Wednesday, May 09, 2012

News flash!!!

Mannion
Pearson
I've singled out Alan Glynn's fine novel Bloodland for recognizing narrative as a contemporary weasel word. So I was especially pleased just now when, 8 minutes, 51 seconds into Series 3, Episode 4 of The Thick of It, the jargon-spouting political spin doctor Stewart Pearson says: "Let's imagine here a narrative—" at which Peter Mannion MP rightly and righteously rolls his eyes and replies: "Oh, goodie." 

Sorry, The Onion and P.G. Wodehouse. Pack it in, S.J. Perelman. We can still be good friends, but I have a new love: The Thick of It.
***
I've just watched the first 3 minutes, 43 seconds of Veep, the new American TV series created by The Thick of It creator Armando Iannucci, and that was enough to send me back to The Thick of It. A Wikipedia article on Veep says the show uses "the same cinéma-vérité production style" as the TToI, and all I can say is what was that particular publicist watching?

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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14 Comments:

Blogger Fred said...

Peter,

Please pardon my ignorance and obvious insensitivity to language, but what is wrong with "narrative"? It seems a perfectly good word to me.

May 09, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

These's nothing wrong with narrative, except in uses such as the ones Alan Glynn makes chilling fun of in Bloodland:

"In fact, since the entire Buenke operation is under his command, he'll be the one responsible for shaping and disseminating the official narrative of what happened here."

and

"Of course, the high-visibility brace on his hand leaves no one in any doubt about the narrative subtext that's being peddled here."

May 09, 2012  
Anonymous Alan Glynn said...

I think it's all a matter of context. "Narrative" used in these examples is a euphemism for "spin" - it's actually a spin on the word spin itself. In these contexts. It's like that other great phrase "perception management", otherwise known as manipulation, or lying.

May 10, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Well, “narrative” has the respectable antecedent uses that “perception management” lacks. One could argue that this makes it all the more dangerous.

Back when I studied art history, I was interested in narratice technique in pictorial art, from Trajan's Column to comic books. That may be why I especially resent its newish usage, which combines sinister intent with grating voguishness.

May 10, 2012  
Anonymous Alan Glynn said...

I agree. I actually love the word "narrative", and all its forms, narrator, narration. "Perception" is a rich word, too, and it is indeed grating to see it, and others, being co-opted into this awful PR speak.

May 10, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Ach, whatever happened to plain, old "storytelling"?

"Spin" has a charming whimsy about it and refreshing honesty as well. "Narrative" is a safer word because it carries an apparent seriousness that lets anyone who uses it feel he is discussing a matter of great importance.

"Narrative" is not just PR speak, it's managementsspeak, politics-speak, journalism-speak, and I sweat I;ve even heard it a time or two in cafes or bars. That last would constitute evidence that we have utterly abandoned ourselves to the ideas that there is no truth and that, er, perception is everything and is infinitely malleable.

Hmm, that could be fun.

May 10, 2012  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

Now watched three episodes of Veep. I gave it a fair shot. I wont be watching anymore.

Lemme know when you get to the closing speeches in the last episode of season 3. The Fucker versus Malcolm. No contest if you ask me.

May 11, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I watched that a couple of nights ago, and you're right about ths speeches. The other characters' reactions laid open Malcolm Tucker's character, I thought. He is loved; Cal Richards is not.

I've know watched the complete show so far except for one segment each of Series 3, Episode 8 and Series 3, either Episode 5 or 6 that I could not find online. I've read that Series 1 and 2 are available on DVD. I'll look for them in England, and I'll enquire

May 11, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I also watched and liked a few scenes from In the Loop. James Gandolfini was good as a creepy general, and it looks to me as if the movie makes good comic use of mutual U.S.-British jealousy and resentment. Have you seen it?

May 11, 2012  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

Yeah. To be honest I'd put it in the same bracket as The Christmas Special - an interesting attempt but not really up there with S1 or S3.

The one thing I liked about the Christmas special (AKA S2) was the war between Malcolm and Jamie. That was fun.

May 11, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Oh, and I've also read about why the series was on hiatus and why the specials were produced. And that led me to suspect that I know why Hugh is seen only in shadows when he speaks on the phone in the Christmas specials.

May 11, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

One of the American guys Malcolm clashes with at the UN looks like a younger John Bolton, the same John Bolton who was criticized for being a bully when he was American ambassador to the UN. I wonder if Bolton was on the filmmakers' minds.

I've just ordered The Thick of It: The Missing DOSAC Files, a sample of which was pretty funny. More to the point, I'm finding the show a study in character development and enjoying the small jokes. I look at what makes Malcolm scary but lovable, but Cal Richards merely scary. (I won't mention Steve Fleming, the only character in the show I don't like and find unpleasant to watch.)

I also like the sequence early in the show where Glen, walking briskly through the office, first lets a door shut in Terry's face, then another in Ollie's face, before Hugh Abbott does the same thing to him on his way into a meeting with Malcolm.

Jamie is a great character. If The Thick of It were a US network show, Jamie would get his own spinoff series called, probably, Jamie.

May 11, 2012  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

Yeah there's an unfortunate moment in s1 when Hugh says something like "what? does he think I'm a registered nonce or something?" which of course Chris Langham now is.

May 11, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Oh, cripes. I wouldn't have known what a nonce was even if I remembered the line.

May 12, 2012  

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