Media Maladies

By King, Martin | Perspectives in Public Health, March 2009 | Go to article overview

Media Maladies


King, Martin, Perspectives in Public Health


Nestling among the Christmas repeats of Del and Rodney (yawn) and Morecambe and Wise (hooray), I stumbled upon an episode of Bruce Forsyth's Generation Game from 1973. Ordinary people, plucked from obscurity, making mince pies with the grandmummy of TV. cooking, Fanny Craddock, acting out scenes from Cinderella with Frankie Howard (master of the innuendo), cajoled and encouraged by Lord Brucie himself. None of them cried, said they were on a journey or hoped that being on TV. would bring them millions - a toaster or a cuddly toy would suffice. Simpler times indeed. I was struck by the thought that, actually, ordinary people are no longer allowed on TV. unless they have some sort of extraordinary voyeuristic potential. Too fat, too thin or simply abnormal in some way? On you come. Old formats, like Mr. and Mrs., Family Fortunes and Come Dancing, once a place to see ordinary folk claiming their fifteen minutes of fame, are now populated by celebs. Even socalled reality shows like Big Brother choose their 'ordinary' contestants for their extraordinariness or ability to conform to stereotype or expectation. The celebrity version is now much more popular anyway.

For a chance to win a night out with Ulrika Jonsson (second prize - two nights out with Ulrike Johnson) please answer the following question: do you think the popularity of American actor Verne Troyer in the latest series of Celebrity Big Brother is due to: a) the British public's desire to see a diverse population represented on TV. b) he is Mini Me from Austin Powers? Do not phone yet as the lines are not open and you may still be charged.)

Meanwhile, the closing of Woolworths - a fine emporium, stocking toy monkeys in stripy t-shirts and small pieces of black plastic that are played at 45rpm - sees another childhood institution disappear forever. The current situation, some would argue, has highlighted the contradiction inherent in late consumer capitalism and the folly in a total reliance on what has become a common sense mantra: that the free market will provide. …

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