Wednesday, June 03, 2009

I don’t know much about Charlie Brooker: I know he’s on TV in some capacity (but I haven’t had a TV for about five years), that he writes a column in the Guardian, that he co-wrote the desperately muddled, unfunny Nathan Barley with Chris Morris. People I rate seem to rate him so when I saw a photocopy of an article from Monday’s Guardian on a colleague's desk I picked it up and read it.

I was surprised by how trite it was.

I’m not going to start casting aspersions on the entirety of his output on the basis of one piece, but the essence of it was: men are eternally and immutably deluded little boys, only women attain any real maturity. Ladies, take over and save us by relegating us to the playpens where we belong (and where we secretly long to be) so we can sit around masturbating, whooping senselessly and smashing each other over the head with our toys.

There is of course sufficient ironic hyperbole to offer a get out clause, but the germ of what’s being riffed on remains the same: men just don’t grow up and need women to shepherd them. This facile, shame-faced pseudo-feminism is everywhere in the culture at the moment. Check out your local video store for Family Guy season seven or Role Models, or hey, pick up Platform by Houellebequ for that matter.

Men either remain a grotesque third child for the women to rebuke and teach lessons in “responsibility” to, or if they are capable of adulthood at all it’s only once they get into a domestic situation with a suitably forgiving (but also Hot and Smart!) wife/mother. Indeed, the deeply conservative gesture in ostensibly risky and outrageous films like “Knocked Up” is that maturity is exactly that: acceding to the inevitability of the family unit. But don’t worry guys you’ll still be able to like, act retarded and shit with your buddies at the weekend. Essentially what she actually digs in you anyway is your being a “boy”, she kind of disapproves but finally can’t help but laugh and love you for your irresponsibility ('cause really she’s too serious and career minded at the end of the day and you’re the perfect antidote when sometimes she needs to be reminded to laugh at herself a little), so you won’t have to change too much either.

Who is this version of being male supposed to serve? It hardly seems to serve women’s interests given that even in the most matriarchal societies ie Norway women still do a disproportionate amount of the housework and child care. Women, take over and then you can have the additional strain of looking after us men too, but don’t worry we’ll kind of grovel around abasing ourselves so you get to feel morally superior. But is it really in men’s interests either, a deliberate cleaving to some kind of half-life, an ontological stuntedness: we are and must always be little boys. Why read books and stuff (you know you don’t want to!) when you can sit around comparing hot actresses and playing practical jokes on your friends?

Being a man is ridiculous, being a father even more absurd. Be a helpmeet or a friend, be a partner, kow-tow to your wife and child at all times, don’t be disciplinarian, learn how to compromise, learn that you need to put other people first for a change. You always fuck up anyway. Just look at the world financial system, if women had run it, it would have been nice and fair and honest, women are the Good Daddy, the Real Daddy, women are what men could be if only they weren’t always boys, the system needs a women’s hand on the tiller: then it will REALLY work, really be an ETHICAL capitalism.

More than that, women are basically the Universal Parent, the figure whose love can always be relied upon, whose forgiveness is guaranteed, ( Nobomommy, maybe). Because just as we know that for example, women are sexually much more faithful than men and don’t have men’s nasty lusts and wildly roaming sexual fantasy life ( which makes them ethically better i.e. less likely to break up the family unit) so we know that basically they’re just not as competitive and ego driven as men and are much more into “collaborating” and “communicating” both of which are unequivocally good things and must produce beneficial societies. They’re just more level-headed than men and all that stuff about them being screaming, irrational hysterics who disrupt the settled order and unto whom one should take one’s whip was plain wrong. Women, specifically women in what might be called their Bourgeoisie Late Capitalist formulation are going to save us and we men can regress even further, from men without chests to kids without brains.

Of course Brooker wants it both ways, part of the sucking up to the Holy women by treasonously revealing the essence of men is the implication that our Charlie is the Holy (if not, you know, wholly) the exception. Ironically, at the foot of the page Charlie tells us not to be discouraged by the Loaded style cover to McMafia ( the book he got halfway through this week: well, he is a man!!!!) while dishing up a wittier form of archly Loaded content.

The knee-jerk response to my objections is to say, oh so you want the fierce Victorian Patriarch back do you? No. Oh so you want militant feminists kicking your door in every time you sneak a Jazz mag out from under the mattress? Neither.

But I am sick to death of this stuff.


Jonathan M said...

Very well said.

Brooker's Guardian output has been on the slide for years. his TV columns are increasingly formulaic and predictable and his monday general columns (of which the article you cite is an example) are universally awful.

This particular column is nothing but warmed over staples of 1990s comedy. I don't see anything of myself in the picture of masculinity that Brooker puts forward (if anything, it's my girlfriend who is the child in my relationship).

I quite like Nathan Barley and I definitely enjoy Brooker's TV series but he's no public intellectual.

JonR said...

bang on, i hate this stuff too and had similar thoughts when i read the piece, although i still feel warmly towards Brooker because of TVGH.

before i toddle off to crack open a Coke Zero and have a wank....what's with the anti-parenthood theme running through this blog of late?

Anonymous said...

aha.. big question JonR!I'll expound at length soon I suppose.

Anonymous said...

sexually faithfull? aaahh men are ridiculously gullible!

Anonymous said...

Hmm. Brooker's a bit of a mixed bag. Occasionally he can be very good - the recent swipe at the BNP's incredibly inept PPB video was excellent - but he's often just verbose, hyperbolic guff.

Did you happen to see his "Dead Set"? I loathed it more than I can say. Hideously 'modern' in its presentation and its inert fuck- off cynicism, and as smug as they come.

Keep up the anti-parenting theme, please. I love kids but I hate the way parents' hormones seem to kick in at the birth of their offspring, their duty to the rest of the world seems to fall away, and little Tallulah or Willy becomes the centre of the universe. I sent a link to your last kiddy-rant to my wife, and she loved it.

JonR said...


> I love kids but I hate the way parents' hormones seem to kick in at the birth of their offspring

hate away, it's not like anyone gives a fuck. personally i think it's marvellous that once you have kids, working 10 - 12 hours days for your employer (sorry, fulfilling one's "duty to the rest of the world") is, by the miracle of hormonal imbalance no doubt, suddenly revealed as the farcical con-job it really is.

perhaps you'd like to give some advice to new parents: what do you think they *should* put at the centre of their universe?

Anonymous said...

I had also assumed that Matt WAS a parent.

JonR said...

no fucking way. i'll eat my hat, etc.

owen hatherley said...

Re: Nathan Barley. Brooker's column was far better than the series, and a good indicator of why people rate him as a writer, irrespective of his utter laziness.

owen hatherley said...

...and as I presume you were either poncing around Hispanic countries writing novels or listening to Bogshed in Gipton when it was extant, here's a link to the TV Go Home archives.

owen hatherley said...

That doesn't seem to work. The link again:

Anonymous said...


Why do you assume I mean "job" when I say "duty to the rest of the world"? I wasn't thinking about work one bit.

I was thinking more of common courtesy, consideration for others in public, an awareness of the fact that other people may have other priorities and perhaps a different perspective on your child's place in the/their world... you know, the stuff that was actually flagged up in the article I was referring to?

Some advice for new parents? OK - absolutely put your kids at the centre of your universe, but don't be so blind or arrogant as to assume that everyone shares this view or has to conform to it.


Anonymous said...

Brooker is certainly overrated. The only funny bits in Nathan Barley were obviously Chris Morris (it was in the language) and that awful TV column seems obsessed with unwatchable reality shows. Funny how he often calls attention to contestants' ugliness when Charlie himself is a clear argument for not putting photos above columns.

As for his 'subject' - well, in my neck of the woods/age range the most durable middle-class hetero relationships seem to consist of (a) a bloke who barely talks but nods frequently (its often taken me months to even know what their accent is) and (b) an aggressive lady who babbles on about mortgages (maybe not so much these days) and their bored biological clocks. For some reasons the nooding bloke invariably has facial hair to either prove he is still 'free' or because he longs for Victorian times, when beards were mandatory.

Admittedly this narrow experience, but any couples that don't follow this pattern are over within months. I blame columnists.

Culla said...

excellent thoughts on the predicament that the 'little boys' seem all too keen to remain in. boys wants to be men and men want to be boys - the refetishisation of toys is the most obvious indicator. i have my own angles on it here but just found out you used the same daddy pig pic so deleted it.

agree with anonymous that barley is saved not by the patchy drama but by the language. so much so that real barleys (and i know a few of these creative drifter types in the hackney/hoxton environs) are proud to use the phrases from the series itself, in an again very retarded, playground, mimical procedure.

Anonymous said...

I don't agree with your women comment and think some of your posting is very male centric - then again you are a man so it's forgiveable. Sexually faithful? - are you fucking kidding me? Bare in mind that some women can be as fuck witted as men and it can be harder to keep up apperences when you're a mummy trying to do the yes darling bit in waitrose dreaming of all the stuff you've done or shouldn't be doing, thinking fuck off yummy mummys someone tell me some poetry (oh shit I'll never be an artist just some tortured failed artists muse at best) and you feel all the real feelings but everyone expects you to be something your not when your just a scruffy daydreamy girl...don't mean it's shameful to love your kids loads though.