There’s a certain kind of old couple, maybe friends of the family. One of them (depending on gender and proclivity) will crack on to you and/or your girl/boy friend whilst the other complains loudly about the fact that their partner doesn’t clean up, get pissed, enjoy sex or, under certain specific conditions, wear the old uniform anymore. Picture them. For some reason they seem to be presenting the breakfast news programme on BBC 1.
Although the specific people change the symbolic economy is reproduced exactly. A middle aged man with small eyes will be feigning slight bemusement at Felicity Q. Tedious (who may be from Desperate Housewives, Hollyoaks or might have played the Nazi relative in The King’s Speech) and her pompous anecdote. A woman will be sat next to him. Severe haircut, bigger eyes. The conversation will go something like this:
Small eyed man: Holyoaks isn’t afraid to show the scrapes H&M models can get into on their days off, or the devastating effect the public school fagging system and generations of inbreeding can have on a young mans confidence, or whatever.
Creepy woman: Hey Granddad. Stop embarrassing me in front of this slightly younger person. I still groove.
Small eyed man: Felicity, when did you first understand how important you are?
An inordinate amount of time is spent trying to convince us that these people, whoever bourgeois inanities that fronts the latest teen emo sensation, whichever Apprentice finalist, or whatever temple prostitute the massenkultur priests have sent that morning, are real people with like, real emotions and feelings in a bid to make us hate them, and the conditions we live in, a little less.
Thing is, that kind of strategy doesn’t work. Look at the limit case. I saw an interview with one of Hitler’s secretaries, where she quite honestly described him as a dog lover who liked to share cakes with small children. But this doesn’t make him less of a vile racist.
The creepy breakfast couple love a bit of Prince Phillip. During his birthday interviews, cantankerous old Phil was consistently referred to as “colourful” (sic.). Apparently judging the content of someone’s character on the colour of their skin is some sort of personal idiosyncrasy.
Then they jump into action. Man looks stern. It kicks off. Maybe it’s snowing too much. Sterner look, clench jaw. The grit, it’s running out.
As for Freud’s obsessionals, the skittish pseudo-activity that constitutes mainstream news is an attempt to disguise the fact that nothing is actually happening. Every day life is pretty repetitive, boring and stupid, at least under late capitalism. The creepy old couple, flirt, terrify and prostrate themselves so that we keep watching them. They know that when the guests leave they’ll be alone; with half a Marks’s Indian Snack Tray, a few dregs of booze and the hollow flicker of a TV set.