Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Secret success?

It's no secret that Charlie Brooker is my favourite columnist. His latest piece had me slumped in a continuous cackle. In it, Brooker claims to be a sad loser -- a "tragic singleton" -- who's "useless at every single aspect of holidays" and is therefore staying at home. Now, some would make this a claim to virtue -- "Save the Earth, holiday at home as I'm doing!" But that would not only be unBrookeresque, it would be unBritish. Never, ever (if you want British people to like you) present yourself as someone ethical, responsible, admirable, aspirational. Never pitch camp on high moral ground. Assume, instead, the position of a pitiful inadequate. Talk often about "my crushing sense of failure". Drop to your knees in front of your readers, weeping and swearing. Punch your head with a spike, no, two spikes. Beat your breast, shouting about your utter crapness, while spraying mace into your own face and...

Sorry, I'm getting carried away. That's how Charlie Brooker would write this piece. It would be filled with cartoon violence, either against himself or others, preferably both. Take paragraph six of his holiday piece, for instance. It's really an entire short story in itself, and the misanthropy it displays is hilariously psychopathic.

But could Brooker's self-deprecation be just a cunningly-disguised sort of self-love, because (in Britain at least) it never ever comes with promises of self-improvement? Narcissism, negative narcissism, same difference. In love with my virtues, in love with my vices, whatever.

So I guess I do part company with Brooker -- and Britain as a whole -- on this question of the toxicity of all aspiration. Certainly, it can't be emphatically "far better to just sit here and sneer at the lot of it".

Of course, it may be that Brooker just wants to make people laugh -- and that's an aspiration not to be sneered at. But can he really be as miserable as he pretends? Is the secret of Charlie Brooker's unsuccess that he hasn't got any? Is his ultraviolence really ultra-friendliness, a desire to see bitter British faces creased and smiling? And is it the rest of us -- with our self-sustaining self-satisfaction -- who are the true psychopaths?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brooker has carved an excellent niche as the angry television critic without having to actually offend anybody or say anything really worthwhile.

4:12 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Charlie Brooker's Guardian columns and Screen Wipe series on the BBC are two of my favourite things. He is one of the people who I would love to go have a drink with.

4:14 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do love a bit of Charlie. He's the reason I started reading the Graun in the first place about 10 years ago - his Screen Burn would have me weeping with laughter, and as a writer, I study his style. Oh, and Wipe is also fookin' ace.

That said, I'm not enjoying what he's doing for the Graun at the moment; they seem to be things he writes to pay the bills while he's writing something really nasty somewhere else.

6:12 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Word! Charlie is great. Only reason I buy the Guardian anymore.

11:38 am  
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