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Thursday, 15 September 2011

Topshop creates an Avoid This Man tee shirt

There's nothing I like more than a mindless wander round Topshop, fingering the dresses, pursing my lips over the rubbish hemming and getting vertigo from the heels. But yesterday I noticed some tee shirts in the Top Man section. If you can't read them, the one on the left says: I'm so sorry but: You provoked me I was drunk I was having a bad day I hate you I didn't mean it I couldn't help it The one on the right says: New Girlfriend? What breed is she? There has been an outcry and already most of the stock has been removed. But what's really depressing is if you go to the Topman Facebook site and look at the comments left by customers, presumably most of whom are young men, the utter lack of empathy is terrifying. Anyone who protests is apparently a 'humourless feminist' - yeah yeah boys. Can't you think of something more original to say? And I wonder what is the fucking point of having tons of money spent on advertising campaigns to help teenagers understand what abuse really is, when you can buy a tee shirt that cheerfully excuses cracked ribs and comparing your girlfriend to a farmyard animal? I wonder if women went round wearing a tee shirt that read: From here I can tell you're a loser with an exceptionally small penis how funny they would find that? One good thing though. A man who wears a tee shirt printed with this kind of joke is the best warning to Stay Away I can think of. Because he might as well be wearing a tee shirt that reads: I am a controlling and abusive loser who will both abuse and blame you for it. Run like the wind!

Monday, 12 September 2011

Maggie Goes on a Diet: Never mind the message - look at the content.

There is a book out in October which is causing huge controversy – even more strange since it’s self published. The author is doing that authorial thing of protesting that he had no idea it would cause so much fuss – he only intended to educate children about healthy eating. That’s your first clue. A children’s author who sets out with A Message instead of wanting to write a great story is not going to write a good children’s book. Ok so the book is called Maggie Goes on a Diet and the reason many people are so cross with the author is because the clear message to young girls is that dieting is a good thing. And what with an explosion in eating disorders and an increasing unease that young girls are being sexualised too early, the idea that someone would bring out a book which shows that after Maggie goes on a diet her life is so much better (just like a diet ad in fact) is a bit offensive. What really surprises me though is not that a self published book about a child going on a diet is causing such a fuss, it’s that nobody seems to be objecting as to the actual quality of the book. Probably because it is self published and while there are honourable exceptions, a large proportion of self published children's books are shite. They are shite because they are aimed at the wrong age group, the artwork is amateur, the story is leaden, and there is a tiresome moral message. This one succeeds on all counts. The book is purportedly aimed at 6 – 8 years old but Maggie is fourteen. And the book is written in rhyme. How many teenagers do you know who read rhymes? Especially crudely illustrated ones? About a girl who is meant to be a teenager but has sticky up braids like Pippi Longstocking? Why is her hair sticking up? Is there some sort of Something About Mary thing going on? And as for the rhyme . . . . Maggie was teased just about every day at school She was called Fatty and Chubby and other names that were just as cru-el. Searching the refrigerator in the hopes she would feel better Eating lots of bread and cheeses including some cheddar. Really trips off the tongue eh? So yeah - blogging about it – I’m giving it publicity. But I also know that however much publicity this book gets – it’s not going to get taken up by what self-publishers call ‘mainstream’ publishers and what everyone else calls publishers. Not just because it's a horrible idea, badly executed. After all there are plenty of equally horrible celebrity biographies out there. But also because the author himself is no stranger to the Krispy Kremes so ultimately this book is about a fat middle aged man who writes bad books trying to shame little girls into dieting. Sending the wrong message to girls? I'll say.

Friday, 9 September 2011

I Love Researching the 70s

It’s so much more fun than work. I’m writing a play set in the seventies and as part of my doing anything to avoid writing the next draft research I’m looking at some of the terrifying public information films of the time. My God it was a scary time. Strikes, political dissent, and Donald Pleasance. You might not have heard of him but his voice struck terror into any child of the seventies. Here he is disguised as the Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water ready to trap the show off or the fool. And if you escaped Donald Pleasance you might end up buried alive inside a disused fridge. That'll learn you. Managed to dodge death by white goods? You might like to nip to the shops in your car. But soft! You ladies going to the shops and the launderette, smarmed Jimmy Saville (well this was before feminism) might not have the same face in the evening as you started out with, in the morning. What do you mean Jimmy Saville – yes you with the Lady Gaga hair and face like a melted welly. Of course! Because the lady doesn’t Clunk Clink on a short visit to the shops she is thrown through the car window! Well that’ll learn you – Mrs. Or Boris Karloff as you’re now known. Ok so you've survived deep water, abandoned fridges and you’ve Clunk Clicked. But you’re still not safe. There is the lurking menace of Stranger Danger – an absolute obsession in the seventies. Never mind that over 90% of child abuse is carried out by someone who should be taking care of the child. I watched a two part film featuring a robotic voice saying Say No to Strangers about the danger of getting into a car with Duncan Preston before he was enshrined as a comedy star on Victoria Wood. I watched this film all the way through and it’s genuinely terrifying. The ten year old girl, Teresa is persuaded that if she gets into Duncan’s car, they’ll probably meet her mum on the way. And he has a kitten. (That old one. Nowadays a weirdo in the car would be more likely to say he was a record producer and could make Teresa the next Brittany Spears. Mind you – most record producers are perverts anyway). So Teresa gets into the car and two seconds later mum rushes up in her high heels and career woman haircut. But it's too late! Luckily a smart black girl (and I mention that because again, this being the seventies – rife with open racism and programmes like Love Thy Neighbour i.e. Oh My God There’s A Black Man Living Next Door) has noticed the car and gives a good description to the police. Meanwhile Teresa’s mum is sitting on the sofa next to her husband Bernard (Yosser Hughes) Hill. But they only send a WPC round to Teresa’s mum’s house. One WPC. She’s played by Brenda Blethyn but still. Where are the police out making door to door enquiries? Or the police helicopters? She could be dead or in hospital! weeps mum, in a curious reversal of possibilities. I thought the first twenty four hours after an abduction were crucial. The message seems to be that if you get into a car with a stranger, you’ll only get a bored WPC writing ‘Blue Car driven by pervert – probably’ who then pats mum on the shoulder and says, I’m sure she’ll turn up. You can almost see the thought bubble where she adds, in a body bag. Part One ends with a shot of Duncan’s car as the light fades. Teresa is clearly in the house with him. Argggh! Nightmares! But in part two the film wimps out completely. Teresa is back with mum and the whole issue of her assault is smoothed over. He tried to kiss me and when I said no he did this she sobs showing a bruise on her arm. Oh dearie me, says a now clearly bored Brenda Blethyn probably thinking, When is Mike Leigh going to rescue me from a life of playing bored WPC's in Public Information Films? The message seems to be, if you get into a stranger’s car you’re asking for it. A bruised arm that is. But what amazed me was the lack of mobilising police effort. I know it was an information film but one WPC? Maybe they were all out framing suspects or taking bribes – another defining aspect of the seventies. It's always been dangerous being a child but I've never believed all that stuff about how bad it was before education for all and antibiotics and all that guff. Us kids who grew up in the seventies know better. We had to contend with The Grim Reaper with Donald Pleasance, disused fridges, killer escalators and Duncan Preston offering to show us his kittens. Now get back to you safe little computer game you overprotected fatso. And I'll get back to work. Oooh lunchtime . . . . !