Lurid: The New Way Of Looking At Things
I’ve often wondered, when seeing a particularly raunchy film, a daring play or an exhibition, ‘Where can things go from here?’ It’s not a question of censorship; more one of taste. We live in tasteless times. Trump looks like a bright orange clown, UK politicians run from an albino clown, Lord Snooty, Catweazle and Farridge, a man who looks like one of those rotating Victorian open-mouthed funfair ball catchers.
Perhaps they’re influencing people more than we realise, because everything had lately become lurid. Watching ‘Patrick Melrose’ I became fascinated with the colour saturation of the show. The South of France was repainted in searing tropical tones, and looked ridiculous. In many shows the colour is turned up to eleven, so much so that the 16 year-old TV series ‘Kath & Kim’, which was known for its eye-watering colours, now seems rather restrained.
Of course we’re all tampering with our photographs, which gives us a false idea of how the world looks. There are other ways of getting our attention; podcasts are vary-speeding voices to get more information in, to an often ridiculous level. Music still auto-tunes voices to give us ludicrous chipmunk sounds.
And newspapers are relying on photo library stock-shots that have more impact than actual genuine photographs. Two days ago, the London Evening Standard, not exactly a benchmark of fine writing, hit a new low. Running a story about a mean bride who cancelled her wedding because her guests wouldn’t pay for it, they didn’t bother to source her photo but threw in a stock-shot of someone else instead.
A new version of ‘Vanity Fair’ is on TV (because obviously we needed more country house frock romps) and it has been depressingly labelled ‘Becky Sharp was a Kardashian’. So we accept the bedroom shenanigans and the modern language because it’s more fun than some boring old book.
I just read ‘Kim’ by Rudyard Kipling’. It looks, sounds and feels like a different time and place. The priorities are all upended; gods first, then people, then the British. My favourite historical playwright Charles Wood is one of the few authors to catch the past in his language and attitudes – and it’s utterly shocking because it’s so different. Okay, we can’t expect a bodice-ripper in lime greens and purples to care much about history, but it would be nice to see something that did.
It’s a level of falsity taking a cue from Trump – ‘We know you know it’s not real, but who cares?’ Well, some of us care about grammar and syntax and historical fact and how things look, sound and feel.
Cleverly, the TV series ‘Taboo’ came closest by painting its portrait of the East India Company by getting the tone right and then using broad modernist strokes to show difference.
Perhaps what the country really wants is the Kardashians in period dress, but there are enough of us who’d like something less juvenile and – in the oldest sense – vulgar.