Although I hear there’s something going on in America later which might be worth watching, if you watch nothing else today, check this groundbreaking documentary out. I’m not sure how I missed it last night, but it seems that the Beeb has at last screened a history of the disability rights movement, as told by disabled people ourselves. I can’t stress how important this programme probably is: while it isn’t perfect – such documentaries never are – it seems the mainstream media has at last made an effort to engage with an aspect of culture almost completely ignored until now. As the doc itself admits, until fairly recently people with disabilities were shut away and hidden from the rest of society. Yet with programs like this we crips are at last getting to tell our side of the story; there’s even a pretty good explanation of the Social Model, and DAN even gets referenced too. While it may be rather overdue, the revolution we were hoping the 2012 Paralympics would bring about having never really appeared, I certainly hope this is only the first of many programmes which engage properly with disability as both a social and political phenomenon.
To tell the truth I’m not totally pleased with my entry yesterday. I’m sure most readers will be able to see what I was getting at, but it wasn’t quite as comic or as impactful as I wanted it to be, probably because I couldn’t think of humorous enough analogues. Yet I still intend to post more of that kind of entry: having now been blogging for about eighteen years, I want a bit more variety in what I post on here; trying to write something in prose every day, however short, gets a little waring. I also think that sort of visual blog entry can make certain points more explicitly. Memes are therefore the way to go. Creating them may take me a bit of time, and I’m still only an amateur at it, but I enjoy the challenge.
I think I mentioned on here a few weeks ago that my brother Luke had kindly given me a subscription to Disney Plus as a christmas present. It was a lovely gift, and I’ve been watching all kinds of things on it. This morning, though, during the weekly family Skype chat, Luke asked me whether I had watched The Mandalorian yet. To my little brother’s great surprise and exasperation, I answered that I hadn’t, but this morning I wasn’t really able to articulate my reasons for not being interested in the Disney-produced Star Wars spin off. Allow me to do so now.
I think I’ve written here before that Star Wars, as a franchise, no longer has my interest or respect. The first trilogy of films are great; they work well, telling the story of Luke Skywalker and his friends as they rebel against the evil Empire. The second trilogy of films, released in the late nineties and early noughties, felt a little more tacky and childish, involving the character who we knew would become the antihero of the franchise racing tie fighters. Yet it has been argued that, together, these six films could be said to comprise the tragedy of Anikin Skywalker: that is, they tell a coherent, overarching story depicting Skywalker’s rise and fall. The franchise should have been left at that.
Now though, it’s being added to with lots of peripheral series which apparently have little to do with the original story save for being set in the same fictional universe. Forgive me, but that just feels like Disney are tagging on things for the sake of it: they know Star Wars is a popular franchise which makes money, so they’re squeezing it for all it’s worth. I also get the sense that Lucasfilm doesn’t want Star Wars’ cultural position to slip: they know it was once an extremely popular, venerated franchise occupying a unique position in popular culture. Yet that position has now been usurped by franchises like Harry Potter and Lord Of The Rings. Star Wars has been forced off the cultural pedestal it once occupied, and I get the impression that George Lucas and his friends are desparate not to let it slip. They therefore keep adding to their creation, trying to keep it current and not let it fade into cultural history, all the while draining away artistic and narrative coherence with every addition. The result is a jumbled cliched mess, churned out by big American corporations in order to make money, which I have very little interest in watching. So Luke, before you accuse me of snobbery, please know that there are valid reasons why I don’t watch The Mandalorian.
With that, I’m off to check out the latest episode of Star Trek Discovery 😛
The Guardian is reporting that Simon Rattle, lead conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, has decided to apply for German citizenship due to Brexit. ”The Liverpool-born musician lamented the barriers thrown up by Britain’s departure from the European Union to the careers of young musicians who had grown used to performing freely to the continent’s music-hungry public.” I must confess I recognise Rattle best from this part of the 2012 Olympic Closing Ceremony, but, rather more seriously, stories like this raise the rather disturbing prospect of Brexit causing an intellectual and creative drain on the country. Artists like Rattle no longer see the UK as the open, tolerant society where creativity is fostered that it once was, so they are leaving in search of more welcoming, progressive places. They also no longer have the freedom to work anywhere in the EU without needing a visa that they had before 2016. Rattle may just be one of the first, but he certainly won’t be the last unless we do something to reverse the stupidity which is Brexit.
Why oh why do we have to put up with morons like this running the country? Rees-Mogg may think he’s superior to the rest of us because he speaks with a plumy accent, but he’s clearly an idiot.
I’m still a huge Monty Python fan, of course, but one of the often forgotten aspects of classic python is Terry Gilliam’s wonderful animation. Gilliam is now a renowned director, but I think it’s worth remembering he started his career making fantastic stream-of-conscious cut-out animations whose artistic impact is arguably still felt. With that in mind, I think this fascinating little 1974 video about how Gilliam made his videos is worth a watch. If nothing else, it’s a nice little distraction for a bleak Thursday afternoon.
I’ve heard it said recently, more than once, that Boris Johnson is the kind of person who waits to see which way a crowd is running, before running in front of it and shouting ”Follow me!” The charlatan did it again at PMQs earlier in an attempt to rewrite facts which was almost Trumpian. Kier Starmer was rightly criticising the Tory scumbag for not supplying enough food for schoolchildren during lockdown. It’s obvious that the buck stops with the government: if they funded the catering services correctly, people like Marcus Rashford wouldn’t need to campaign to get children adequately fed. Yet to hear Johnson speak, it was all the mean, nasty catering services fault, and he was fighting alongside Rashford to try to get the poor, hungry children fed.
I’m sorry, but I find such hypocrisy sickening. Johnson’s flagrant attempt to rewrite obvious facts and frame himself alongside a man who is fast becoming a national hero makes my blood boil with rage. Kids are going hungry during lockdown because of Tory Meanness alone; if they funded and supported the catering organisations properly, this wouldn’t be a problem. Yet Johnson is doing what he’s always done: claim to be a champion of the oppressed, poor and weak, while in fact only caring about himself. As long as he looks good, others can starve for all that vain asshole cares; and if they do start to starve, he’ll never accept responsibility. He is a self-centred, opportunistic, hypocritical disgrace second only to Trump in my revulsion: neither scumbag should have ever been allowed anywhere near government.
I’m currently feeling fairly pleased with myself. A while ago – I’ve forgotten exactly how – I got in touch with Christian Keathley, the American academic whose work my Master’s is broadly based upon. I emailed him a copy of my thesis and he said he enjoyed it, and we began to occasionally exchange emails and ideas. A few weeks ago, I decided to email him with a few of my recent ideas about how to develop my thesis: I know I finished my MA over six years ago, but it’s subject, cinephilia, still interests me, and it feels like the concepts I wrote about could be developed. The love of film and it’s manifestations seemed to be developing rapidly, especially online, but I didn’t know whether anyone else had picked up on that and started to theorise it. I thought I’d bite the bullet and ask Dr. Keathley what he thought, and a couple of weeks ago he kindly replied, suggesting two books he thought I might be interested in.
With my parents help (thanks Mum and Dad!) I managed to get hold of the two volumes of one of them, and sat down to read it after breakfast this morning. I usually just read things on my computer these days so I was a little out of practice turning pages; I also often get the screen reader to read things aloud to me, so the going was rather slow. Yet quite soon I found myself immersed in the subject of my thesis again: it all came flooding back. More to the point, I recognised in the book, published two or three years ago, many of the same ideas I had spoken about in my thesis. Others had obviously come to the same conclusions I had in my MA, which is enormously reassuring. Of course, this book goes much further than I did: Cinephilia in the Age of Digital Reproduction is evolving rapidly, and I have a lot of interesting new material to get into.
I spent about three hours reading this morning, and even then didn’t finish the introduction. It was slow going, but even so felt good to reacquaint myself with concepts which still intrigue me. What is it about film we love? How do we express that love? I’m not sure where I’ll go with this, but, having kept my own personal writing up it will hopefully help me develop my own ideas. And who knows: this could eventually lead to my reentry into academia.
Are fictional characters ever truly dead? I just came across this Guardian article about Rowan Atkinson no longer wanting to play Mr. Bean, and Sasha Baron Cohen being bored of playing Borat. As the article itself says, it’s not hard to see where both men are coming from. Atkinson has been playing Bean since I was young, and there’s only so far you can go with a mute, slapstick clown. As we know from programs like Blackadder, Atkinson has much more to say; the same applies to Baron Cohen. At the same time, though, I don’t think you can rule anything out these days. Everyone thought we had seen the last of Monty Python in 1988, only for them to get back together in 2014. I think the most awesome thing about art is that you can never rule anything out, so when their creators say Mr. Bean and Borat have been laid to rest, who knows where that might lead? After all, we have heard others make similar statements before.