Telford’s #metoo Moment

Rotherham,
Oxford,
Aylesbury,
Newcastle,
Rochdale,
Bristol,
Keighley…and now Telford.

It’s only been a few days since the latest story of yet more industrial scale sexual abuse and establishment complicity made headlines, only to tumble down the news ladder just as suddenly as it had surfaced.
Maybe we’re all abused out. Maybe just another run-of-the-mill, conveyor-belt story of organised exploitation and police paralysis is no longer shocking enough to hold our attention. It’s old hat and we’ve heard it all before. Besides, there’ll be another one along in a minute.

Just let that sink in for a moment. As a nation and a community, we are no longer shocked that organised gangs of mainly Asian men can prey on some of our most vulnerable young girls, while our once proud police cower in the shadows, ever fearful that the dark magic of the R-word might be cast against them. Welcome to Britain in 2018, a nation with a hollowed out and inverted value system, where fear of a false accusation allows real crime to go unpunished.
It’s instructive to compare the damp squib of what’s been called the “worst ever” abuse scandal in our nation’s history against the explosion of media coverage surrounding the alleged predations of Harvey Weinstein and other Hollywood figures. There the response was immediate and very, very loud indeed. Hashtags, black dresses, bully pulpit speeches and unlimited airtime on tap.
Away from the glitter and the spin and the faux moral outrage, Telford and Rotherham actually do have something in common with Hollywood. In both cases, everybody knew what was going on but nobody was willing or able to challenge a rotten and degenerate status quo. Those few brave or desperate souls who pulled their heads out of the sand were swiftly crushed by a legal and media machine driven by those self-same abusers and their establishment enablers.
Where Telford does differ from Hollywood is the way the world at least pretends to give a toss when Tinseltown gets upset; although whether the world really cares about the problems of famous and influential multi-millionaires is debatable. A movie star speaks and millions of us hear her voice, whether we want to or not, and regardless of how vacuous and self-serving her moral outrage and finger pointing may turn out to be.
The girls of Telford and Rochdale are far less fortunate, mostly because they’re forced to place their trust in social services and the police. Where once we believed those flawed institutions at least tried to uphold the law without fear or favour, we now know that fear and favour are the only factors when deciding who may or may not receive justice and protection.
I lost all respect for our mendacious cultural and media elites long ago, but I never thought I would lose my respect for the British police. I used to believe they were a positive force in this nation, but that was before they turned their energies to harassing thought criminals on the internet and actively working to hide the arrogant criminality of organised groomers and sexual abusers.
When the police collude with criminals, they lose all moral and social authority. All that’s left is the strong arm of the law.
As an aside, I wonder what the wives of these organised abusers think about it all. There must be quite a few out there, so I guess we’ll find out one day…maybe. I also wonder if any retired police officers, social workers and civil servants will ever face real repercussions for their duplicity in what is by far the biggest social scandal of our age. Perhaps some will resign, lose their jobs or even be hauled in front of committees; but rest assured that pensions will be protected with a passion that was vindictively denied to those vulnerable girls in our grey industrial towns.
Never mind, it’s kind of a boring story anyway and we’ve heard it all before. Better log in and see how #metoo is doing.
That’ll show ’em!

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Carry On…and on…and on…

It’s that time of year again, when the nights grow dark, the lights grow bright and our favourite old movies are dragged out of the attic for their ritual parade across the Christmas schedules. We might never actually watch Die Hard, Scrooged, Mary Poppins or the Guns of Navarone, but we gain a sense of comfort and continuity from knowing that they’re still around…somewhere. These tried and tested staples are a lot like that quaint old village church we never visit, yet fight tooth and nail to protect from all manner of modern encroachments.

If current reports are even remotely accurate, then 2017 will be remembered as the year that big media and big politics were finally exposed as hotbeds of the very misogyny and predation they’ve often railed against with a screeching self-righteousness that was bound to raise suspicions sooner or later. I’d often thought they protested too much.

In light of this ruthless, career ending hunt for sexual misconduct both real and alleged, it’s kind of strange to see our socially awkward friends from the Carry On team gracing our screens day after day during the holiday season. How can we explain this contradiction? How is it that a bunch of bawdy farces from the sixties and seventies are still airing as family viewing long after most of their contemporaries have been demoted to obscure footnotes in feminist literature?

The answer is that although we may not watch them, we collectively give the Carry Ons a cultural pardon with a kind of affectionate indulgence not granted to other comedians, movies and franchises hailing from that admittedly controversial era. Somehow the good ship Carry On just carries on, despite the ill winds of revisionism doing their best to blow it off course. The reason for the Carry Ons’ seemingly inexplicable appeal has actually been staring us in the face these many years, with all the subtlety of Barbara Windsor’s bosom.

The truth is that while men may sit on the throne, a woman’s word is law in the kingdom of Carry On.

Sexually, institutionally, socially and even financially, the ladies are nearly always on top. From teenage temptresses, through senior nurses, saucily strict governesses and ending with screeching, hen-pecking harridans; the female of the species is most definitely smarter, more deadly and more astute than her underachieving Carry On competitors.

By contrast, the Carry On men are not quite the collection of unapologetic, misogynist barflys they’ve often been made out to be. They’re much more a bunch of hapless, balding, wannabe lotharios or comically uptight, neurotic misfits. They’re constantly outwitted by the younger women they’ve still not learned to leave well alone, while stumbling from one misadventure to the next. They’re forever looking over their shoulders, always fearful of Matron’s institutional power, or even worse, the wife’s marital and emotional muscle.

This is why the Carry On films have admittedly aged but yet still lasted, while a franchise like On the Buses has faded into almost total oblivion. Whilst it’s tempting to lump them both together, there’s a very good reason why one elicits a wry, grudging affection and the other commands only a kind of cringing and embarrassed contempt.

The Carry On men were most often the helpless victims of a world they only imagined they controlled, while the protagonists of On the Buses were a pair of workshy schemers who constantly badmouthed their wives while chasing ever more deluded dreams of extra marital affairs. While one franchise gave us a cast of outrageously camped-up caricatures, the other left us with only a pair of conniving, lying manipulators for company. Who would you want to hang out with?

History has now delivered its verdict.

Whether we like to admit it or not, the Carry On world lives within us all; finding validation with every fumbled chat up line and every free drink accepted from a stranger. We indulge, if not outright embrace these ageing sexual comedies because we know deep down that they reflect some enduring, unchanging and fundamental truths about our own social and sexual worlds. We recognise these often tongue tied, always awkward men within ourselves and also in others, because we know that a caricature begins its life in reality.

Long may they carry on…and on…and on.

Goodbye Hollywood

That’s it. I just can’t take any more!

I’m done with Hollywood.

As an avid movie fan, I thought that statement would be a painful one to write, but to be honest I’m glad to have finally gotten it out of my system. I feel free, cleansed, liberated. Already I can feel my mind repairing itself, my critical faculties renewed and reinvigorated.

The break has been coming for a long time, and it’s not the latest round of revelations, accusations and denials swirling around Los Angeles that have hardened my resolve. Instead it’s the increasingly shrill, haughty, condescending and downright hypocritical finger wagging from an embattled and self-regarding gated community. Who the hell told a bunch of pampered actors that they have a duty to harangue the unwashed masses about exactly what they should think on any given social, moral or political issue?

The uncomfortable truth is that Tinseltown has been sick for some years now, becoming psychologically isolated, increasingly embittered and disdainful of the very audience on whom it ultimately relies. We’ve all noticed it, even though we politely pretend that we haven’t. The dizzying blur of remakes, reboots, prequels, sequels and spin-offs has had us all a little worried for a quite a while now. Like an increasingly forgetful relative, we pretend that the mounting evidence of creative constipation is nothing serious, hoping it’s a phase…although deep down we know it isn’t.

Hollywood is done, diminishing fast as a cultural force. Nobody wants to hear yet another multi-millionaire railing at this or that supposed injustice while the guy driving his limo sweats on minimum wage. The Oscars audience steadily shrinks as more and more moviegoers have come to see the A-list glitterati as they really are; a decaying, out of touch and increasingly parasitical class who have no right to lecture anybody about anything.

For me though, the final straw came when I discovered I couldn’t simply rent Rogue One from Amazon. I had a choice of either buying it outright or taking a hike. Talk about service with a sneer.

That was the moment I realised I am no longer viewed as a consumer with choice and agency, I am merely a cash cow to be herded and farmed by both the big studios and tech giants at will. In short, Hollywood thinks nothing of me, yet still believes it has some kind of divine right to pocket my hard earned cash while I give thanks for whatever overly loud, formulaic schlock they condescend to dollop in front of me.

Screw you, Hollywood. You’ve treated me like crap for the last time.

Image courtesy of yodiyim at FreeDigitalPhotos.net