Press Clippings From Hell No. 3
The sun is making a rare appearance. Covid deaths fell to zero yesterday. If you’re feeling a little happier, a bit more upbeat, this should drag you down. Another selection of gruesomely depressing news stories I gathered over the last 30 years…
As the credit crunch hit home, an article appeared in The Observer about hot new fashion scents; Wode, which sprays the wearer blue (sadly the effect quickly wears off), and ‘the very first internet perfume’, called ‘Violence’, a scent based on old photographs of skinheads hitting each other. The makers say it smells of ‘sweat, boot polish, Indian food and warm bricks’, although if it’s based on old photos it should surely smell of developing fluid. Harvey Nichols announced their own best-selling scent, ‘Molecule’, which according to their advertising smells vaguely of something, and then of nothing. I guess it makes a change from most scents, which smell of either roses or lemons.
Advertising got even more slippery. The film ‘Sex And The City’ had – unsurprisingly – 95 brands cunningly dotted through its running time. Shane Meadows’ neo-realist film ‘Somers Town’ went one better and had the entire film sponsored by Eurostar trains. But it was in black and white and he’s an auteur, so that’s all right. Meanwhile, the latest James Bond film has had to digitally update its product placement because the film’s release has been delayed so long.
The ‘Big Brother’ show finally faded to the faintest of radar blips and was binned, but not before its producers burrowed below the ground zero of bad taste. In a twist of Jacobean grotesquery, they informed reality TV star Jade Goody that she had cervical cancer in the Big Brother house, India, so that her tearful reaction could be captured by cameras she did not know were on. Goody undermined the media leeches feeding on her by inviting camera crews in to film her wedding to a convicted felon, then remained in the spotlight as the press gloatingly ticked down the days to her death. Goody, from a deprived, abusive working class background, attained grace by confounding the critics who harped on about her intelligence; she behaved intelligently. Goody launched a campaign to encourage women to get smear tests. Today, fewer women than ever before are coming forward to be tested.
As Channel 4 and other inept, failing TV networks scrabbled around for viewers, channel director Michael Grade announced that televised fiction was dead because we all prefer talent shows and documentaries about fat people.
Arnold Schwarzenegger championed gay marriage in California. This is largely the same legislation we have in the UK, undermined in the US by fears that appropriation of the word ‘marriage’ would somehow diminish its mythical strength. Mormon-backed Proposition 8 promptly banned it again, leaving the 18,000 couples who got hitched in the four and a half month period when it was legal stranded and exposed to the proposers’ next attempt – to retroactively annul the marriages. The California Supreme Court upheld the proposition but invoked a grandfather clause allowing the existing marriages to stand. NB for Europeans: Mormonism is an extremely silly provincial American religion that helps to fund ‘The Book of Mormon’, a musical which makes fun of Africans and HIV.
It transpired that Tanzanian albinos were living in fear of their lives because people were seeking their body parts for witchcraft. There are over 200,000 albinos in the country, and with over 30 murders in 10 months, many were frightened they would be skinned alive and partially dismembered. Meanwhile, Southern Australia held a ‘Sorry Ranga’ day to celebrate its ginger-haired population, Ranga being short for Orangutans.
Channel 4 aired a ‘child reality show’ in which 20 primary school children were left without adult supervision for a fortnight. Unsurprisingly, this led to cries of abuse and an outcry from psychologists, as the parents used their own children as leverage for fame. The show flopped.
As economists announced the financial end of the world and climatologists paced up their doomsday clocks, Twitter provided the world with the conversational equivalent of polystyrene when exchanges between singer Lily Allen and tagalong webfan Perez Hilton descended – not that it had anywhere to descend to – into hurled abuse, reminding us yet again how far the Hilton brand has fallen since the 1950s.
Finally, the Jade Goody (1981-2009) Official Tribute Issue of OK! Magazine appeared, featuring her final words and bearing the banner ‘In Loving Memory’. There was only one problem; Ms Goody was still technically alive at the time. Magazine lead-times were apparently to blame.