TV UK, 6 June
The Jubilee was a televised orgy of bad faith - and giant puppets.
Pageantry, steel bands, giant puppet costumes, Hell’s Angels, pomp and circumstance and dancing in the streets. Ah, doesn’t it make you proud to be multicultural?
I seem to have an aversion to carnival atmospheres. This, combined with my aversion to monarchy, means that I was never likely to get into the spirit of the Jubilee weekend. And this is despite the best efforts of British TV in general and the BBC in particular to get us all singing along.
The ancien regime might not like the Beeb’s lack of reverence for the Crown, but throw in a million revellers and Auntie is anyone’s. There was nothing grudging about the uber-modernising corporation’s fawning over ‘Er ‘Ighness last weekend. Instead, its enthusiasm was nauseating, though not in an old-fashioned way. In fact, the striking thing is that there is no longer any conflict between the two versions of God Save the Queen. The BBC was able to celebrate monarchy and punk in the same all-inclusive expression of national (while multicultural) togetherness.
When conservatives see TV pictures of the ‘young Royals’ boogieing down on the Mall, do they see an institution to revere? Are they serious? The truth, I’m beginning to suspect, is that the monarchy was always unspeakably naff, but that in the past people were too polite to say so. But now that the institution has found its natural affinity with steel bands, there is no going back. The British monarchy has been outed.
Whatever the consequences for autocracy, this spectacular and gaudy institution perfectly serves the purposes of national broadcasters who are desperate for any opportunity to connect with their audiences. With its special programmes, feature films and party atmosphere, Jubilee TV was more like Christmas TV than anything else. And who is against Christmas? It seems that we’re back to Cavaliers versus Roundheads. Republicans are killjoys and royalists are happy-go-lucky funsters.
Well, loth as I am to go all Darlene Conner, all this dancing round the maypole in glittery hats, all this ‘joining in’, just makes me want to puke. Jaded radicals might console themselves with the thought that a popular monarchy beats an apathetic republic, but then why not go the whole hog and put Santa Claus on the throne? The Jubilee was not a resurgence of public spirit, but a televised orgy of bad faith.
I wouldn’t be quite so unkind about the World Cup, but since I’m in the mood, I do have a complaint about the coverage. For historical reasons that ought to annoy the Irish, the Republic of Ireland is treated by British broadcasters as a Home Nation. Commentators take it for granted that the UK audience will be rooting for those lovable Irish lads, as if the republic were still thought of as ‘West Britain’. Well, as a republican and an anti-imperialist, I like to see Ireland get stuffed at every opportunity.
One of the great joys of football is schadenfreude, but TV commentators are too polite to make the most of embarrassing defeats (except in the case of the Jeermans). Given my aversion to all things carnival, I will be rooting against Brazil and that cry-baby Rivaldo. Down with the Samba Kings (and Queens)!
Dolan Cummings is publications editor at the Institute of Ideas, and editor of Culture Wars. He is also the editor of Reality TV: How Real Is Real?, Hodder Murray, 2002 (buy this book from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA)).
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