knowledge I did have with regard to the promotion of books was all but useless and so other than follow the bog-standard Facebook and Twitter route, I was faced with a fairly rapid learning curve. One which grew ever steeper the more I tried to climb it!
For having entered what was in effect a whole new world of publishing, not only did I have to totally rethink my approach to book PR but I had to take an entirely new perspective on the online writing and publishing world much of which I am ashamed to say, I had previously ignored. As a consequence, I have now become involved in various writing communities such as KIndleboards.com and writers-online.co.uk (which are actually good fun and involve all kinds of lovely, talented people!) and thanks to them, have been able to learn a huge amount about the delights of such mysteries as amazon tagging, twitter hashtags, etc.
Thankfully, it seems to be working really well and is actually having a knock-on benefit with my other ebooks as the number of downloads have all increased markedly. On which note, I am delighted to inform you that thanks to the good folk at www.ebookpartnership.com who I cannot commend highly enough, if you search my name on any ebook outlet you will see that my novel The Crew is a free download as is my very first book, Everywhere We Go. Indeed, I now have a total of 12 ebooks available online and not just for the Kindle but all other electronic readers as well as your PC.
Of course now that everyone is drifting back to work the next stage of promotion can begin as I will begin targeting the established print and broadcast media. Hopefully, that will secure some press exposure although it’s fair to say that the title of the book let alone the subject matter may well limit the opportunities available!
I also have a few other ideas on the backburner including one which I hope will be quite spectacular! That may well have to wait until it’s a bit warmer though!
Now whilst all of this is good fun and is hopefully spreading the word and selling lots of downloads, the problem is that doing all of this takes time which stops me doing anything else. And one of the most important questions I have to address is what to do next!
I have managed to whittle this down to three ideas now and all being well, will make the final decision over the next day or so. One thing I do know is that it will almost certainly be another eBook. Primarily because it’s such good fun!
I will be the first to admit that I am something of a grumpy bastard and that I spend my days moaning about subjects ranging from the failure of HM Tax and revenue to collect money from the travelling community (why don’t they?) to people who illegally use disabled parking spaces (who should have their cars crushed on the spot). However, today I read something which hasn’t just irritated me, it has left me incensed. Yes, that’s right, incensed.
For on this very night, the 22nd of December, at White Hart Lane where Spurs will be playing near neighbours Chelsea, stewards will be wearing cameras in an effort to catch on film anyone in the crowd who uses foul, abusive or racist language.
Stewards….. wearing cameras….. Sorry, but I had to type that twice because I still don’t actually believe it.
To be honest, I don’t even know where to begin with this. The sanitisation of football is something I have written about extensively over the years and yet it continues apace. Usually it has to be said, hidden or at least cloaked under the ‘Kick Racism’ banner. But whilst I will be the first to jump behind anything which deals with either racism or racist abuse as I have done at length both in books and on this very blog, this is something else entirely. This is little more than fascism.
Like most people, I go to football to let off steam and part of that involves shouting, singing and occasionally, indulging in that little thing we fans call banter. Now in truth, many of the things we say, sing or chant could, when taken out of context, be considered abusive but inside a football ground, when directed at opposing fans, players or even officials, they are little more than simple words. Many of these words have basis in either history or fact but they are above all, instrumental in the creation of atmosphere. And atmosphere is, above all, what makes going to football one of the great joys of life.
But now, all of that is in grave danger of being taken away and make no mistake, that’s exactly where this is heading. The question is, why?
The fascists’ case is that no one should be subjected to any kind of abuse which might be deemed unacceptable but this is bollocks. This is about context and in the case of football, the game is the context. Enter a ground and you should know exactly what you are walking into, play it professionally and you must know what you are likely to experience at some point. If you don’t like that, then either don’t go or watch the sanitised version on television or don’t seek to enter the profession in the first place! It really is that simple. Because you have no right to walk into a ground or run out onto a pitch and then cry foul because you don’t like certain aspects of what you find. The individual will never, should never and can never be bigger than the game.
Yes, of course there are things which are said, shouted or sung inside grounds which are unacceptable but shock horror, terraces aren’t politically correct places and nor should they be! Furthermore, history has proven time and time again that in the vast majority of cases, the line of acceptability is drawn firmly by the people sitting within earshot which is exactly how it should be anyway! It is not, nor should ever be, drawn by someone sitting in a control room viewing CCTV footage a few days later.
Equally, what will be deemed unacceptable? The girls in Hertfordshire do have tits and fanny’s but me singing about them doesn’t make me sexist just as the age old songs about Mickey Quinn eating all the pies hardly make me fatist.
But to some politically correct driven jobsworth, that might be exactly what they decide and what then? Bollockings? Bannings? Prosecution? Or will we all have to attend some kind of seminar outlining the ‘do’s and don’ts’ of football fandom.
It’s a joke. But of course, it isn’t. Because it isn’t funny at all. It’s potentially very real and it could well have major consequences for the game in this country.
The irony is that this is happening on the very same week that someone in the UK has finally seen sense and decided that a return safe standing might actually be a good idea. Of course it isn’t in England because that would mean relinquishing some of the control the game exerts over us but fair play to the Scottish game (and that’s something I never thought I’d say! ) for finally having the balls to give it a try.
Yet what is the driving force behind the safe standing campaign? Exactly, the demise of atmosphere inside our grounds! Which is of course exactly what this farce at Tottenham is going to erode even further.
Well I have news for those who ‘run’ the game. Start filming people and prosecuting them for using foul language inside a ground and you will be fucked. Because enough is enough.
This isn’t about the game or the police, this is about the clubs themselves. OUR clubs. They’ve hiked prices to ridiculous levels, make us sit not stand, shift games around without a moment’s thought for the travelling fan and each week seem to find new ways to part us from our increasingly hard earned. And now, as we have seen at Blackburn and numerous other clubs, not only are they starting to cry foul when we actually have the nerve to voice our opinions about what is or is not going on at OUR clubs, thanks to Tottenham there is a very real sign that they are seemingly moving toward the total control of what we can and cannot say inside grounds. OUR grounds. What next? Song sheets? Big screens being used as auto-cues? Fans being asked to sing adverts for sponsors?
You may laugh, but I wouldn’t put anything past anyone involved with the financial side of football because none of them have the remotest idea of what it is (or was) like to stand on a terrace and be spontaneous. That’s why what’s going on at Spurs must be stopped from spreading and if the FSA and those who claim to be supportive of the rights of fans had anything about them, they would already be screaming blue bloody murder.
So where are they?
Note: My new book, The Art of Fart is now available to download from Amazon at £1.53 (or $2.68 in the US). Please visit www.theartoffart.net for further details. Make a stunning Xmas present…… especially post-sprouts!!!
Let me throw some names at you: Bobby Moore, Bryan Robson, Billy Wright, David Beckham, Terry Butcher, Stuart Pearce and John Terry. Now tell me, which one is the odd one out?
The answer, in case you were wondering, is John Terry and the reason should be obvious. Don’t get me wrong, there is no denying his qualities as a player but let’s face it, as a captain of the England national side, a post which carries with it all kinds of responsibilities, he’s a non-starter. Because unlike every other name on that list, Terry is devoid of the one thing that marks out a true England captain; he has no class.
And that’s what I want from my national captain. I want to know that not only is he a great player and an inspirational leader, but that he stands tall as an example of the values the vast majority of England uphold. Values such as honesty, integrity and fair play.
Can anyone honestly say that Terry provides that example? I can’t. Instead I look at him and see everything that is wrong with this country. The demise of shame, the growing acceptance of sleaze as an acceptable personality trait and above all, a total and utter failure to accept responsibility for your own actions. Do we really want someone like that wearing the captains armband? More importantly, do we really want the rest of the world looking at him and thinking that we are proud of him or approve of his behaviour?
If you need any further proof that Terry can’t hold a candle to any of his predecessors, you actually need look no further than the fact that this is still an issue at all!
For if he were genuinely a true England captain, he would have realised that his presence would not have been in anyone’s interests and made himself unavailable until the investigations into his behaviour have been concluded.
But he hasn’t. Instead he has clung on like some desperate chav seemingly unable to comprehend that he has done anything wrong.
In every list or article written by a male about relationships with the opposite sex, there is one issue which will inevitably receive a mention. It is best described as entrapment.
I don’t mean entrapment in the sense of her trying to find out if you’re having an affair or have actually been out with your mates when you’ve told her you’re at work, I’m talking the really serious stuff. Primarily the stuff about HER! Those questions which are designed to trap you into saying the wrong thing and attracting trouble. The most dangerous of which is the dreaded ‘how does this look?’
Now any bloke with half a brain knows that if a woman asks that question, it doesn’t matter what he responds because it will inevitably be wrong. If we pay a compliment it’s ‘you’re only saying that’ and if we say anything negative…. well, best not to do that anyway. And even if it isn’t wrong at that moment in time, it will almost certainly be wrong later on at which point you will get the blame because ‘you should have said something’.
Worst of all is when this question is posed when we’ve been ‘taken’ shopping. Never mind the fact that most men hate shopping with a passion and being dragged around the underwear department of Marks & Spencers is the single most evil thing a woman can inflict on her man, our reluctance to show any desire to provide comment on anything from ball gowns to handbags means we are considered either useless or boring or both. All of which adds to the ‘fun’ of course.
I mention this here because the other day, whilst mulling over what would constitute my perfect job, I finally came up with the answer. You see I actually quite like wandering around shopping malls (it’s a people watching thing) and I certainly like women so it seemed reasonable to think of a way to combine the two activities. So in short, I’d like to be employed as the bloke who passes impartial and honest comment on what women are either trying on or already wearing.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not nor ever could be considered, fashionable. I wear clothes which do not suit me, have a body profile which defies any description other than lardy and am as far removed from Gok Wan as it is humanly possible to get (and on that note, if you want to spend all your life dressing women and acting like a woman, why not just get a bloody sex change and have done with it?) but I do have three things going for me. I am a bloke, I know what looks good on women and just as importantly, I know what doesn’t.
And having sat outside more changing rooms than I care to recall and watched a succession of fashion disasters appear only be told by their long-suffering and bored shitless partners that they look fabulous, would it not be better to have an honest opinion from an impartial male on tap? After all, wouldn’t a woman rather be told that she looks like a pig wrapped in some old pub curtains before she goes to that wedding as opposed to realising it herself when she receives the photo’s afterwards?
But equally, I’d like to be able to tell a woman that she looks beyond awesome. Indeed, I’d encourage any bloke to do that once in a while anyway. I have and trust me, you have no idea of the impact paying a random comment can have, especially at 08.45 on the Piccadilly Line.
The other attraction is that I’d also be able to walk up to a woman and tell that at 50 plus, she shouldn’t have pink hair or a nose piercing because they make her look slightly sad or tell that 25 year-old that men don’t actually find the sight of an exposed KFC fuelled muffin-top particularly attractive.
The more I think about it, the more I think that I’m definitely onto something here. After all, if honesty really is the best policy, let’s apply it where it is most needed, at the proverbial coal face. But equally, think how many cold and frosty nights I could save for my fellow males?
In all the soul searching and hand wringing that has gone on since the riots that engulfed London, Birmingham and Manchester barely two weeks ago, little has been mentioned about what I regard as one of the major factors to have impacted on the fabric of British society over the last 50 or so years.
For whilst much has been made of the role computer games have played in the desensitisation of violence and the fact that music videos are increasingly portraying women as little more than sexual objects (and where are the feminists in that debate? Gyrating to Rihanna along with their 8 year old daughters perhaps?) little has been made of the most powerful medium of all, television.
Now I love TV. It is an amazing thing and the people who work within it produce some incredible programming. Yet as a weapon, it is unrivalled. For it has the potential to shape public opinion in a way no other medium can and only a fool would deny that it has certainly been wielded plenty of times over the years and for all kinds of reasons. Some good, most bad.
Never is this more graphically illustrated than in the soaps. Soaps are different to all other forms of entertainment in that they are infinite. Characters come, evolve and go, storylines unfold and die but the essence remains constant. This is of course, one of the great attractions and for many viewers that essence becomes so familiar that it takes on a sense of reality. A place it stops being the product of some writers imagination and is instead somewhere where the characters change from jobbing actors into into real people who actually experience real things. It’s Truman in all but name.
The arguement often put forward in defence of this type of programming is that it’s art mirroring life which would be fine if they showed lives, communities and problems which were actually ‘normal’ in the sense that yours and my lives are normal but they do not. Instead they paint a warped and necessarily condensed picture of a drama. One where hatred, shouting, violence, criminality and dysfunctional families are everyday normality.
And if you’re 7 and your evenings involve sitting in front of some screaming banshee supposedly living in a Manchester suburb and your only datum point is a home life which isn’t that far removed from what you’re seeing on screen, it simply becomes an extension of reality. When that is so destructive (and so repetitive) it can only have a negative impact because if anti-social behaviour is something you witness on a daily basis and it is rarely if ever condemned, how can you hope to learn that it is unacceptable in the real ‘real’ world?
Therefore, those who develop these storylines must be made aware that they too have a responsibility to society to portray life is it actually is as opposed to the twisted vision they trot out for us. Because whilst I’m sure everyone involved with Eastenders is happy to work there, I doubt any of them would actually want to live there in real life.
And that has to be the defining question all producers and commissioners need to ask themselves before they put their signature on that line to sign off that script. Because if it’s not good enough for them, why on earth should it be good enough for us?