Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Steve Wilcos versus Heizenberg - Lowest Common What now?

Twelve step writing exercise Day 9: Turn on your TV. Write down the first line that you hear and write a story based on it.”

“Did you abuse and neglect your kids?” - The Steve Wilkos show.

I shit you not. I switched my telly machine on at ten this morning and this is the headline and subsequently loathsome storyline I was presented with.

A fat, presumably hick woman being bullied into breaking down and admitting that she might have violently, sexually or verbally abused her children, by a thick-headed, smirking bald security guard in a tee-shirt advertising the show he was presenting, utilising exactly the same tactics he was accusing her of using. While a rent-a-panto-crowd went through the sea-sick motions in their stadium chairs.

Not to mention the whole pedophelia angle in yesterday's article! Some people might think I'm obsessed. Artists might be sharpening their quills and witty retorts to take a pot shot at me for being a righteous indignant, whilst rioty mob types ( mobys? ) could be sharpening their pointy sticks to stab me in the penis. Because pedophiles use penises! Even now, some bald lanky mullet-chin is probably reading this and getting ready to lash out because he objects to my use of “Moby” in the sentence above!

But holy shit y'all! It was ten o clock in the fucking morning when I was presented with this item. I was still groggy from not being asleep when that's what I actually wanted to be!

What happened to the watershed? Have I reached the point where I'm actually nostalgic for those days when Scarface was plucking chickens and Beverly Hills cop was Motherfunning? I posit this : the moment they stopped doing this to movies on TV in the early nineties, was the moment most people my age became nostalgic for it. And remain so.

But it's got me a-thinking : how has it come to this, in an era where television is being credited as the most creative outlet right now for visual-media artists and film-makers? Was it always thus?

First, to the people who ask me : Dominic ( or dominicispalmer ( or Tazer ( or Studhung Marginalflap ))) just why is it that you not only actively avoid watching television but are in fact enraged by it ?

Is it because it represents the lowest common denominator? Who's that then? You? Me? Am I to believe that people who watch television are in some way inferior to me? Pretty presumptious of me there, right? I would argue that TV is the lowest common denominator to be sure. It is the fat that keeps you coming back. It exists in a lot of ways purely to sell you something. But I can switch that shit off and I don't have to buy.

Is it because programs such as the news, sequence “so-called” true events into a pre-packaged whole dependant on the three act structure, scaremongering and outright lies? No. As humans, we automatically edit and sequence events anyway, it's our brain's way of understanding, sorting and representing things of great complexity. We only like complexity when it's easy to decomplex. The three-act structure is just something entertainment does ( the news is entertainment first and foremost folks, ye either get on that bandwagon or ye don't ). Hell, we even break our lives down into youth, middle aged, and elderly. It's just another easily digestible biscuit for our brain so why do you think an entertainment program, factual or otherwise, would go agin the norm?

Scaremongering? Sure, the news has a nasty habit of representing the bad shit that goes on out there as opposed to the good shit. But here's news for you : that's what you like. You'd rather see a story about war and make a trite observation, than a story about a cat stuck up a tree being rescued by the ( tut – wasted resource, it's just a bloody cat ) fire man. I don't know guys and gals, it's a rare day that a news story – even one about Peaches Geldof – has me running for the hills. If I change the channel it's because I'm vaguely embarassed by the presentation, and/or the presenters.

As to the outright lie that news brings you – I don't know. Yes, of course there are certain editorial choices any news program, or for that matter channel makes. You're going to hear about something that is popular quicker than not ( ie you'll quicker hear about sports results or oscar buzz than local theatre or street arts projects ) but in a limited and vastly over-populated news landscape, what's a newsie to do? As to lies? We're lucky here in Ireland that we don't really have the corporate-owned or specifically-sponsored news programs ( although it is kinda hilarious sometimes to have an advert for KIA cars preceded by a story about a man who died at war ) with a specific agenda. Other than to advertise themselves and their subsidiaries. American and perhaps Islamic news-feeds probably differ. I don't know. I'm not American or Islamic. This probably makes me better than you.

But I don't think the RTE news lies. By omission you say? Meh. That's not lying, that's just not being arsed telling a story, in favour of telling another. You'll be gauranteed come the apocalypse, that'll be the one they go with. I think we're okay until then. Generally speaking in this country it's the long haired or balding, poetry-spouting hippies that tell us “the man” is operating through these programs by brainwashing you and lying to you. I don't know – I don't watch that much of it so maybe that's why I feel kind of unfulfilled all the time. But they interview people on the street involved with these stories, more often than not – so are they part of the great lie too? I don't think we're being brainwashed. I think that's showing just a little superior contempt for the people around you hippy people, if I'm honest. You should wash.

So why do I actively loathe television. It's because everything on it is shit. Formulaic, ugly, noisy, unfunny, tensionless, boxed in and shit. That's it. I don't give a crap about it's desire to manipulate me because I'm a grown man – especially in the belly region – and I can wilfully ignore that manipulation.

It's just that every single thing on television right now is utterly shit, utterly devoid of soul, and utterly formulaic.

Now you may point to the many HBO or HBO-styled programs that have considerably upped television's game, and say but Dominic ( dominicispalmer ( Tazer ( Studhung ) ) ) no more have we the trite, poorly made, and downright laughable programs of yore – now we have programs made by and starring REAL film makers. Scorcese, Fincher, some other people ( do your own damn research if you're that arsed arguing ). Does that make them any less formulaic? Ugly? Noisy? Of course not, film makers are not moving to television for their artistic integrity or for the challenge, in reality the reason film-makers are leaping toward TV ( despite the telling a long-form narrative bullshit that they keep wheeling out in interviews and on box-set press packs ) is because it's far easier to make telly than it is film. There's mutual money, from advertising revenue mostly, and often it's already in place. It's not a creative decision but a business one. That's fine, but don't go pushing the artistic-argument button because like the above liberal longhairs, it just won't wash.

Look at any of the programs that have become popular over the last five or so years, the so-called boundary pushers. There's the obvious Breaking Bad. There's Dexter. There's Lord of the Rings porn parody, Game of Thrones. There's Boardwalk Empire. There's more but I don't care. Each of them have seemingly been created in a genetic lab by genetically modified man-monkeys, each tasked with coming up with a one-sentence pitch to appease the masses.

What boundaries have they actually pushed? Are they any more intellectually stimulating than a soap opera? Really? Do they push the boundaries of visual art, ah-la some painty guy or something? Do they learn you shit you didn't know already? No. Of course not. They play to an already pre-arranged formula, designed to push your buttons and get you watching and more to the point talking, therefore doing their promotion for them. They've been designed by mutated man-monkey pitch droids.

Each and every one follows a formula – the swearing, sex, violence formula. And with each series, like each sequel to a movie, they up the ante to the point where it becomes fetishistic, ridiculous, and ultimately redundant. It is shock value. The only boundary pushed by any of these programs is in the actual availability of profanity, ugly stylised violence, and naughty nudity. And sometimes – more often than you'd think actually – incest.

So you can see where suddenly I'm switching on my TV and there's a fat woman crying about the way she sexually neglected her poor babas while a jeering mob leers ineffectually just beyond the stage, and I'm thinking wow, those boundary pushers have really opened the doors, haven't they?

Look, I'm not trying to be a dad-rocker here. As a man who spent his teen years checking the radio times to see when Body Heat, About Last Night, Porky's, Crimes of Passion and latterly Basic Instinct were going to be on so I could secretly tape them for later anthropological study, I might come across as just a little bit hypocritical ( now that I've told you what I used to do and by implication why ). I don't argue against the use of fucking, swearing and head-whackery in art – I just argue that it is neither as boundry pushing or as intelligent as you lot seem to think. You know what? When people ask why, as a fan of Lord of the Rings porn parodies, I don't watch Game of Thrones, it's because I can load up Porn MD, type in Lord of the Rings, and get my quota of elf and hobbit fisting. For free. In close-up.

I'm not against swearing, nudity, or violence on television. I grew up with VHS porn and Robocop bootlegs. VHS was played on my telly. I grew up on the Atari ST. This too, was played through my telly. I see no difference. It wasn't a more innocent or naive time, it's just that there was less obviously available smut. I might argue that this made the smut more special, but that's for a different day.

And it's not that these programs are badly made. With the money that goes into them the one thing you can expect is a lavish and well-made production. What is lost is quality through quantity. This long-form storytelling that people like Scorcese and Fincher keep bleating on about is non-existent, because you have different writers, different directors, different advertising committees on every single episode. This means that the focus changes, often wildly, to the point where characters will act completely against type in an episode, where tone veers dramatically depending on what the director or more importantly, marketing group, is trying to achieve.

I will gently point to Breaking Bad as a prime example of this. Though a lot of the die-hard fans credit it with having a consistency of tone and describe it as a five season character descent, in reality each episode veers hugely in tone from viciously violent one week, to Malcolm in the Middle silly the following. Because it's not HBO it has less of a sex-quota but it makes up for that with beheadings and general drug-filled nastiness. Mostly though it's just dull, hanging it's increasingly stupid narrative on the SHOCK-HORROR CANCER subplot while trying to pretend it's not glamorising drugs to sell it to the kids. And yes I know Cancer is a metaphor. For AIDS. And that character arc? It doesn't exist. The main character, Walt Disney, simply does not change. It is one-note, a hanger to hang the director's baggage on. And to sell Dorritos.

Mad Men is probably one of the most bewilderingly popular programs on TV, and trades mostly on sex and bad language, with the odd happy-slap thrown in ( quotas ). What's truly interesting about this program is, it exists to sell cigarettes. It exists because advertisers have realised by setting a program in a pre-historic time like the fifties or sixties, you can pretend to have a legitimate reason to have your sexy, good looking and confident cast smoke a lot.

You're being spoon-fed massively over-hyped imagery you're being told you want and like being spoon fed sugar because it's giving you an erection. Everyone likes having an erection! Even your ma! You can intellectualise it all you want. You're being manipulated. And you're probably the one telling me the media lies.

Oh I know you know that. I do. Is there anything wrong with being manipulated? Of course not. But it's the high road one takes in doing so.

So TV is the lowest common denominator and everything on it is shit on a par.

It's interesting to me that the very people who espouse this next generation of exactly the same but, you know, LOUDER, SEXIER, SWEARIER program making are very often the same people who would criticise a couch potato for spending their morning watching Steve Wilco or Judge Jury.

I have to ask you guys, what's the difference in the end?

You reap what you sow.

Twelve Do's and Don'ts of Blgging – Don't make grammar mistakes.
And, if you do, correct them immediately. Folks on the Web tend to be more lenient about typos, so don’t stress about it if you do make a mistake. But correct it as soon as you can. Remember, if you ever want readers to take you seriously, you have to take yourself (and your blog) seriously. Give it the professional quality it deserves.”

So, you know, don't argue with me about my views on your favourite television show ( Breaking Bad obviously ). Just point out my bad grammar feel and smarker aboum yoursef.

    Twelve steps of addiction, step 9 : Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.”

I'll do that. But in this instant, I'm not wrong.


oh and ps, once again I shirked in my duties to follow the exercise through. BUT I could make the argument that the above thesis was delivered as a result of the exercise. So, you know. Bite me.

Tomorrow - Day 10: Go sit in a public place and eavesdrop on a conversation. Turn what you hear into a short love story (no matter how much you have to twist what they say).”

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