Just Above Sunset
September 25, 2005 - Things I Don't Get (from the Pussycat Dolls to Iraq)
Over the last
few weeks I've used this column to pass on those bits and pieces of contemporary British culture that I felt worthy of your
attention. Implicit in this act of trans-Atlantic sharing is the sense that I
fully understand, or at least have a working knowledge, of the things I'm going on about.
I could, for example, use this week's column to mull over the week's most exciting bit of pop cultural news here in
the UK: the return, after a decade's absence, of the reclusive singer Kate Bush (yes, she of Wuthering Heights and
Babooshka), whose new single King of the Mountains not only sounds like nothing else around at the moment, but
actually proves, after a couple of listens, to be quite something indeed.
I'm going to focus this week on those aspects of modern life I just don't understand, in the hope of bringing about some greater
enlightenment. (Any answers to the questions I raise are cordially welcomed at
the e-mail address below.) Take, by way of a starter, Los Angeles' very own Pussycat
Dolls, currently sitting pretty atop the UK singles charts with their debut release Don't Cha, a title which just begs
the response "erm, no, not really, thanks ever so much".
I was watching
the Dolls pout and strut their way through a performance on one of our music shows the other day, and was suddenly struck
by the irony of the whole thing. Am I alone in thinking there's something odd
about a bunch of strippers heavy-breathing their way through the chorus' incessant refrain "don't cha wish your girlfriend
was hot like me…", when surely there have been few musical acts more clearly aimed at young men without a girlfriend
in the first place?
I digress. (The nostalgic amongst us are invited at this point to wonder how we got from the
New York Dolls to the Pussycat Dolls in the space of three decades. And to conclude those arguing the case against evolution
in humankind might have a point.) It seems to me that just as the modern world
offers more stuff than ever before, so there might be more stuff to see, hear and do that goes beyond our frame of
reference, stuff we just don't understand. Another case in point: the UK's current
number one movie, Pride & Prejudice.
Pride & Prejudice. As Alan revealed last week, the Jane Austen novel is one of those books repeatedly voted into the top fives of Best Book Ever polls, and repeatedly
adapted for television, radio and now the movies. This version, directed by Joe
Wright and with a surprisingly good Keira Knightley in the lead role, has elicited glowing reviews from the British critics
and clearly proved popular with the general public.
Now, I don't
get Pride & Prejudice, although I understand that perhaps I'm not supposed to get it. A novel written by a woman for women, its strengths lie in the interplay between a set of sisters and their
mother. Its lauded dialogue is as the twitter amongst birds. (Which is not to do Austin a disservice, for we all know how pleasing birdsong can sometimes be on the
The reason news
of yet another version of P&P inspires as much flutter in the hearts of the fairer sex as, say, the Doom
movie probably causes in the hearts and palms of teenage boys is that Austen's novel is very specifically about how women
see themselves, and how they would like to be seen. Hence the new film's truest-seeming
scene, where the Bennet sisters and ma, lounging around their drawing room, are suddenly spurred into frantic redress by the
arrival of an eligible suitor at the front door.
All this can
be lost on unapologetic guys like me, and neither book nor film do themselves much in the way of favours by doing what
the irksome Bridget Jones phenomenon subsequently did: assembling male characters no sane man could honestly identify
with. As far as I can see, P&P hunk Mr. Darcy is only considered hunky
because: a) he's always been played by apparently hunky actors, and b) he owns half of Derbyshire. (And if you've ever been to Derbyshire, well, you'll know it's not all that.)
unsuitable suitors: the British tabloids, and their opposite number, the nation's moralists, have been getting in a right
old flap this week, after supermodel Kate Moss (boyfriend of rehab-regular minor rock star Pete Doherty) was photographed
in front of a line of cocaine. Putting aside the fact I don't get the appeal
of Kate Moss, either - so this is our contemporary model of femininity, what all women are supposed to aspire to? -
I don't quite what get what the newspapers' fuss was all about: stick-thin clothes horse with (ex-)junkie boyfriend in "uses
drugs" shocker! You read it here first!
Of course, you
could argue, this is a classic example of the newspapers' now seemingly ongoing "silly season", where minor indiscretions
are trumped up to fill column inches at the expense of the real stories of the age.
Like Iraq, for instance, which this week started to resemble John Carpenter's Assault On Precinct 13, with British
forces having to break into a besieged police station in Basra to liberate, erm, two of their own Special Ops men.
Quite why those
men had been arrested is, again, something we'll scratch our heads about now and hope to understand at a later date: an undercover
operation gone wrong is the unofficial line being proposed at the present time. But
with a significant number of British troops now being moved from Iraq and "strategically redeployed" to the relative peace
and calm of nearby Afghanistan, is it possible that someone in high places has finally understood what might be going on over
Copyright © 2005 – Mike McCahill
Email the author at email@example.com
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