I re-watched Chris Morris & Charlie Brooker’s Nathan Barley last night, in it’s entirety. It is the limbo period between Christmas and New Year’s after all and really, what else is there to do? The usual Christmas batch of television has been even more dire than usual with endless repeats or at least repeats of themes in already dull shows just to avoid anyone having to do anything vaguely original instead.* So to escape another 30 minutes of flicking through channels shouting “YAWN” or “FUCK OFF” at every single one, myself and L decided to look back to a 2005 classic. I hadn’t watched it since it was first aired and I was amazed at how it is seemingly more relevant now than it was then. Phones that do everything, Hoxton twats on tiny bikes, clickbait magazines, Vice magazine, crap prank shows, a lack of empathy, ludicrous shallow fads and hundreds of people with no real identity. I spend an awful lot of time relaying the thoughts of Julian Barrett’s Dan Ashcroft: ‘The idiots are winning.’
I have been trying to work out if there have been an increase in idiots in the world lately or if the internet just makes the idiocy more apparent. I often have to step back from social media and online papers to remind myself that it is just a microcosm where many things are exaggerated beyond their actual reach. Sometimes this is a great thing. Earlier this year the (very funny) comedian Nick Doody said to me that Twitter has made him realise just how hard women have it. I totally agreed with him. Until accounts like Everyday Sexism or many of the brilliant women I follow online started to highlight the levels of abuse they would get on a day-to-day basis, and the constant degradation in media and general society, I’m ashamed to say I didn’t realise the half of it. Shouting about it within the internet’s microcosm is a great thing. Similarly a number of issues that I can’t figure out if they have had an increase in happenings or if we are now just hearing more about them. Though it makes me scowl at the upsetting state of the world and people more often than not, with issues like sexism, racism, ableism and other attacks on human rights, it’s great these are highlighted.
Diluting these though, are a huge array of pointless misdirections of anger, many of which are self-defeating. In the last few days a certain paper has given a certain commendation to a certain loud mouthed xenophobe, and the good people of Twitter have been ever so kind in having such outrage at such an occurrence of nothing, that it has become a story. I’m no fan of the person in question (who I refuse to name on account of all the free publicity he gets anyway), but if many of those complaining had read the article it stated it was to do with ‘influence’ not whether they were a good or a bad one. Which he has been. Especially thanks to the amount of people that over blow every tiny mention of this person to the point where his celebrity status rises, fuelling hope of more votes as further idiots discover his existence. What would have happened if we’d all ignored the clickbait? The paper would have got fewer hits and less publicity and decided against doing such a thing next time. The person’s name wouldn’t have been bandied about left, right and far right and we’ve have all made one extra step towards ignoring him into irrelevance. On a creative level, Twitter wouldn’t have been awash with everyone making the same boring joke, refusing to think past the obvious or stretch their minds in want for a quick appraisal from others.
I’ve said this a lot on stage but it’s remained my main thought of the last year: I really believe in freedom of speech, but I really wish most people would shut the fuck up. I honestly can’t say whether allowing everyone a voice has been for the best. For every excellent expose, genuinely witty remark, beautiful tale that’s sprung from the previously unknown, there are hundreds of vanilla shoutings, vile disparaging remarks, and outrage induced mass pyrrhic victories. Meanwhile other creative outlets have realised that with the world involved in entertaining itself with crass opinions, they don’t need to bother quite so much. Instead of interesting documentaries or well thought out satires we can have endless talking heads shows, visionless hours of viewing people who already have fame and money getting more of it by doing inane tasks, or programs that weren’t great the first thirty times they were shown.
I don’t mean to sit on a lofty perch and complain. Mainly because I am scared of heights and that would be as self defeating as typing this mess of opinions up and throwing it into the void of the world wide web. I’m not saying what I’m describing is you, or that I don’t fall for some of it myself. I do. All the time. I’m just saying that I’m bored of it. Over the last 12 months I’ve had greater and greater need for escapism. To put the internet away and read a book. To watch an old film I can immerse myself in, rather than scroll through timelines and articles of the same noise over and over again. Someone will no doubt tell me that I could leave or live in a cave or something equally constructive, and they aren’t wrong. I just don’t want to. I mean, what if I what if I miss that one thing that’s worth me seeing?
Watching Nathan Barley again was a joy. It’s still very funny, and excellently filmed and acted. But I warn you, there is nothing more upsetting than realising the idiots are indeed winning, and instead of beating them, I’ve willingly just joined.