I’m on a bit of a rant at the moment. So if you are not in the mood for one of those, I’ll excuse you. Go and have a coffee, or tea, or whatever.
Rushing through the local supermarket the other day my eye was unfortunately distracted by this…
What a horrific mess. I really pity the poor graphic designers who have to work on this kind of mind numbingly turgid stuff, a collision of typographic and photographic garbage. Imagine spending three years hard graft at art college dreaming the dreams and longing for that day when you can join a decent design company. But you don’t, instead you end up working on one of the above titles. Yes, I know it’s a job in these difficult economic times, but is it going to improve the standard of design?
Looking at that array of sub mediocrity, I was not only struck by identical appearance, but the banal headlines - ‘Katie in crisis’. ‘Cheryl’s nightmare’ etc, etc. I of course realise that these magazines are part of the bigger ‘celebrity’-selling selling machine.
Stories, photographs and events are manufactured and stage managed to promote the ever increasing number of vacuous ‘E’ and ‘D’ listers to the public eye in order to extract their ever diminishing hard eared cash. As PT Barnum once said, ‘No one went broke underestimating public taste.’ These stories promote books (mostly ghost written), TV shows, films, CDs and tours. They are a commercial deal between celebrity agents, their PR firms with news papers, magazines, publishers, film and TV companies. But the ever-gullible magazine reading audience seems to accept it hook line and sinker. The target is fed the bait and groomed at a very young age to take this stuff seriously.
I moved on to my local Waterstones and found the bestsellers display looking almost as depressing as the super market experience. It is dominated with predictable celebrity fodder grinning from book covers of remarkable similarity and blandness. Take a look…
Not much elbowroom for the designer there then.
I happened to hear Damon Albarn on the Radio 4 the other day. He was attacking X Factor style shows, with their cosmetically enhanced judges strutting for attention. Albarn referred to these shows as ‘Karaoke Coliseums’- a perfect description I think. He went on to lament the passing of ‘Top of the Pops’ which he felt was a far more democratic way to explore a whole range of musical styles than the extremely narrow path of ‘Emperor Cowell’s homogenise, predictable product.
To compliment the depressing sight of the magazine rack and book shelf, we have the revolting spectacle of over hyped stage presentation of X Factor style shows, which must be an anathema to any aspiring set designer…
Recent years have witnessed Television becoming the breeding ground of the downright, down market cruel, competitive and confrontational shows where often naive participants are encouraged to expose themselves for the ridicule, and increasing delight of the audience. We routinely see, humiliation, bullying, bitchiness, emotional breakdowns and aggression – Big Brother, Britain’s Got Talent, X Factor, Dragon’s Den, The Apprentice, I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here (although the latter bunch deserve it) and of course all of Gordon Ramsey’s testosterone driven programmes. Even the seemingly innocent Come Dine With Me mocks its contestants. And the once straightforward Master Chef is now whisked up into a dramatic frenzy with the overly extended (now de rigueur) pregnant pauses. Accompanied by edgy sound effects when announcing the winners and losers. But it’s all in the name of 21st century entertainment and lapped up by millions
We have to endure increasingly pompous and egotistical business entrepreneurs and D list entertainers spouting their banal and well-rehearsed opinions. In the process they too are elevated to ‘celebrity ’ status and become yet more fodder for the magazines racks.
I find it all deeply depressing and thank God for the safe haven of BBC Four, the one lone TV channel that treats its audience with some modicum of intelligence by producing and broadcasting thought provoking, engaging, inspiring and stimulating programmes. I am happy to pay my TV license fee just to support that channel, along with BBC Radio 3 and 4. But with the BBC under increasing economic pressure, nothing is safe. I am fearful that BBC television is on course for a slow disintegration into the bland predictability of the Sky stable and all those other sub standard satellite channels.
And yes, I know what you’re thinking - grumpy old man! – well, I guess I am. However, when the remaining vestige of quality television has gone, we will all be the poorer for it. Quality breeds quality. Crap creates yet more crap.
Someone once said, ‘Don't give the public what they want, give them what they didn't know they wanted’. It is ironic that the unlikely ‘Mad Men’, which was first aired very quietly on BBC Four...
Mad Men Inspired programming via BBC Four
and quickly developed an admiring audience, will no longer be associated with the BBC. HBO have got a better deal for the next series with, yes, you guest the purveyors of garbage, Sky. They let others take the risks and then mop up the rewards.
If you just relate to your own world it might start to make some sense. Imagine all graphic design plummeting to the standard of the magazine rack…