Friday, February 02, 2007

Priorities

Celebrity Big Brother watched by thousands including children in the privacy of their bedroom TV, maybe reality, but is it art; does it have form , shape and structure; does it mean anything, have a point of view, communicate? Is it simply a sequence of relatively mundane, insignificant, random snippets broadcast with a spurious importance brought about by marketing and the promise of money, involving the viewer who can collectively affect who stays and who goes ~ all ultimately totally insignificant.

Yet, despite the inanity of it all, and yes intelligent friends who watch compulsively admit that it is a complete waste of time, this stuff has reached a level of importance out of all proportion to its worth.

The Telegraph has an article which sees CBB as being significant especially, it seems to Martians observing the nature of British Society! "...she (Jade) has established herself as the most successful Big Brother contestant ever, worth about £8 million."

The verbal racist abuse that has been so widely reported and indeed, the investigation by police continues, has reached to the highest levels of government ~ "British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Treasury chief Gordon Brown and Indian Finance Minister P. Chidambaram have commented on the incident, which South Asian and anti-racist groups said revealed the face of racism in Britain." Edmonton Journal

All this as a result of a manufactured, over-hyped programme, having no artistic merit.

By contrast there are the fictional books of Harry Potter read, and watched in the film versions, by thousands of children. Not, in my opinion, the greatest pieces of literature, but nonetheless, it is an art form with imagination, shape and a story to tell.

Daniel Radcliffe who plays the eponymous hero is an actor doing a job of work, rather well as it happens. So when this actor gets an offer of another job to perform in a stage play, a play that has proved its worth, is a modern classic that is superbly written, powerful, thought-provoking and containing a lead role that a young aspiring actor would die for, what happens?

Parents are up in arms and are bombarding Harry Potter fan-sites with emails. One reads, "We as parents feel Daniel should not appear nude. Our nine-year-old son looks up to him as a role model. We are very disappointed and will avoid the future movies he makes."

A classic error in which a spectator confuses a fictional character with the real-life actor who plays that part. Daniel Radcliffe is to appear in Equus the play, not a film version. Of course nudity, even the mere thought of it, is utterly degrading, disgusting and morally debasing. Perish the thought that it is in any way appropriate to the context of the play that Anthony Shaffer wrote. The chances are that thousands of ‘Potter’ fans will not make the pilgrimage to the live theatre in London to witness the play.

Indeed whilst the play may not be suitable viewing for youngsters, it is it about nudity per se; it's a far more intelligent piece than that. That Daniel Radcliffe should be criticized in this way shows a very narrow, blinkered view of acting and theatre, and an ignorance about this play in particular.

Interesting to read the Washington Post which cites a number of child actors who grew up and played roles a long way from their cutesy beginnings.

What this silly reaction to Equus and more widespread complaint about CBB have in common is the use of sex to sell.

In an interview, David Pugh the producer reveals that spin and hype are the chief motivating considerations in his casting of Daniel:

“And now the world can see exactly what Daniel Radcliffe will look like in Equus, as the stunningly opportunistic beautifully staged publicity photos for Equus have been released. Did Pugh mention the versatility that Radcliffe displayed when asked to humanize the dichotomy of a boy who who is so aroused by horses that he is then forced to torture them? Did he comment on the moral dilemma at the heart of the play concerning the treatment of the mentally ill? No! He started talking about how big Daniel Radcliffe's penis is:

"We had never seen him with his clothes off before. We all went 'Wow!'

Celebrity Big Brother is also driven by sex in their choice of hapless victims and wannabes:

"31-year-old Shilpa has been included in the list 'to spice things up and sex up the show' in what is likely to be the steamiest season so far."

Possibly they got more 'steam' than they had bargained for ~ but then it is this kind of steam that drives the engine of publicity on which this show survives having, as it does, absolutely nothing else to commend it except pandering to the strange and slightly kinky desires of the voyeurs who tune in so avidly.

Sad that Equus should be caught up on a similar kind of promotional hook, but that the actor should be criticized for working on it shows that somewhere along the line we have our priorities sadly misaligned.

4 comments:

Jen said...

& what will those 3000 plus readers in America who want the Potter books banned because they promote Wicca make of this link with Equus? What a terrible influence the Potter role has had on the actor?! As the Atlanta Board of Education Attorney said"...if all books with reference to witches were banned that would have to include Macbeth & Cinderella.....

Scrooge said...

Hmm, I sense the reallignment of priorities you intimate may be to bring the public to appreciate the arts in the way that you do. This seems to be a common failing of the GBP as a whole. They simply don't follow the correct procedure. They like all the wrong things. My paper, The Guardian, has been following the series CBB since it started.In fact, they've followed it to such an extent that they have, apparently, published more column inches on the subject than The Sun. They don't like it of course. Its just a succession of journalists telling us how awful it is and how devoid it is of any merit and yet it obviously justifies that huge coverage. Perhaps Guardian readers watch it, but just do so in a more intellectual way. The thing is, people will watch whatever entertains them.Perhaps they just need, as Mr Sleary says in Hard Times, "to be amuthed", perhaps they watch it from an intellectual aspect - to see it as a mirror on our society. Perhaps they watch it to see how Channel 4 will twist the rules and highlight the bad bits until everyone is judging and moralising and commentating. Who knows ? I don't but it seems to be successful. I think the producers of Equus just need to have a word with Endermol. They are, after all, the masters of getting the word talking.

Paul Roffman said...

Parents are up in arms and are bombarding Harry Potter fan-sites with emails. One reads, "We as parents feel Daniel should not appear nude. Our nine-year-old son looks up to him as a role model. We are very disappointed and will avoid the future movies he makes."
These people are as stupid and ignorant as the Jade Goodys of this world and would never be likely to have a) entered a west end theatre, b) ever have even had the faintest idea that a play called Equus existed and c) shouldn't be taking their nine year olds to see such a mature piece. Also, unfortunately reactions like David Pugh's to the size of Daniel Radcliffe's penis size are common in the industry. I'm sure that's how a lot of casting directors and producers get their kicks. Also he is adding to the spice of the publicity he can draw out. Is Daniel Radcliffe appropriate for the part? Well who knows, I've never seen him act in anything other than Potter in which he performed an adequate job. However Peter Shaffer's Equus requires more than just movie stardom and a startling schlong! Is it appropriate for him to be in? Of course it is! Any actor would bite off the hand holding the script in the vicinity of their face for the part. That said, I'm sure many voyeuristic fans will go to see a serious piece of theatre in the hope of gawping at a young mans cock only perhaps to come out with something more profound.

Brian Sibley said...

What is also interesting - in terms of the way in which the material has been blatantly used by the producers - is the fact that Radcliffe is still only 17 years old...

Under different circumstances, someone publishing similar images on the internet (and possibly anyone viewing them) would be potentially open to investigation and maybe prosecution...