You know what I love? Celebrity gossip. Years ago I wrote about three entries in a blog that would examine celebrity gossip. Almost right away, once I started spending half an hour a day reading celebrity gossip, it made me want to sick. Not because of the celebrities, but because of the obsessively bourgeois preoccupations and yardsticks of the celebrity gossipers. Icky - icky in a way beyond, say, Jade Goody expiring of cancer in front of the camera, which honestly I didn’t think was all that icky; it’s not how I’d choose to expire of cancer, but I was never deprived of anything good as a child and our needs were certainly different . . . but icky in the sense of how celebrity gossipers so uniformly seemed to see the people they were gossiping about as subhuman in a very snobby, iper-pudique way.
That’s not why I dropped the blog (there was just no time for it); that prudery was so complicated and so fascinating that however much it made me want to sick, I still could have spent months looking it over and trying to pull it apart to understand it, because it was so mixed up with a sort of guiltless class-consciousness, capitalist envy, and unconscious but plainly visible feelings of inferiority from the gossipers, all at the same time.
Especially the English gossip. Its tension is different from American gossip’s, more overtly class-based. I have no idea who the people the poms are gossiping about are, because usually they’ve done much less in a professionally artistic sense than American gossip objects have – lots of Page 3 girls and footballer’s wives and reality television stars, whereas in America you usually have to be a singer or actor or something for people to care about you. Fantasy is still important in America - the fantasy that the aging Ciccone bint is Madonna, that sad old sack Terry Bollea is the Hulk, that fat dead narc Elvis, like Jeebus, fucking lives. There's something grimmer, more cynical in England - I'd say more realistic, but sometimes fantasy is more honest than decontextualized reality. Reality television has taken off in a different way there than in America, in a way that some commentators describe as a celebration of mediocrity (a bit rich coming from Paul McCartney, considering his seminal contributions to pop music over the past 30 years, but I'm shooting at clay pigeons with no Wings here so I'll stop.) I’m not trying to be cruel when I say that if their gossip is anything to go by, that's because the English have an obsession with useless people.
I believe this is because of their monarchy and aristocracy – the remnants of a bunch of gluttonous, arriviste armed thugs who burst in from Scandinavia, and then France, Wales, Scotland, the Netherlands, and then Germany, and monumentally enriched themselves at everyone else’s expense over more than a millenium now. And over the last few hundred years, serving absolutely no function for good or for ill except for being the sort of figureheads who help reinforce the status quo – which is a purpose I find profoundly useless when the status quo has been such shit. There's no real fantasy associated with monarchy or aristocracy, just a decontextualized reality - you don't think, I wish I was a princess because then I'd be a great singer or dancer or football player or actress or politician and I'd be so great everybody would love me - no. People wish they were princesses so that they would be princesses. For the same reasons English people wish they were reality stars - to be rich and famous and influential beyond their talents or intelligence. The difference being that the monarchy and aristocracy managed to enrich themselves and impoverish the other classes so entirely that they became the arbiters of taste instead of its challengers.
And the present breed of gluttonous English arrivistes, while managing to accrue multi-million pound fortunes, haven’t taken over to the degree that they can be the arbiters of taste; they’re very much a fucking taste challenge. They're 'chavs'. Chavs. What a word. You’re not allowed to say proles anymore because we're supposed to be living in some sort of post-Marxist world, and anyways they’ve got too much disposable income, even in that impoverished iniquitous shithole of a pseudo-European nation, to be proles in the way the bourgeois were educated to regard proles. So the bourgeois rename them chavs and don’t have to ask themselves hard questions about their place in the class conflict. They're just celebrity gossiping. About rich chavs. Not proles. No biggie. And all the while this profound fear and disgust and jealousy at the thought of yet more idle, useless barbarians taking over . . .