Thursday, 18 June 2009

The Semiotic Desert

I'm beginning to wonder if I could sue my compatriots. See I was nostalgic about the beige n nylon 70s and plastic n gritty 80s before anyone else was.

However, I increasingly wonder if they truly are nostalgic: or if they just wished the noughties weren't quite so crap.

Most of us wish there was a leader not quite as mad and devious as Tony Blair. Or somnambulant Gordy who seems to be privatizing Royal Mail with all the consideration and introspection of a Pavlovian dog.

Seeing footage of Maggie defending the indefensible sinking of the Belgrano should have seemed sordid, especially to someone who admires Argentina, but
1) It made me nostalgic for a time when politicians were evidently asked difficult questions.
2) Whilst the sinking of the Belgrano was awful, it was a military vessel. Compare this to the use of white phosphorus against Iraqi civilians. Was Blair asked about this?
3) Maggie's response 'they would have killed our boys' was probably bullshit. But I can't help imagining that if Tony WAS asked difficult questions about the bombing of Fallujah, it would come out like 'they would have killed good Americ- I mean, eh,our soldiers, who aren't quite as worthless as Iraqis, hehe, only joking... of course'.
4) Whilst I loathe violence and think the Falklands war should and could have been avoided, I kind-of understand why the British army was being used to defend a British possession. Now it seems that defending Georgia is to become our priority.


So in all, let's relive the glorious days when we had a liberal sane leader defending an attack on a ship that was leaving a war zone.

As for the pop-culture nostalgia, this is something else. In the whole of 2009, the Guardian published four articles on renationalising the railways, only one of which argued for it, and that with many qualifications. However, this bastion of left wing thought has evidently published more articles on 'Bruno' in the last week.

Whilst Sacha Cohen can be extremely funny, in an offensive and childish way, I suspect that this film will be unmemorable. Yet it makes people feel good about themselves for not laughing at cultural sterotypes, but laughing at post-modern parodies of cultural stereotypes. Compare this to Till Death Us Do Part which seemed a lot more honest about being on the knife edge of laughing with/ at Alf Garnett.

In fact, I'm sure that some nostalgia for the 70s/ 80s is grounded on the fact that Britain once made interesting films.

As with the Railways, this is one of those rare parts of the economy that lets us see how much the world's fifth highest GDP is really worth. In the 'dismal' 70s, Britain made Get Carter, The Wicker Man, Don't Look Now, Sleuth and other intelligent, interesting films.

Incidentally, I don't think anyone has defended these films for being 'post-modern', or for 'encyclopedic references to other films' or any of the other praise terms for being derivative. That's because, in my humble opinion, a good film does not need the 'merit' of being 'post modern', but needs originality, clever writing and interesting characters.

Of course this could be interlinked to another strand of the nostalgia: wishing that our society was less crap. I find it difficult to imagine an interesting film about someone who's enough of a tool to dress up in Emo clothes. Could the screenwriter put intelligent and original thoughts in the mouth of someone who is daft enough to dress eccentrically, just because everyone else does?

Could there be an interesting, intelligent film about someone who buys music by Robbie Williams? Unless they get beaten to death with a coal shovel, I can't imagine I'd enjoy watching it.

This is why I think of the decade as a semiotic desert. Everything is self-reverential, nothing has sincerity. And it cannot be reflected in the cinematic mirror.

My one consolation is that no-one, and I mean no-one, will want to bring back the decade. Not even for post-modern nostalgia.

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