Sunday, 31 January 2010

Gracious in defeat

You've got to feel a little sorry for Vinnie Jones this weekend - he clearly thought he'd got this Celebrity Big Brother thing in the bag, only to be beaten by Alex Reid and Dane Bowers. If his vocabulary stretched into double figures, I'd suggest he look up the word 'ignominy'.

Displaying about as much self-awareness as Henry Jekyll, Vinnie maintains that he emerged from the show as the 'people's champion'. When asked about the boos that greeted his exit from the Big Brother compound, he confidently stated "I was sitting there and I looked around and I arguably had more banners than everybody. Leeds fans, Watford fans, all with banners saying, 'Vinnie, we love you'."

To be fair, he was the early favourite to win, although no-one seems to be entirely sure why. Perhaps they figured that he might actually bully Big Brother into letting him win, in much the same way that he managed to dominate proceedings inside the house.

As the self-appointed leader and arbiter of right and wrong, he even holds himself personally responsible for Alex Reid's alarming victory: "I've taught him everything I know so hopefully he will win his next fight and hopefully you lot will go and watch him."

All very fair and noble, I'm sure you'll agree. But not entirely true. Since leaving the house, Vinnie has been expressing dismay at the quality of celebrities locked in there with him.

You see, Vinnie was apparently promised a much higher calibre of contestant - namely A-listers like himself: "I thought the level of celebrity was going to be much higher to be honest. I could have mingled a bit easier. I went in as the most recognisable person really. I really struggled."

It seems that spending all that time in Hollywood has gone to Vinnie's head (not that there was much else there to begin with). He's appeared in quite a few movies, although it's telling that he's usually employed to scowl, look threatening, and under no circumstances try to tackle dialogue. In fact, if he wasn't so aggressive, he might have had a chance of playing Wilson opposite Tom Hanks.

With most of his oeuvre heading to straight to the 'previously viewed' barrel in Blockbuster, movie super-stardom will continue to evade him - unless someone's planning a film about the origins of the Easter Island statues. As the big man admitted in his exit interview with Davina, "The truth hurts sometimes."

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Watching football makes you gay

Since the dawn of time, people have been debating what makes someone gay. Is it nature, nurture, or just a love of musical theatre?

But now, an altogether surprising new angle has been thrown into the mix. According to a new TV ad for a dating site, watching the Superbowl and eating crinkle-cut chips can turn you into a Friend of Dorothy.

The ad is for the unappealingly titled ManCrunch, which sounds more like an industrial accident than somewhere you might find your significant other. Although its name might be bad, that's nothing compared with the company's strapline, "Where many many many Men Come Out and Play", which reads as though it was written by Commandant Lassard with the 'caps lock' key randomly applied.

In the company's 30-second commercial, two desperately unattractive men cheer on their respective teams. Then, during a moment of tension, their hands touch in the snack bowl and they're reduced to a dry-humping heap on the couch - to the unsubtly-portrayed disgust of their other friend.

Ordinarily such a tacky ad would be lucky to air on a satellite channel in between Steven Seagal movies, but the ManCrunchers believe in big (they are gay after all). They set their sites on a slot during the Superbowl.

Promising an estimated audience of up to 90 million viewers, the Superbowl is the holy grail of ad space, with 30 seconds estimated to cost around $3 million. Slots tend to get booked months in advance, with ad agencies using the broadcast to showcase their biggest, flashiest commercials.

According to the network CBS, all the spaces had already sold out, but ManCrunch submitted its ad for consideration, in case someone dropped out. In a post-Tiger Woods world, I guess that's not as unlikely as it sounds.

What did seem unlikely though, was the idea that CBS would actually approve the ad to air during the most watched TV show of the year. Networks are notoriously nervy when it comes to man-on-man action, unless there's half a ton of body padding and a couple of helmets to separate them.

Unsurprisingly, CBS said 'no', on the grounds that the ad's "creative is not within the Network's Broadcast Standards for Super Bowl Sunday." Given that the network has no issue with airing an anti-abortion ad paid for by evangelical political group Focus on the Family, it's easy to see why some media commentators are up in arms.

Adding to the controversy, ManCrunch mouthpiece Elissa Buchter stated "If the ad showed a man and woman kissing it would have been accepted. You see ads for erectile dysfunction morning, noon and night. It's discriminatory that they wont show this..."

Maybe it is, and maybe it isn't. To be quite honest, the ad could have been rejected because it's poorly acted, badly filmed and has all the production values of one of those behind-the-scenes shows that you'll find on ITV3 at four o'clock in the morning.

What's clear here, is that someone at ManCrunch knows how to bluff, and deserves a promotion for smartest PR move of the year. They were never in any doubt that CBS would reject the ad - that was the point all along. They knew that the moment there was a whiff of homophobia or broadcasting double-standards, the news would be all over it.

And since the ad has been helpfully posted on YouTube (with no embedding limitations), it can be easily seeded everywhere that runs the story. That way, they reach the audience they want, and it doesn't cost them a penny. Well, except for the bag of crisps and three borderline vagrants that feature in the ad.

Friday, 29 January 2010

That's what friends are for

Outside of the US, most people's knowledge of college sororities depends on how many times they've been able to sit through The House Bunny or Legally Blonde. According to Hollywood, sorority houses are filled with mean spirited daddy's girls who can't conceive of a world beyond their French tips.

So it's reassuring to discover that, for once, the dream factory is right on the money. It seems that sororities take the conduct, dress and appearance of their inductees far more seriously than any academic pursuits.

This week it was revealed by style website Fashionista that Cornell University's Pi Phi Sorority had issued a six page dress code for its pledges, to ensure that they arrived for rush week fully conversant with the dos and don'ts of student sartorialism.

As well as dictating what brands to wear or avoid, the briefing pack helpfully assesses each style sub-genre, incorporating 'casual chic', 'business casual', 'cocktail' and the bizarre-sounding 'skit and philanthropy' - helpfully explained as "brunch, somewhere cool and chic'".

Denim leggings are appropriate, as long as they're not from American Apparel, flat shoes are tolerated, and satin dresses should be avoided unless you have an eating disorder. Accessories are demanded, but the group's chair "won’t tolerate any gross plastic shizzzz... and demand(s) earrings if your ears are pierced".

Equally frowned upon are camel toes, ponytails and "fuck-me pumps" - so anyone styling themselves on the Pink Ladies need not apply. Strangely though, the brief also explains that the editor is 'weird' about watches. But don't worry, "I will have the time and will keep you informed." she adds. So that's OK then.

The Pi Phi website promises a chance to "meet our wonderful members and learn more about the values and experiences we've gained" as well as "the opportunity to make lasting joyous memories and lifelong friends" - despite the fact that this fashion guide is about as inviting as Warden Norton's welcome address in The Shawshank Redemption.

I guess the most we can hope for is that, as the old song goes, Sisters Are Doin' It For Themselves. Because if this is what sisterhood looks like, they've really got no other choice.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

I love to hate you

Call it the fickle finger of fame. One minute you're on top of the world, celebrating the title of 'Celebrity Mum of the Year' with a frozen king prawn ring, the next you're named as the most reviled person in the UK. Katie Price and Kerry Katona (both one-time holders of the prestigious parenting prize) have finished in first and second place (respectively) in a poll to determine the 'Most Hated Women in Britain'.

Voted for exclusively by women, this study is another shamelessly misogynistic attempt at encouraging women to fight amongst themselves. For example, check out today's Mail which features a deceitfully disingenuous article about Elaine Paige and Susan Boyle, claiming that Paige said "Susan Boyle is a virus".

As for the 'most hated woman' poll, a spokesman for the market research firm which conducted the study, said of the winner, "Just when she seemed to have endeared herself to the British public again it has gone wrong. Jordan has put her foot in it time and time again." Funnily enough, I think we're all well aware that it's Dane Bowers who put his foot in it, where Katie is concerned.

To be fair though, the top ten line-up is, collectively, about as appealing as a dose of SARS. With Peaches Geldof, Fiona Phillips, Gillian McKeith and Sadie Frost all vying for the top spot, it's like Sophie's Choice in reverse - Meryl Streep would be grabbing the gun and begging for a couple of extra bullets.

Curiously, the winner and runner-up have also managed to bag the most magazine covers and newspaper headlines in the last couple of years. So why is it that we're all so fascinated by the lives of people we just can't stand? Perhaps they're like cream cakes - we know they'll clog our arteries, but we find it hard to resist.

Look at Katie Price. Despite having all the warm likeability of Dolores Umbridge in bondage gear, she's convinced herself that she's a national treasure because her TV show is the most popular broadcast on ITV2 (I guess that means an audience in double figures). The problem is, she remains oblivious to the fact that the majority of viewers may well be tuning in just in case she happens to fall into a threshing machine.

Maybe once we understand why we're able to exalt and abhor at the same time, we'll be able to explain the greatest mystery of our time - Jedward.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Fashion rocks

Break open the Hennessy and pour yourself a large one, Kanye is back where he belongs - gobbling up column inches thanks to some pretty bizarre public appearances.

After another difficult week, when he was rumoured to have been banned from appearing on George Clooney's Haiti benefit telethon, the egomaniacal eejit is once again on everyone's mind. And he didn't even have to storm a stage to do it.

Instead, he's been out and about with his freaky space-alien girlfriend Amber Rose. You know who I mean - tall, exotic, dress sense that makes Grace Jones look like Hillary Clinton.

Making the most of their time at Paris Fashion Week, Kan-Ber have been seen at every party in town, with Amber sporting an array of outfits so bizarre that even Lady GaGa would think twice before appearing in public.

Last week, the two of them headed out in full length fur coats, making them look like refugees from a Maurice Sendak book. The People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA to their friends) took exception to this, with VP Dan Mathews stating, "Kanye can't help making himself look like an idiot, whether at an awards show or a fashion show. He and his girlfriend look like pathetic creatures from a shabby roadside zoo."

If Dan thought the coats made them look like idiots, he must have been laughing into his soya latte when he saw Amber's next outfit - a high-vis jacket covered in unhatched Mogwai.

Thankfully though, they saved the best for last. Arriving at the Chanel Spring-Summer 2010 this morning, Kanye settled for a conservative (if rather naff) velvet smoker's jacket, whereas Amber decided on a hooded, gold knitted dress that gave her the appearance of a giant, sparkly dildo.

But credit where credit's due - I take my hat off to anyone who can keep a straight face with that on their arm.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Let's hear it for the boyz

As JLS get ready to release their third single (despite it feeling like they've been around since 1997), it's worth sparing a thought for some of the other boybands who are still diligently beavering away, but without the benefit of rock-hard abs to help them shift units.

First up is Boyzone, a group so resolutely unthreatening they could have replaced their last CD insert with a knitting pattern. They've had a tough few months since the death of little Stephen Gately, and have won the hearts of the nation by being unafraid to publicly grieve for their fallen comrade. But when you're in the middle of a big comeback, the work doesn't stop, so the lads are bravely soldiering on.

Their new single, 'Gave It All Away', received its first airplay last week and somewhat hauntingly features Stephen's last recorded vocals as he sings the line "I will learn to live before I die". Just in case that isn't enough to get you reaching for the tissues, the video shows the remaining foursome remembering their impish pal and struggling to write notes of condolence.

The problem is, their grief is a little too real, too palpable. When we're so used to seeing moments of faux emotion and crocodile tears, there's something deeply unnerving about seeing four grown men sobbing so hard they can barely concentrate on their close-up.

No-one can deny that they're really feeling Stephen's loss. Still, it's a little weird that they're willing to share their pain so publicly in what amounts to little more than a three-minute ad for their new product.

Westlife have also been in the news lately, creating a different kind of media fuss by running the risk of giving their fans seizures. Back in the sixties, boybands regularly knocked out hundreds of women at a time, like they were bystanders in a Pepé Le Pew cartoon. But whereas the Beatles could anaesthetise half of Wembley thanks to their raw, edgy virility, the danger posed by Westlife is more of a standard health and saftey concern.

According to complaints logged with Ofcom, the X-Factor "broke broadcasting regulations with the Irish boyband's lights display because it could potentially have triggered epileptic seizures in viewers. A light effect was used five times faster that the safe recommended level. Three viewers complained to Ofcom about the flashing images used on the show."

It's not known how many people complained to Ofcom regarding everything else about their performance.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Bigging up the runners up

Two blasts from the past are gearing up their promotional efforts to remind the CD-buying public of their existence, and both are showing quite marvellous levels of chutzpah in doing it.

Tomorrow sees the release of Daniel Evans' debut single - a cover of Journey's Open Arms - ahead of the album 'No Easy Way' released on February 22nd. Don't remember Daniel? Maybe that's because he's better known by his unofficial stage name 'Dead Wife'.

During his painfully successful run on the 2008 series of X-Factor, Daniel managed to reference the fact that his wife had passed away every time he came within six feet of a microphone. Of course, Simon Cowell lapped it up, since he understands the value of a good sob story. But he's also smart enough to recognise that what makes for good TV doesn't always translate into solid record sales - which is why Daniel's record is being released independently.

Even though 18 months have passed since Daniel first bludgeoned his way into the nation's tearducts, he's still bashing away at the grief button - even the promotional write-up on begins: "Released in time for Mothers Day and in memory of his late wife Jackie and also dedicated to his mother Pauline..." You know, just in case anyone had forgotten.

But with a tracklist boasting such unsubtle choices as 'To Where You Are', 'On My Own' and 'She's Out Of My Life' - even someone in a persistent vegetative state would find it all rather cynical. Weirdly, the promotional copy describes the album as being "born in the hills of North Wales using talent from the local area", which makes it sound like some demonic chimera, created by a gang bang of Satan-worshipping farmhands.

Daniel says "We are hoping to show that you dont need to be signed to a massive label or a big management company to make good music heard as long as you have realistic expectations and believe in yourself." But just in case his expectations reach beyond his physical capabilities, he's also pledged 30p from every disk sold to the Help for Heroes campaign, which is rather helpfully plastered all over the album's cover.

Speaking of realistic expectations, say 'hello again' to Lemar, the one-time bank worker who came third in the BBC's Fame Academy. With a smoky voice that sounds like someone blowing air over the top of an empty milk-bottle, Lemar has somehow managed to churn out four reasonably successful albums and is currently putting the finishing touches to his Greatest Hits package.

Now, you may be struggling to recall any of Lemar's hits, never mind the greatest ones, but he's in no doubt of his music's legacy. He told the Daily Record "I do feel, while listening to my songs... that I've influenced the sound that you hear in the charts at the moment."

According to Lemar, it's all part of the musical circle of life: "I was influenced by Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke and Al Green then did my thing with it. After you've done it for a certain amount of time you influence other people and inadvertently become a part of musical history."

So there you have it - history has been made by a man beaten into third place by those titans of modern song, David Sneddon and Sinead Quinn. Still, his new song is quite nice in a mid-nineties disco kind of way:

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Age ain't nothing but a number

Anyone with an email account has seen those messages advertising Cialis and Viagra, which must account for 60% of all electronic mail. So it's good to know that at least one person is happy to receive them - Hollywood legend and one-time sex addict Michael Douglas.

He's been oversharing with the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) about how the little blue pills have helped him keep Catherine Zeta Jones satisfied in bedroom. "God bless her that she likes older guys. And some wonderful enhancements have happened in the last few years - Viagra, Cialis - that can make us all feel younger."

Now maybe it's just a coinicidence, but I can't help thinking of battle-of-the-sexes thriller Disclosure, where Michael famously received a series of helpful emails from an unnamed source that helped give him the upper hand over sexy maneater Demi Moore. It's another case of life imitating art, only instead of corporate espionage, the emails are just offering him six hours of unflagging tumescence.

After almost a decade of marriage, Catherine must be a little frustrated that Michael's still wanting to hammer away while she's trying to read all those scripts piling up on her desk. According to a recent interview, Catherine believes that their relationship works because "we’re not vying for equal rights in our careers because he already is Michael Douglas. It works very well with the children, him being at home and me working and vice versa." No-one seems to be too sure about what that work is, perhaps she's volunteering in the local care home.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Pointing the finger

If you subscribe to the Richard Littlejohn worldview (and if you do I can recommend some powerful anti-psychotics), you probably think the world's going to hell in a handcart. You take a look at the youth of today, and you see a general lack of respect, work ethics and comprehensible dialect.

So whose fault is it? Well, obviously not the parents, because that causes some uncomfortable questions to be asked.

It's much easier to pass the buck and blame someone else. And today's easiest scapegoat is reality TV, particularly Big Brother and I'm A Celebrity...

A recent survey of 800 teachers found that the vast majority feel that reality TV shows have had a negative impact on pupils' behaviour. Reporting on this study, the Daily Telegraph rather cleverly picked out one quote from Robert Holroyd, Head of Repton School in Derbyshire, who said that "teachers should encourage pupils to watch the news and read quality papers including The Daily Telegraph to provide a reality check."

According to Holroyd, "An increasing number of young people think that celebrity status is available to everyone, usually through television." But I think he's missing the point. The fact is, celebrity (in its current incarnation at least) has indeed been democratised and devalued to the point that people can be elevated to that glittering status simply by remembering to turn up for work.

Thankfully, not all 'reality' shows are in his bad books - he clearly has some time for Britain's Got Talent: "At least that may make children look at their own performance and think 'what would Amanda Holden or Simon Cowell say about me?'"

So fly-on-the-wall shows are bad, but it's OK for young children to spend time worrying about how that notable icon of talent and tenacity, Amanda Holden, might judge them.

After a couple more well-chosen shout-outs for the Telegraph, the article points out that this study follows "research from the Association of Teachers and Lecturers which warned access to inappropriate TV was turning young children into Vicky Pollards." And that's precisely the problem with studies that are quick to place the blame for these kinds of social issues on popular culture.

The reason Vicky Pollard resonated with TV viewers is that, like most comedy grotesques, she represented a painfully familiar truth. Vicky didn't create chav culture, she simply reflected it.

Whether you're blaming faux-documentary formats for unsustainable ambitions for our young people, or using outdates comedy characters to define society's ills, it's clear that reality is in the eye of the beholder.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Heidi's Hills aren't helping

Some people just can't catch a break. Take poor old Heidi Montag for example. Aside from the fact that she could lose a battle of wits against any animal with a shell, she seems to be rapidly losing touch with her fans.

It can't have helped matters that she's made herself almost unrecognisable, with an astonishing 10 cosmetic procedures all performed in one marathon session. Already blonde and boobilicious even before the surgical overhall, she now looks like something Hugh Hefner's cleaner might fish out from behind a sofa cushion.

She claims that she's not addicted to surgery, despite having more elective treatments than the entire cast of Desperate Housewives in her quest for perfection. The way she sees it, "I see an upgraded version of me. It's a new face and a new energy. It's a new person and I feel like almost all of the things I didn't want to be and who I turned into kind of got chiseled away." In fact, there were enough bits left over to win a supporting role in the next series of The Hills.

But let's not rain on her parade, since she's "very excited for the world to see the new me and a real me." Even if the 'real' her is about as authentic as one of those emails from a Nigerian prince who needs help with his bank account.

Not everyone thinks that Heidi's made the smartest move, with some people questioning the logic of advocating such extreme transformation to young people. But Heidi remains unapologetic, claiming "My main message is that beauty is within..." Like I said, smart moves aren't exactly her speciality.

Thankfully, it doesn't seem as though we need to worry about Heidi's monumental impact on popular culture. Her new album, which coincidentally came out this week, hasn't exactly scorched its way up the charts. She may have spent "over $1 million, almost $2 million" on producing 'Superficial' (seriously, this girl needs some irony classes and quick) but according to early sales figures she's sold less than 1,000 copies.

Perhaps her claims that "within the first week, we will definitely make our money back" were a little ambitious. Then again, Heidi's nothing of not ambitious. She did once confidently state "acting, singing, dancing - it's always been in me. I also plan to win an Oscar."

At least she doesn't have to worry about showing her face in public after such an embarrassing start to her recording career. No-one would recognise her anyway.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

When Good News goes bad

Here's something that you probably won't find in Stuff magazine any time soon - a solar-powered Bible.

Although it sounds like a new punchline to the old idiom about uselessness (who even uses fireguards anymore?), it's actually a real thing. And the lucky people of Haiti now have one less item to stick on their Christmas list.

If you've been touched by the plight of the Haitians in the aftermath of the Earthquake, you may have felt compelled to donate money and help out in some small way. After all, if it's good enough for Saint Angelina...

But you have to question the logic of Faith Comes By Hearing, a charity based in New Mexico, which has decided that what the people of Haiti need most, is a solar-powered audiobook which can blast the word of God (in Haitian Creole no less) to crowds of 300 at a time.

In the words of 71-year old quake survivor Jacqueline Thermiti, "Of all the wars and revolutions and hurricanes, this quake is the worst thing God has ever sent us." Not quite, wait till she gets her care package from New Mexico.

Try to imagine it - you've lost all your worldly possessions and are relying on a mound of dead relatives to stave off the hungry rats. Wouldn't you prefer that any available money be spent on things like shelter, drinkable water and maybe some food?

Given that insurance companies are happy to lay the blame for earthquakes at the big guy's door, it's bitterly ironic that, according to FCBH, these audio Bibles "offer hope and comfort that comes from knowing God has not forgotten them through this tragedy."

Maybe they're just regular guys who can't resist a shiny new gadget. Perhaps they've got a whole cupboard full of wind-up mobile phone chargers, dancing flowerpots and plasma globes that seemed like a good idea at the time. After all, who could resist something that's "self-powered and can play the Bible in the jungle, desert or ... even on the moon!" Space gadgets - I'll take fifty!

As with all good Bible stories, there's a moral here. If you want to do your bit to help the poor and disenfranchised, try to pick a charity that doesn't come with strings attached. Giving with an agenda isn't really giving at all.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

A pain in the arias

Just when you thought that the dead donkey of reality TV had endured its final flogging, along limps one more attempt at stirring emotional contestants, excitable audiences and humourless judges into a grey sludge of schedule-filling desperation. ITV's Popstar to Operastar (is that even a word?) takes successful pop singers and, well, you can probably guess the rest from the title.

But even though the show itself is as surprising as an episode of The Waltons, its nothing compared with the painfully predictable outcry from the opera enthusiasts who rushed to condemn this bastardisation of their art.

Leading the charge like Braveheart in a cravat, is Telegraph 'culture critic' Rupert Christiansen, who adopts such an elitist air it's likely he'd turn himself away from his own birthday party. You see, Rupert 'gets' opera - he can name-drop Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, whereas the rest of us have trouble telling Westlife from Boyzone.

The contestants are 'hysterical', the audience 'moronic' and the judges 'mediocre' - but the show's greatest abuse is the way it handles the music itself. Reading the bitter, angry article, you can picture Rupert, indignantly coughing up globs of Foie Gras, as some oik out of Pop Idol butchers that song off of the football:

"All it presents is a few B and C list celebrities singing some familiar operatic numbers, using mikes. There is no attempt to present anything in dramatic context, and the arias are cut and transposed."

Honestly, next you'll be telling me that the celebrities on Masterchef aren't really chefs.

Whatever you do, don't try and tell him that it's about 'bringing opera to the masses' - "I shall explode" he promises. In fact, Rupert believes that the show will put people off opera, "confirming prejudices that it is something naff, cheesy and banal".

I think he's got it wrong. It's the aloof, inaccessible snobbery that people find so off-putting, and the idea that you need to have written a Masters thesis on La cambiale di matrimonio to even be able to buy a ticket. In fact, precisely the kind of supercilious tone that he evidences throughout his critique.

Once again, it's a case of real culture versus popular culture, and for Telegraph readers there can only ever be one winner. Broadsheets frown on 'dumbing down' and the need for emphasis through repetition.

So it's ironic that Christiansen was recycling an almost identical article that he'd published two weeks previously, slating the show for exactly the same shortcomings. Although at least in the former piece he was imaginative enough condemn the series without having actually seen it.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Strike a pose, there's nothing to it...

Portuguese poseur and occasional football player Cristiano Ronaldo seems to be making a career out of rifling through David Beckham's wardrobe.

When he was signed by Manchester United back in 2002, he found himself thrust into David's famous number 7 shirt, despite asking for a more anonymous number 28. And now, it looks like he's trying Beckham's underwear on for size, in a revealing new ad campaign for Armani.

The photos themselves are just as posey, airbrushed and homoerotic as you'd expect, with Cristiano having spent most of the photoshoot looking like he was having trouble keeping the pants on. In one rather telling shot, he looks braced for impact as he's doused with liquid - an apt metaphor for how many of these images are likely to be treated by his burgeoning fanbase.

Arriving late to the party, as usual, the Daily Mail has published a lengthy article, painstakingly reprinting the ads in all their glory and critiquing Ronaldo's 'hilariously over the top' technique. Despite the fact that pictures feature more bulges than a shoplifter's cardigan, writer Lydia Slater seems more concerned with Cristiano's 'strangely prominent Adam's apple'.

Buoyed on by the fact that Attitude editor Matthew Todd would have preferred a more 'butch' look for the wicked winger, Slater decides it's OK to take a pop at metrosexual men by claiming that "he appears to be paying homage to Village People, with an open waistcoat over his naked chest, pulling down tight jeans to reveal the top of his underpants and staring moodily at the camera." If that's how contemporary the pop culture references are in the Mail, Ronaldo should just be thankful he wasn't compared to Charles Hawtrey.

Slater's problem with all this, is that she believes women are turned off by men who look too perfect and take care of their appearance. As she states quite categorically, "women... as we all know, still do most of the underpant-buying for the men in their life". That may be the case, but in the world of the Mail, they buy five pairs for a tenner in Matalan, plus the slacks to go with them.

Underwear ads have always been aimed at men who like to look at pictures of other men in their smalls - or in the case of AussieBum, out of them. But somehow Lydia Slater seems to think that this is revelatory journalism.

When he was fifteen, Ronaldo was diagnosed with a racing heart. He may have been cured, but I figure these ads will trigger plenty more incidences of the affliction.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Love and Haiti

It seems that a humanitarian crisis can really bring out the best in people. Last week's earthquake in Haiti, with a death toll rumoured to be upwards of 150,000 people, has seen people from all walks of life trying to find some way to offer their assistance.

Brad and Angelina, Sandra Bullock, Gisele Bundchen, Madonna and Wyclef Jean have all stuck their hands in their pockets and donated considerable sums of money to aid the relief work, in the process using their high profile to encourage members of the public to do what they can.

However, not everyone in the public eye has been quite so kind-hearted. In scenes reminiscent of the days after the 7/7 London bombings, when Fox News journalist Brit Hume claimed that it was a great time to invest, some celebrities have shown that they'd rather be looking in the mirror than out of the window.

Taylor Momsen, the 16-year old star of Gossip Girl, was asked how she felt about the horrifying scenes unfolding in Haiti. Displaying the kind of empathetic selflessness that makes Pixie Geldof look like Anne Frank, she replied “Um, right now I’m trying to just finish my record and getting through the last season of Gossip Girl for right now. So not so much thinking about that.”

It's hardly surprising the poor girl seemed bewildered - she was busy promoting her new scent Love Rocks after all: “Ya know, it’s just a little bit more masculine which I like a lot. And the packaging looks really pretty on a vanity I think. And I like the little spray, what’s that called? An atomizer. I like the little atomizer.” I think we may have found our new UN ambassador.

Over on Twitter, Tila Tequila (the part-time lesbian and full-time disgrace) was channelling the still-fresh grief she had displayed so poignantly for her dead fiancee, into a prayer for the people of Haiti. Unsurprisingly, for anyone who has ever seen Tila's attempts at passing as human, her Tweets were all about her rather than the Haitians.

"Each disaster on earth is no longer "MOTHER NATURE" but it is all in the book leading to the world ending. Humans have become EVIL and CRUEL. I am only ONE person who has ALWAYS tried her best to make the world a better place. To stand up for ppl. I am God's Angel sent down 2 watch." They do say that God moves in mysterious ways - but he must have been strung out on crack when he sent us Tila Tequila to show us the way.

Speaking of God's emissaries on Earth, perhaps the worst example of 'how not to act in a crisis' came from Pat Robertson, the controversial voice of Christian conservatism in America. Pat's no stranger to shocking outbursts - soon after 9/11 he and cohort Jerry Falwell managed to blame the terror attacks on gays and lesbians. According to the loudmouth lunatic, our permissive society had made God so cross that he did what any kind-hearted deity would do - he chartered four flights and ploughed them into major landmarks.

Ranting on the Christian Broadcasting Network's 'The 700 Club' this week, Robertson shared his revisionist view of history, claiming that the earthquake was a direct consequence of the Haitians making a pact with the devil to liberate themselves from their French oppressors.

Adding credence to his seemingly preposterous claims, Pat added "They said, we will serve you if you'll get us free from the French. True story. And so, the devil said, okay it's a deal. Ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other." There you have it - true story.

If this Earthquake really was an act of God, all it proves is that he's got pretty poor taste and a shitty aim.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

She just wants to be... Happy

With a career that depends on a combination of the genetic lottery and the popularity of someone you'll never meet, you float about like a feather on the wind of fame.

Despite this, some people manage to turn the fact that they're a living Tussaud's exhibit into a decent living. They open supermarkets, appear in sponsorship idents on cable channels, and occasionally get to wave at drunken teenagers in nightclubs. OK, so it's not exactly the high life but I'm sure it beats price-checking tinned meat in ALDI.

Unfortunately, not every dead ringer manages to turn their freakily familiar features into a lucrative career opportunity. So spare a thought for Sasha Gordon, whose life has been ruined by her "remarkable resemblance" to Leona Lewis.

Critics might quibble that Martin Lawrence looks more like Leona, when playing the eponymous character in Big Momma's House, but that would be a denial of poor Sasha's troubling life experience. According to the Daily Mail, Sasha "finds herself mobbed and pestered for autographs whenever she goes out in public" - a claim that would only be half-believable if she spent her entire life working in a school for the blind.

Stuck in Penge with no boyfriend and the employment prospects of Kerry Katona, Sasha is more than happy to blame the X-Factor songbird for her misfortune. "My family are all heartbroken about the way my life has turned out.The first problem came with my boyfriend - at the beginning he thought the fact I looked like Leona was fun. However, he soon got fed up of me being pestered by autograph hunters when we went out. It caused so many rows that we split up."

Of course, the cruel irony is that Sasha attempted to find work as Leona's lookalike, but soon discovered that opportunities as scant as the likelihood that anyone would actually mistake her for the multi-platinum popstar. Since Leona has the personality of a low-fat yoghurt, there aren't too many calls for someone to turn up and tell crowds of nightclub patrons that "it's really amazing to be here."

But what about non-celebrity jobs? Well, no-one wants her for those either - "Every time I go for an interview people comment on how much I look like Leona. You can see them thinking that taking me on might be too much of a distraction." It's unclear why, exactly, she thinks anyone might be distracted, unless she had a habit of practising her scales every time someone order a nine-piece box of McNuggets.

If things don't get better soon, Sasha may need to take drastic measures. "In my darkest hours I have even thought fleetingly of having cosmetic surgery to change my face." But there's really no need to spend all that money - I'm sure it's only a matter of time before someone with mental health issues (and maybe a well-trained Labrador) smacks her in the face. That ought to do it.

Friday, 15 January 2010

The Vagina Monologues

God bless celebrities. When they're not shielding their faces from the paparazzi or claiming 'press intrusion', they're more than willing to hitch up their skirts and invite the world to have a nosy.

If you think a lady garden is somewhere Charlie Dimmock spends her weekend, you might want to look away now. Because this week, a couple of celebrities decided to tell the world a little more about their downstairs activity than anyone wanted to know.

After a whirlwind romance, bandy-legged bird's-nest Russell Brand decided to make an honest woman of Katy Perry and proposed to her on a trip to India. The media were quick to jump to the conclusion that Russell had done more than kiss the girl (and like it), and that Katy was expecting a a little bundle of hairy joy.

Keen to nip these rumours in the bud, Katy handled the story with customary discretion, Tweeting "ur gonna make me cry, maybe that's my period tho. THAT'S RIGHT I'M BLEEDING. Face. Better luck next month peepz."

Anyone still wondering whether or not Katy had the painters in, would have found their curiosity sated once and for all thanks to the addition of a charming anime illustration of a girl menstruating a torrent of smiley animals.

Continuing the theme of figuratively baring all for one's art, Jennifer Love Hewitt appeared on the talkshow Lopez Tonight on Tuesday, to plug her new book and presumably draw attention away from her breasts for a change.

Now, this may sound old fashioned, but I thought that when women go through a break-up they get together with their friends to cry, comfort eat, and test the limits of what they will or won't drink.

When she split from her last boyfriend, Jennifer did get together with a pal, but instead of ordering a pizza and attacking the Chardonnay, they got a little more creative: "After a breakup, a friend of mine Swarovski-crystalled my precious lady. It shined like a disco ball so I have a whole chapter in there on how women should vagazzle their vajayjays."

There are so many questions to be answered here - Don't glue-guns get hot? What else was on their to-do list? Did the friend arrive fully prepared, just in case? Who the hell calls it a 'precious lady'? Do the Swarovski shops provide a drop-in service?

I'm all for celebrities becoming more open and accessible, but surely some things are better left unsaid (and unbedazzled).

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Coming at you

The impact of Avatar continues to be felt across Hollywood. Some people are wondering whether movies will become more politically daring when addressing modern imperialism, some are questioning the growing prevalence of 'synthespians', and some are wondering how to apply James Cameron's 3D technology in building a better bongo flick.

The porn industry has always attracted early adopters (as well as premature finishers). In fact, home video, satellite broadcasting, DVD and the internet all owe as much of their success to innovative grot-merchants as Kleenex or Atrixo.

So it's not exactly shocking to discover that pornographers are keen to embrace the third dimension in giving their films a little extra depth. Actually, this isn't the first time that adult movies have delved into 3D - 1969's 'The Stewardess' managed to rake in almost $30 million thanks to its jiggling extra-dimensional boobs.

Sadly, anyone hoping to immerse themselves in a world of bored housewives, tumescent plumbers and disobedient schoolgirls will have to wait a while until full penetration is achieved - the TV technology is still in its infancy. Rob Smith, a director of Hustler Video Group, said "I'm hoping by the fourth quarter of this year it will be at the point where we can justify doing a 3D product."

The other problem is those pesky glasses - according to Ali Joone, founder of Digital Playground, "3D glasses are also an issue because people don't want to be encumbered by eyewear when viewing a film." I would have thought that, as long as their hands were free, this wouldn't be an issue.

The directors have their own challenges too. Aside from budgetary restrictions, there's the issue of image cropping. "We noticed when we were watching the footage later that you have to frame things differently for 3D. When part of an arm or leg is cut out of a shot in a 2D movie it looks okay, he said, but in 3D it looks kind of strange."

I think someone needs to point out to him that it's not the limbs that viewers will be focusing on. They'll be too busy ducking, fearful that they're about to have an eye poked out.

Call me a cynic, but I think 3D will be another temporary trend. After all, what's the point of aiming 3D technology at an audience that's in danger of going blind anyway?

Lady goes Gaga over fans

When you finally achieve your dreams, it's very tough to stay grounded. For some people, all it takes is one whiff of success and they start throwing their weight around like a pre-menstrual Mariah Carey. So we should all be grateful for Lady Gaga who manages to be both grateful and gracious to her fans for putting her where she is today - even if that happens to be her own little world.

A few months ago, when she released the follow-up to her best-selling debut album, she treated the fans queuing outside the record signing to a thousand dollars worth of pizza as a way of saying thank you. Some might carp that she didn't bother to check whether anyone was gluten intolerant or trying to lay off the carbs, but in this instance, it's definitely the thought that counts.

The strange thing is, as pretentious as her stage persona might seem to some, she's actually very grounded. She's said repeatedly that she's driven by a need to please and delight her fans, and make outsiders feel welcome and accepted. All very commendable.

Yesterday, she went another step closer to proving this point when she added a link on her official Twitter page, along with the comment 'holy shit'. The video (posted below) was made by a group of friends who received Flip cameras for Christmas and decided to remake Gaga's award-winning video for Bad Romance.

Although they were working from a significantly more rstrictive budget, and the choreography is somewhat lacklustre, they can't be faulted for their commitment or attention to detail. You'll never look at a laundry basket the same way again after this.

Whereas some celebrities might get their record company to pressure YouTube to take down the video for breaking the rules over music usage rights, Lady Gaga decided to share the video with her 2+ million-strong group of Twitter followers. For all the fans who keep posting messages in the hope their favourite star migth notice them, this should be considered a major breakthrough.

Already, the video has received over a quarter of a million hits. But, ironically, this has caused something of an unforeseen problem for the young videographers.

A new note on their YouTube channel reads: "We're flattered some of you guys friend requested us on Facebook, but we wanna try to keep our personal lives seperate. So add our fanpage instead :D!" Isn't it funny how quickly people forget the fans who put them where they are today?

Monday, 11 January 2010

Skating on thin ice

A famous philosopher once said, "Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it." Although this insight is generally applied to human rights abuses and acts of war, it's equally applicable to 80s pop stars.

So we've only ourselves to blame for the fact that, since she was the first to be voted off Dancing On Ice last night, Sinitta is now threatening a return to her music career.

Clearly anticipating a more substantial stint on her skates, the well-preserved disco dolly had cleverly lined up a greatest hits CD to release in a couple of weeks' time, hot on the blades of a previous compilation, released just a couple of months ago. Strike while the ice is cold and all that.

That means we can all look forward to lots more airplay for So Macho, the gayest song ever written by a rampant homophobe. And Sinitta's got a few extra surprises up the sleeve of her sequined unitard - some contemporary R&B mixes of her era-defining oeuvre.

Speaking to Digital Spy, the woman who poses a bigger threat to ornamental shrubbery than Edward Scissorhands, said "I think any new material will happen through the people who want to remix some of my old classics. You know the rapper Fabolous? He wants to do something with one of my tracks." Lots of people want to do something with her old tracks, but in most cases it involves a pedal and the word 'Brabantia' on the lid.

Still, ever the optimist, Sinitta is philosophical about her early exit from the ice dancing extravaganza: "Maybe this is God's way of saying I need to be putting all my energy into promoting this album? All my club PAs were going to be subject to my Dancing On Ice schedule, so this has really kind of released me."

So there you have it - apparently God is strapping himself into a leather vest and hitting the amyl nitrate in anticipation of Sinitta's victorious comeback. She may not believe in miracles, but I do...

Sunday, 10 January 2010

I know you are but what am I?

As a graduate of the 'Black Kettle' school of name-calling, Katie Price knows a thing or two about condemning other people for her own shortcomings. At least this time it seems she's learned a new word - parasite. Perhaps someone left the National Geographic channel on over the Christmas break.

The target of Katie's wintry discontent is glamour model Chelsea White, which sounds more like an Essex nightclub than someone's name. Chelsea was a guest at Katie's lavish New Year's bash and made the mistake of sharing some badly filmed footage of the event on the internet.

Wheareas most people would simply be embarrassed by how dull the party appeared to be, Katie is furious that she's been 'scooped' in her own house. As with everything else in her life, the party was being covered exclusively by the camera crew for her woeful unreality show. That meant the guests had to sign a confidentiality agreement, as well as a pact with the devil, in order to attend. And it looks like Chelsea broke the contract by releasing the footage.

It's not the first time Katie has appeared in bootleg footage on the internet. Funnily enough, Dane Bowers was in that one too - well, his toe was anyway. Although if he really wanted to keep his feet warm, he should just have asked for some socks for Christmas.

Taking to Twitter for another one of her famously eloquent monologues, the Ned Sherrin of ITV2 wrote "NEVER trust as a friend she is disloyal cant be trusted shes [sic] a grass she will make a quick buck off anyone a parasite." Katie's fierce moral code prevents her from approving of anyone who makes money through exploitative or manipulative means.

In fact, her boyfriend is in for a shock when he gets out of the Celebrity Big Brother compound because she's not happy with him either. Despite looking like a model of Daniel Craig built out of Duplo, he seems like a nice enough guy, but Katie has decided that he's not playing by her rules: “He’s living off my fame in there. He’s only famous because he’s with me anyway. He’s doing the exact opposite of what I told him to do! I can’t believe it.”

Is anyone else wishing she'd just put a sock in it? Or at least a foot...

Rinse and repeat

Way back in the 1990s, a show called The Word changed the world of television forever. One particular segment, called 'I'll do anything to get on telly', foretold the future of broadcasting, by showcasing a bunch of hopeless wannabes who would willingly strip off on a bus, French kiss a pensioner or lick a fat man's armpit in exchange for 15 seconds of fame.

Since then we've enjoyed a decade of Big Brothers, I'm A Celebrity Give Me A Tapeworm, and fly-on-the-toilet-door documentaries, depicting all manner of humanity with its pants around its ankles. We're now so immune to acts of public debasement, that I wouldn't be surprised to switch on Newsnight and see Jeremy Paxman experimenting in coprophilia with Jodie Marsh in a perspex box.

In a world where Jackass might best be described as the 'thinking man's Dirty Sanchez' we can at least take solace in the fact that no-one is under any illusion that these shows have any redeeming social value. If anything, they're just filmed auditions for the Darwin Awards.

So what are we to make of a show like 'Man vs. Wild'? Ostensibly a grown-up documentary series about survival techniques, the programme depicts real-life action man (complete with eagle-eyes switch and plasticised genitals) Bear Grylls attempting to endure some of the most inhospitable places on Earth - Antarctica, Amazonian rainforests, Doncaster.

It all sounds very noble, and Bear has certainly done his research, but there's still a slightly exploitative, lowest-common denominator edge to it all. For instance, the latest edition showed our handsome hero adrift on a raft in the Pacific, with no water reserves to stave off the dehydration.

So the resourceful lad did what any of us would do in that situation with a camera crew following his every move. He took a conveniently placed piece of hose, attached it to some 'foetid water laced with bird droppings' and stuck it up his gryll to give himself an enema. TV producers thoughtfully blurred the sight of Bear's quivering buttocks, so as to not to appear distasteful.

However, we did get to enjoy Bear's blow-by-blow description, including the classic line: "I'm not expecting this to be partcularly pleasant" as though there's a sliding scale of pleasure when irrigating one's own colon in the middle of the ocean. Maybe if the pipe's nozzle had been heated...

Ever the professional, Bear also reminded viewers that "This must only ever be undertaken as a last resort," as though he pictured men all over the country in their sheds, excitedly unspooling the garden hose.

This might be 'educational' TV, but it would still be worthwhile taking another leaf out of Jackass' book. A simple warning saying 'Don't try this at home' could at least prevent an ugly scene in your local B&Q.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Oh my God that Britney's shameless

With the new year still in its infancy, lots of people are still looking back at 2009 and making a mental audit of everything they experienced throughout the year. For instance, Lady GaGa had a great year, Michael Jackson and Jade Goody less so.

As far as Britney Spears is concerned, the jury's still out. She did manage to claw herself back from round-the-clock psychiatric supervision and popped out a couple more massive hit singles. But she also had to endure the ignominy of mass walkouts from her concerts when it emerged that she was lip-synching, rather than performing live. Although anyone genuinely shocked by the idea of Britney miming deserves to be fleeced out of a couple of hundred dollars. What next? Magazine readers shocked to find that Demi Moore pictures have been airbrushed?

Still, after an unprecedented year of intrusive press coverage, Britney is fighting back. In an unusual demonstration of self-awareness, Team Britney has created a fascinating countdown of bullshit called 'The Year in BS' that highlights all of their favourite made-up stories.

It turns out that over 13,000 stories were written about Britney in 2009, but the vast majority of them were about as believable as one of her live performances. The website claims "we ranked the ones we believe were the most ridiculous. Either because they were factually inaccurate, because they reported the patently absurd, or because we believe they are simply offensive to the sensibilities."

The list details all manner of misreported non-events, it's like a bumper annual of the News of the World showbiz pages. Knockbacks, new boyfriends, audience protests - all the most controversial and shocking stories are meticulously rehashed for Britney fans to bite their thumb at.

The problem is, there's no effort to set the story straight on any of the issues. Britney's dedicated fans are expected to believe the official version of events, without having an actual story to buy into. It's basically just 75 'no comments' one after the other.

Given that 2008 was a year when Britney's sanest moments included shaving her head, having a stand-off with the police, attacking a car with an umbrella and enjoying the company of Paris Hilton, it's no wonder that people were willing to believe pretty much anything about her.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

One of you will be fired

OK, so I've got this great idea for a TV show. A bunch of hopefuls have to compete for a job by undertaking a variety of soul-destroying tasks, with unsuccessful candidates sacked for our viewing pleasure. What's that? Already been done?

No worries, I'm sure GMTV will buy it anyway. After all, they attempted to capture some of the X-Factor's bottled lightning with its own talent contest - Number One Family.

Although maybe it's best if we don't dwell on that. Winners Beardsmith didn't exactly set the charts alight - not sure whether anyone mounted a Facebook campaign to stall their assault on the charts. They were clearly the judges' favourite, and let's face facts, no-one knows talent like Bernie Nolan.

What's not to love about GMTV, it's the televisual equivalent of Meals on Wheels. All those soft pastels, gently animated weather maps, and charming emails from viewers in Norfolk. Nothing too shocking or confrontational, just warmly condescending presenters and a sense that everything's just a few years out-of-date, like the yellowed newspaper pages you discover when you lift the carpet in an old house.

Hang on a minute. It looks like they've already got their own Apprentice knock-off. But here's the twist - they're using their own presenters as the contestants. You see, budgets are tight at GMTV, and somehow they've got to find a way of making the show even cheaper.

So the axe is going to fall on two presenters. But who will it be? According to one leading paper (no prizes for guessing which one), they're all twitching with anticipation as they wait to discover who's for the chop.

The news story suggests that Ben is safe, since he's a 'massive face on the channel' (although he could just try sitting back a bit), and new girl Emma Crosby is pretty in a 'Young Conservatives' sort of a way so she'll be OK too. But the rest of them are getting on a bit and have the collective charisma of a damp Warburton's loaf. It's anyone's guess really.

I'm sure some critics will moan that it's inappropriate for the public to be told that redundancies are about to be made before the employees find out what's what. But they don't understand how TV drama works.

If GMTV really wants to make the most of this, they'll open the phone lines and start compiling highlights tapes for each of the presenters. Lorraine Kelly can even be on standby to offer consolation and platitudes, and maybe they could rope Brian Friedman in to coach them on giving their presenting style a bit of pizazz.

And since The Apprentice has been pushed back to the summer this year, they could get Sir Alan in for a quick interview, then get him to do the firing live on air. Now you tell me that wouldn't be worth waking up for?

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

All that glitters...

Coming soon to a cinema near you - Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire. Aside from its rather complicated title (engineered so that no-one would mistake it for the similarly named Dakota Fanning sci-fi thriller), the film is garnering rave reviews for its powerful central performance by Gabourey Sidibe as Claireece "Precious" Jones, an obese, illiterate 16-year old subjected to a life of rape and abuse at the hands of her parents.

Perhaps more surprising, is the fact that one of the other stand-out performances is delivered by Mariah Carey, a woman whose film debut was so bad her equity card should have been retracted. Frumped up and toned down, Carey has put the diva on hold and turned in a sensitive portrayal of a street-smart social worker. And it's not unfeasible to think that an Oscar nomination may even be on the horizon (looks over shoulder for four horsemen).

This has obviously sent a ripple of jealousy coursing throughout Divadom, with Mariah's peers regarding her success with envious eyes. Top of the list is Jennifer Lopez, who was first a dancer, then a reputable actress, then a ropey actress, then a singer, then a fashion designer, then a parfumier, and is now an actress again. Her CV is littered with more turkeys than Bernard Matthews' backyard, but she has, on occasion, managed a few half-decent performances.

Her 2006 film El Cantante, which told the story of the King of Salsa, Hector Lavoe, is one such film. J-Lo got some of the best reviews of her career for her role as Hector's fiery wife Puchi, although as the star of Anaconda and Gigli that can't have been too much of a stretch.

Speaking with characteristic modesty to Latina Magazine, Jenny from the block has shared her belief that she deserved some golden, man-shaped baubles for her efforts: "I feel like I had that [Oscar worthy role]... but I don't even think the academy members saw it. It was funny; when the Oscars were on... I was sitting there with my twins--I couldn't have been happier--but I was like, 'How dope would it have been if I would've won the Oscar and been here in my hospital bed accepting the award?'"

But don't shed a tear for the ego-driven multi-hyphenate, she knows her time will come - "Things will happen when they're supposed to happen. I have the utmost faith and no doubt that it will one day, when and if it's supposed to. You can't get all crazy twisted over it."

She's absolutely right. But if you really want to see crazy-twisted, let's make sure there's a camera trained on her all night on March 7th, just in case Mariah gets her moment on the stage of the Kodak Theatre. Now wouldn't that be 'dope'?

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

From bad to worse

Regular readers of this blog will know that p0pvulture has something of a love-hate relationship with the Daily Mail. I love the fact that it aggregates a whole host of celebrity and entertainment stories, but lament the sneery, bullying tone it adopts when reporting them.

It's the paper's innate sense of superiority that troubles me, even more than its loathsome xenophobia or fanatical dedication to a Britain that only ever existed in Enid Blyton's most halucinogenic cheese dreams.

Thankfully though, there's a delicious irony in the fact that its tone seems to be growing ever more supercilious, even as the quality of its reporting spirals irrevocably down the drain. Three examples in today's edition really caught my eye.

The first was a story about Gemma Arterton who has spoken out about the way Brits love to build up home-grown talent, only to knock it down at the first sign of success. Let's be honest, the woman has a point. So how does the Mail trail the feature in its margin?

Not getting off to the best of starts then. Addressing Gemma's claims, the Mail says "According to her, we simply don't like pretty girls who do well." Perhaps they're going to disprove her theory with an even-handed approach to the subject? "Obviously being a woman of both beauty and ability can be a burden. But Miss Arterton, it seems, is confident she can handle the pressure."

I'd say that was a 'no'.

OK, so Gemma's young and hot - she can take care of herself. What about Sylvester Stallone? The 63-year old film-maker recently broke his neck while filming the action movie The Expendables. He told FHM Magazine "Actually, my fight with Stone Cold Steve Austin was so vicious that I ended up getting a hairline fracture in my neck. I'm not joking...I had to have a very serious operation afterwards. I now have a metal plate in my neck."

That all sounds pretty painful. The Mail's headline?

But it's not all just snide remarks and holier-than-thou editorial. Sometimes it's just the laziest journalism on record. Today's finest non-story is a 'before they were famous' piece about everyone's favourite spinster songbird Susan Boyle. Prepare yourself now, this is some exciting stuff...

In a Daily Mail showbiz exclusive, the paper breathlessly announced that a woman called Tori Graham found half of someone who may have been Susan Boyle, in a photo that was taken at Edinburgh Waverley station in 2002. This is what the Pulitzer was invented for.

To paraphrase Oscar Wilde - we are all in the gutter press, but some of us are looking up the skirts of the stars.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Sherlock Homo?

As Avatar passed the $1 billion mark in just seventeen days, it's easy to forget that there's another blockbuster doing brisk trade in your local multiplex (two if you count Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel). The ex-Mr. Madonna's Sherlock Holmes managed the biggest Christmas Day opening of all time, and has been packing them in ever since.

But despite the film's huge success at the box office, there are concerns that there may not be a sequel, thanks to the suggestion that Holmes and Watson knew a thing or two about 'packing them in'. Whilst on the publicity circuit for the Victorian-era action thriller, Robert Downey Jr and his co-star Jude Law frustrated studio executives by playing up their own burgeoning bromance, so much so that there were concerns that it might put off some more traditional movie-goers.

It didn't help matters when RDJ appeared on 'The Late Show With David Letterman' and suggested that the characters were engaged in 'the-love-that-dare-not-speak-its name-so-leaves-obvious-clues-instead'. The exchange went as follows:

Letterman: “Now, from what I recall, there was always the suggestion that there was a different level of relationship between Sherlock and Dr. Watson.”
Downey: “You mean that they were homos…”
Letterman: “In a manner of speaking, yes…that they were closer than just out solving crimes. It’s sort of touched on in the film, but he has a fiancée, so we’re not certain. Is that right?”
Downey: “She could be a beard. Who knows?”
Paul Shaffer: “What are they, complete screamers? Is that what you’re saying?”
Downey: “Why don’t we observe the clip and let the audience decide if he just happens to be a very butch homosexual. Which there are many. And I’m proud to know certain of them.”

All very chuckle-worthy, I'm sure you'll agree. But Andrea Plunket isn't laughing - she owns the US copyright to the characters and has said that she will not allow any follow-up films to be made if Holmes takes Watson up the Bakerloo.

She said “I hope this is just an example of Mr. Downey's black sense of humour. It would be drastic, but I would withdraw permission for more films to be made if they feel that is a theme they wish to bring out in the future."

There's no doubt that Robert was joking with Letterman about Sherlock's proclivities, but there's an interesting point here. Guy Ritchie's film is not the first to observe the symbiotic, borderline co-dependent relationship between the sleuth and his sidekick - so it's not as though he's adding a subtext that wasn't there all along.

As attitudes and morals change with time, sometimes the significance of a word, phrase or scenario can evolve accordingly, affording readers and viewers alike a fresh insight into the context of the characters. That there are few literary examples of the gay experience dating from Victorian England is not to say that there was no such thing. Like most elements of human sexuality in that era, it simply wasn't spoken or written about explicitly.

Instead, writers relied upon hints, clues and inferences. You know, the sort of thing that Sherlock would have picked up in an instant...