Saturday, December 3, 2011

Am I being harsh or is Caitlin Moran just a tad pleased with herself?

I was listening to the radio this morning and as usual on that particular programme, the last item, just before 9am, takes the form of a general discussion. If the overnight news has been grave - euro not yet collapsed but for God’s sake start knitting, or Elton John loses cufflinks given him by the Queen - the big, authoritative guns are rolled out and we are treated to the wisdom of those thought to know what they are talking about. The ‘names’ will be people who are relevant to the story - a highly respected diplomat who, now retired, can stop lying, some chap from the LSE (well, until recently - since they were caught selling a Phd to Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi for a very good price indeed, their stock has rather fallen and they will now count themselves lucky to get a gig on Countdown) or a German journalist from one of the serious papers who speaks English better than almost all of us who live in the United Kingdom. That, in the interests of ‘balance’- the BBC is very keen on ‘balance’ - each authoritative side will utterly contradict the other and describe what is being put forward by his antagonist as nonsense means that once the discussion ends, we, the listeners are not one jot wiser and the whole excercise was largely pointless.

Often the discussion is what the BBC refers to as ‘light-hearted’ and ‘the names’ are allowed to make jokes and not take the topic of discussion entirely seriously. This morning, the discussion was about one Jeremy Clarkson who either outraged the nation a few days ago by claiming our striking public sector workers should be lined up and shot in front of their families or who played up to his professional persona as loudmouth at large and was merely joking. What you believe on that score will be entirely down to your own political prejudice. The Left were, rather predictably, thoroughly outraged as only the Left can be outraged, whereas the rest of us know Clarkson was making a joke, although a weak one. And for the record, I think Jazzer is a pain in the arse but otherwise perfectly harmless.

So that was the topic, and to bat it around for five minutes or so until the 9am pips, Today rolled out Toby Young (a kind of well-trained, more diplomatic and classier sub-Jeremy Clarkson, who has also been known to speak out and frighten the horses, but who in recent years has chosen to acquire a more sober persona now that he is hoping to make his fortune by setting up private schools) and one Joan Burnie, who I have never come across before and who was trailed as an associate editor Scotland’s Daily Record for whom she also writes a column. They made some good points, and Young mentioned how Dave Prentiss, a union leader - you’d be hard-pushed to find a Tory or someone from the respectable wing of the Lib Dems styling themselves Dave - revealed he was ‘seeking urgent legal advice’ on Clarkson’s comments. Yes, the whole thing is as silly as that. But at one point Young mentioned a Caitlin Moran and my ears pricked up.

Until that moment I had only heard her name and knew nothing more about her, but from Young’s comments it would seem she is, in part, that oddest of creatures, a right-of-centre feminist and I was intrigued. So I looked her up on the net and discovered that she is a ‘broadcaster, writer, TV critic and columnist’. And when I looked her up I realised just how out of touch I am with what’s happening, man. Even the fact that I had to look her up underlines rather sadly how much further down the road to fuddy-duddyland I have travelled than I have feared. For Caitlin was, it turns out, something of a young media prodigy, winning the Observer’s Young Journalist of the Year in 1990 when she was still only 15, writing a novel at 16 and going on to present a Channel 4 rock show. Now that she is no longer a young media prodigy - you can’t be, really, at 36 - she has joined the media establishment (expect her to join the Booker Prize committee at some point in the next few yers) and day job is to write for three columns for the Times, work which has won her Columnist of the Year for 2010, and BPA Critic of the Year 2011, and Interviewer of the Year 2011 (all, you will gather, curiously anonymous: who sponsors these awards? Would it surprise you to know that I am also an ‘award-winner’? I recently won Oldest Inhabitant of Lanke Cottage, St Breward, for the third year running and I am, my colleagues tell me, a strong contender for the prestigious Feature Sub-editors Most Biros in Top Pocket Award 2011.)

What first turned me off was young Caitlin’s relationship with The Times. I worked regular shifts on The Times (which came to an abrupt halt when I was quite wrongly suspected of spending the night with one of the news editors’ wives, but that’s another story) and was rather taken aback by the paper’s self-image. To this day - seriously - it thinks of itself as the best paper in the world. Worse, it regards those who, like me, don’t agree with that estimation as fundamentally stupid. Well, I’ll give it to you straight: I find The Times dull, dull, dull, uninformative and distressingly middle-brow. So that young Caitlin writes not just one but three columns, one rather ominously described by Wikipedia as ‘the satirical Friday column Celebrity Watch, is not in her favour.

As is my wont, I also google-imaged her (sorry, sisters, but don’t pretend you don’t do the same) and that was the nail in young Caitlin’s coffin as far as I am concerned. For in almost all the pictures in Google’s collection, she has a look of ineffable smugness and self-satisfaction. But make up your own minds. Above is a selection. I’m afraid what we think of ourselves is very often reflected in our habitual expression and young Caitlin’s expressions rather convey, to me at least, that if she were chocolate she would just love to eat herself. But that’s media folk for you. If I had my way, I would have them all lined up in front of their families and shot. Not once, but twice!


  1. "she has a look of ineffable smugness and self-satisfaction"

    Really? You could be mistaken here. It's all a bit subjective.

    1. That's probably because you fancy her and, as the saying goes, love is blind. Until I wrote this entry, I had only heard her name and otherwise knew nothing about her. Then I heard her on radio, googled her and looked up images to see what she looked like. I suggest you take another look at the four-pic collage I made: yes, of course these things are subjective - some would have us believe everything under the sun is subjective - but I think I get the popular vote. I have to say that what prompted me to google her in ther first place after hearing her on the radio was a certain self-regard she seemed to have. But that's the trouble with once being the voice of a generation - 10/15 years on, you're in your 30s, no one wants to know and you somehow have to keep the illusion going, if only for your own benefit.

  2. I think you're being a bit harsh here. Professional jealousy? She's surely doing what people do to cameras and just smiling. I, like you, have only just become aware of her so I google imaged her and came up with some other pics with her not looking remotely smug. Mostly, it seems, with her mouth wide open looking a picture of astonishment. You've been a bit selective I feel. Anyway, I'm thinking of buying the book in spite of the title just out of curiosity. Joe/bloke/brighton

    1. Yes, I've seen those pictures of astonishment, posed to the nth degree, it has to be said and about as natural as a £9 note. I take the point that if you are in the public eye (and, thank the Lord, I am not) you usually have to play to the gallery a little and quite obviously all the photos I have come across are for professional use and will have been staged to conform to the 'brand' (to use a very ugly, but current term). It's just that I am not in the slightest susceptible - or like to think I'm not in the slightest susceptible - to 'brands'and far, far, far prefer straightforward people. I suspect I would be a bloody awful 'celebrity', though the world is never going to find out anyway. Happy New Year.