The archive is catalogued by 'Politics', 'Economics', 'Mockery', 'In other news' and 'On other things' 


"Who controls the food supply controls the people; who controls the energy can control whole continents; who controls money can control the world" - Henry Kissinger

and yet...

"Sooner or later everyone sits down to a banquet of consequences" – Robert Louis Stevenson

Welcome to the X-Factor world - A Sunday read

One Saturday morning in 1966 some friends and I took our seats for the long awaited screening of ‘Batman: The Movie’.  As my fellow baby boomers will recall, this is not to be confused with the homage to black latex and deep-throated machismo that emerged in the 80s…no, this was the big screen version of the TV series in which Adam West and Burt Ward were always being out-witted by a string of bad guys…usually played by comedians…before finally emerging triumphant from a battle in which everyone was dressed in brightly coloured bodysuits and/or grey chiffon tights…ah those were the days…

There was one scene in particular which comes to mind; a scene that forms the perfect backdrop to the point I want to make today…yes there is one…

The scene begins with our heroes hovering over the ocean at a height of about 50 feet, in the soon to be legendary Bat-Copter - in pursuit of villains who were fleeing on an aircraft carrier…I think it was an aircraft carrier…but then it was fifty years ago...

As they approached the ship Batman turned to Robin and said:

“Robin, lower the Bat Rope-ladder”

As the caped crusader was climbing down the aforementioned bit of branded gym-kit, a huge rubber shark erupted from the waves and clamped its teeth securely around our hero’s thigh. Upon discovering that his customary ‘Biff…Bang…Wallop’ was not having the desired effect, Batman looked up to his ever attentive ward and said:

“Robin, lower down the Bat Shark-Repellent”

Robin immediately opened his glove department, selected a conveniently located, shark motif aerosol can, dropped it into the Bat Bucket and lowered it down to his struggling benefactor. One spray to the snout later and a thoroughly disgusted looking selachian was falling back to the waves leaving our hero to continue his quest to save the day, without even a rip in his tights…cinematic genius…

As I recovered from the agony of a chocolate fuelled belly laugh and emerged into the upright position once more, I was met with a sight that remains with me today…in the row behind us sat three girls with a look of utter condescension on their faces – the kind of look that is only ever worn by people who are deep in a self-righteous trance, and thus totally beyond help at that point. One girl turned to her friends and said:

“Stupid! As if that could really happen”…

…The beauty of that old TV series lay in the fact that it always included the audience in the joke. You were never in any doubt that your heroes were totally aware of how ridiculous it all was. The way that Batman would tilt his head and talk almost to camera was an invitation to laugh with them. He often went right to the boundary of the 4th wall without ever crossing the line. Anyone who didn’t ‘get it’ - mainly self-important people and incurable twits - just made it funnier. It wasn’t that Adam West was making fun of them – they were doing it all by themselves.

From the sublime to the ridiculous…

On Friday evening my wife and I turned on the TV at 9pm looking for ‘Mock the Week’, only to find that we were an hour too early and a week too late.  We were met with an episode of ‘Gogglebox’, a TV programme about people watching TV…which says something about the era we’re living through, but I’ll avoid going down that rabbit hole for now. One section of the show was a clip from ‘The X-Factor’ - a show in which wannabe pop stars try to impress a panel of judges led by a man whose trousers double as a cravat.

One of the judges, Louis Walsh, had three of his performers in a ‘sing-off’. One of the boys had a powerful voice and great range; one had a pretty good voice; and the third one was rather ‘pitchy’ - a technical term for badly out of tune. It was obvious to anyone not totally tone deaf which of the guys was going to be dropped from the show. Of course it was dragged out to much crowd pleading and agonising close ups of the performers…who were all equally clear which one of them was heading for the exit…you can’t hide ‘fake concern for a vanquished opponent’ or ‘fear of inevitable demise’ – there are too many micro-muscles in the human face.

Eventually the ‘pressure’ was brought to an end and the poor guy was put out of his misery…or so we thought…

As he was leaving the stage, two of the other judges, Sharon Osborne and someone whose career has escaped me, ‘surrounded’ Louis Walsh with cries of “you can’t let him go” and “bring him back”. The camera homed in right on cue, and at the precise moment it arrived in position, Sharon Osborne glanced over to the 4th Wall as she made her big plea…and her face reminded me of a literal ‘negative’ of Adam West…a face that said ‘this is real…look how real this is…come on in’. The joke is on you…suckers.

What’s my serious point here? We’re in an age where we’re being encouraged to believe in the opposite of everything that is true. Everything is upside down. And we’re in the age of ‘more’…always ‘more’:

- More ‘spectacle’ will make us believe it’s real

- More rules will make us free

- More judgement will bring us tolerance

- More war will bring us peace

- More debt will bring us wealth

Stupid…as if that could really happen

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