Almost Edgy

David Brent: Life on the Road

A David Brent movie was never going to work because the character isn’t worthy of a movie to begin with. Why would a documentary crew want to revisit the guy? In making a Brent movie, Gervais has detached the character from his original premise. In the television show Brent was part of an ensemble, the core of which was , Gareth and Tim, backed up by Dawn, Lee and later ‘the Swindon lot’: the television show happened to find Brent  at work there, the crew didn’t go to the paper-merchants because they’d heard of him. Half the point of The Office was Brent’s ridiculous behaviour, caused by him trying too hard to impress the documentary viewers while simultaneously trying too hard to get his staff to like him.

But Brent is not a bad guy, he’s actually a gentle character with no real malice. I saw him once described as ‘the boss from hell’ but the person who typed that possibly hadn’t seen the show. If they had they couldn’t have paid much attention. Brent is a properly realised character – he’s not a name given to an actor who’s paid to deliver the dialogue: he actually has an internal existence, he does things because of how he thinks. He doesn’t just do things ‘to be funny’.

His problems are several. Already mentioned, he wants too much to be liked; he is terrified of women and is awkward around them, especially those he considers attractive; and he is (slightly) detached from reality in the sense of not knowing what attempts at humour are appropriate in the – ahem! – ‘workplace’. Considered together, he appears to be suffering from a kind of arrested development. It’s this mild arrested development which is taken by Gervais for the movie and turned into a form a dementia, where Brent has literally lost his reason, if not his whole mind, but only when it suits the script.

The Office was a very safe comedy, it didn’t have any sort of dangerous ‘edge’. No minorities were offended in the making of the tv show. Only majorities had the piss taken out of them. Boring middle-management white-men and their weedy kiss-ass ‘team-leaders’ were the main butt of the jokes. Brent and Gareth were the two office idiots, and taking the piss out of white-men is perfectly acceptable.

The Politically Correct aspect to the TV show was sometimes painful to watch. I felt like I was being lectured by a know-it-all teacher. Consider the scene in which Brent is telling a stupid joke about ‘a black man’s cock’ and a chillaxed black man saunters over just as he’s about to get to the punchline, thus dropping Brent into yet another embarrassing situation because he can’t finish the joke. Gervais makes the black character so chillaxed that he’s not offended by the joke – but a white woman decides to be.

Do we need to have a white-woman – in a convenient close-up – ask why should it be only black people who are ‘offended’ by racism? It’s almost edgy; it’s one step away from stating that black people are not experts on racism just because they’re black – but Gervais doesn’t go there. He wants to lecture us, so has Jennifer, Brent’s boss, explain that jokes about large black cocks are based on racial stereotypes, and therefore very bad indeed. Did we not already know this? Brent didn’t because Gervais even has him offer the ‘it’s a compliment’ defence. He’s the middle-management white-man so obviously he’s clueless.

Wouldn’t the scene have been more interesting if the black guy had become ‘offended’ at a joke which wasn’t racist, and had to be lectured by ‘Jenny’ about how people who take offence at pretty much anything are a fucking menace to liberty?

I mean, if we’re going to have some social commentary disguised as fiction then why not give it some edge?

And Brent being unintentionally cruel in respect to ‘the disabled’ is actually very safe indeed. Even when he talks about ‘the wheelchair ones’ we know nobody is getting upset anywhere, because he’s not mocking the disabled. He’s just showing how stupid a man Brent is. The ‘more shocking’ Brent is, the safer he actually becomes because Brent only sounds as if he’s making fun of disabled people. We laugh at him, at how stupid he is. We can all take the piss out of the little manager-white-man.

In the television episodes Brent, at his most clueless, is only ever half a step away from reality. In the movie, however, he’s lost his mind on some things but seems quite sane on others so that one wonder if he’s playing at being sane – just acting that way to fit in with the office crowd – or whether his bouts of cluelessness are just a bit too convenient?

Would anyone who could hold down a job as a rep in a sales office really hire a tour bus he didn’t travel on, to take a backing band to venues and hotels so close together they all could have stayed at home and got the bus each morning? Brent can’t be that clueless, that deluded, but we’re meant to believe he is. Why has Brent lost his mind? What has happened to him?

And then there’s the songs.

They’re supposed to be awful and embarrassing, but they’re not really. They are amusing, but what stands out about them is that they are well-written, obviously by someone quite clever. It takes great skill to be that bad deliberately.

Gervais must know that people will know that, and will say to themselves ‘my isn’t he clever, he can write songs and sing and play, too!’ And yet to do it in a movie where he makes his most famous character partially fucking demented, and in doing so significantly less convincing, seems odd. Was the world aching to see more of Brent? Or was Gervais aching to show the world that, even though his eighties pop career didn’t take off, he was worthy of it because he’s a good songwriter?

The movie is amusing, but not that amusing. It seem more an exercise in ego.

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The Strangest of the Strange

What does it actually mean when a person says that so and so was ‘born into the wrong body’? I’ve heard the expression several times and, strangely, always on the topic of sex-change surgery, never any other topic.

I’ve never heard a fat person say they were ‘born into the wrong body’, or the parents of a child racked with cancer.

Is it possible to be ‘born into the wrong body’?

I think it is impossible.

The expression presupposes that consciousness can exist independent of the brain. There is no reason to think this is true, though there are many reasons to hope it is true.

The topic of sex-change surgery is not a religious or spiritual topic, yet the idea a person could be born into the wrong body probably reveals more about the person who says it than it does about the person who wants the surgery.

Society is where the problem is. Every person who has ever been born, whether transgender, or disabled – or anything else – was born exactly as they were ‘meant’ to be born; which is to say they are a product of their genes, their DNA, and not everyone born will fit into a little societal box, ready for labelling.

A teenage boy who says he’d be happier being a girl might well be right. He could easily be much happier after all the surgery and the rest, and I would hope he was. But a simple point needs to be made. That the boy would be happier as a girl doesn’t mean he is biologically faulty. There is nothing ‘wrong’ with him; the reason he might feel different is that society creates boxes for people and somebody who doesn’t fit is said to be ‘different’ but this is really a euphemism for ‘faulty’. The only thing ‘faulty’ in this context is the logic behind the idea.

Children should not be given this surgery. Let them wait until they are adults. Some men don’t realise they are gay until their thirties, for example. All through their teens and twenties they think they’re heterosexual, then realise they were wrong about that.

Imagine the teenage boy who thinks he shoud be a girl, has the surgery in his teens, then realises in his thirties he was wrong about that, and realises nature had things right all along.

The idea of being ‘born’ into the correct body is garbage; the idea of the ‘wrong’ body assumes more than the God-created soul-making machinery in the soul-packing factory exists, it assumes that equipment is malfunctioning.

Think about it.

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NOTE: ‘The right to be ourselves’ means something other than what it says. Being ourselves isn’t a right. We have no choice but to be ourselves, because we cannot ‘be’ anyone else. I wonder what Theroux really means? We all have the ‘right’ to demand surgery to make us happier? I can’t read his mind, alas.

With One Look

Fair is my Love and cruel as she is fair;
Her brow-shades frown, although her eyes are sunny.
Her smiles are lightning, though her pride despair,
And her disdains are gall, her favours honey:
A modest maid, deck’d with a blush of honour,
Whose feet do tread green paths of youth and love;
The wonder of all eyes that look upon her,
Sacred on earth, design’d a Saint above.
Chastity and Beauty, which were deadly foes,
Live reconcilèd friends within her brow;
And had she Pity to conjoin with those,
Then who had heard the plaints I utter now?
For had she not been fair, and thus unkind,
My Muse had slept, and none had known my mind.
-Samuel Daniel

 

Recently, I wrote a little retrospective appreciation of Stephen King’s 1986 novel, It. I thought it timely since it had been thirty years since the book was published, and it’s a “fan favourite” as some people say. When I was re-reading the piece I stopped and stared at this short passage:

Many of us enjoy regressing to childhood. We look at pictures and video from when we were kids and indulge our sadomasochistic side by going to the “school reunion”. Childhood is idealised in our memory and children, especially babies, are cooed at and fawned over. This might be why so many of us are wet and feeble weaklings when we grow up. The Romans, not fond of children, thinking them rather gross and needy creatures, used childhood as the time to train and prepare for adulthood, without the cooing and fawning. Who would argue Roman men weren’t made of “sterner stuff” than us males are today?

The problem was that, seven days prior to forwarding the piece, I had myself attended a “school reunion”. I had seen the advertisement on a popular “social media” site and thought it was something I wouldn’t be going to. I did think a lot about this, changing my mind each day, depending on my mood. I saw a school-friend in the supermarket and asked him about it. Would he be going? Phil barely thought before answering.

‘No mate, I’m not going to that. Why would anyone want to go back to all those feelings of inferiority?’

I knew this was just what I wanted to hear, so I jumped on it, not really remembering what I’d written about It (the book) but probably having it in mind somewhere.

‘Yes,’ I said, ‘that’s it exactly. It’s like regression. Who’d want to go back to that? All the cliques, and the social complexes…no thanks.’

I was pleased to have found a kindred spirit, someone about whom I could think and whose name I could use when telling my subconscious mind that no, it wasn’t only me, I wasn’t a pathetic wimp, I was an intelligent adult who didn’t need to “do” reunions. I even managed to tell myself that it wasn’t a “reunion” to begin with because there had been no “union” in the first place; therefore – and goodness me! – what a lot of low-brow nonsense it all was.

My inner snob timed its rescue perfectly.

I didn’t want to go because I was scared of what others thought of me while I was school, and scared of what they might think of me now. There was nothing concrete to this fear, it was just a fear, sat in the gut, spinning and twisting.

I first thought it was a “guy thing” and that these fears had their root in the not only hair-raising, but terrifying things many teenage boys are duly terrified by; namely, teenage girls.

But I didn’t think that was precise enough. I fiddled with the idea an all-boys school would have been an easier place to be, then realised that such were the joys of being a teenage boy, a single-sex school would have made nothing easier, then or later. It remains my unshakeable belief that the greatest joy to be had from being a teenage boy comes from knowing it has to be done only once.

It seems to me teenage girls realise the power they have over teenage boys too late to make the best use of it. This is lucky for the boys. I wonder what school would be like for thirteen, fourteen, fifteen and sixteen year-old boys if the girls realised the power they have, and what they can do to those boys, with one look.

(And what can they do? Imagine the mind of a forty year-old woman in the head of a fifteen year-old girl and you’ll get the idea. One actually shudders at the thought.)

The girls have an opportunity, narrow in time, to assert their natural dominance, and they should take it, because it doesn’t take us boys long to catch up. When we’re fifteen or sixteen, we might inwardly howl that we like girls, we just wish we could talk to one; by the time we’re eighteen or nineteen, we’re complaining that although we like girls, we could never eat a whole one.

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“Hot is my Bird” – or

“A Translation Flowing to the Estuary”

By JDA aged 42 years and 3 months.

The bird I fancy is hot, but she’s a bitch in equal measure;

She scowls a lot, but she’s got nice eyes;

Her smiles are thrilling, but her snobbery fucks me off;

She dogs me up, but not all the time;

Not a showy bird – butter wouldn’t melt!

She’d never shag about cuz she’s totes too young and innocent;

All my mates want to bang her;

She’s hot right now – she’ll get promoted when she croaks!

Frigid, yet fuckable – a problem for most birds –

Is something of which she aint bovvered;

She’s got no sympathy for her position,

But if she did – why bother moaning about her?

Y’see, if she was a minger – and therefore a bit nicer,

I wouldn’t have given a shit and written this!!