Tag Archives: dostoevsky

Skins: The antithesis of cultural snobbery.

I just watched Skins.

I was really sceptical – like a lot of people – when I heard they were changing the entire cast for season three; and I didn’t like the first few episodes because I was so ingrained in the deep psychological flaws of the original cast. Cassie will probably always be one of my top-ten TV characters.

However, after the last (literal) couple of episodes, I was Twittering endlessly about how – given time to properly develop the characters – the third series was fast becoming as good as, dare I say it, season two.

Tonight’s episode seven was fantastic. From an objective point of view, probably the best yet. Episode six was incredibly powerful, but – like I did with a lot of season two – I was applying the situations to my own life and memories. Nothing beats a bit of televisual catharsis.

The reason tonight was so good was because although I couldn’t connect to it as deeply as other episodes, I was completely enthralled by the storyline, the new interactions between – finally – developed characters (JJ and Emily were obvious, but also between Emily and Cook and Freddie and Katie (honestly, never saw that one coming)).

Might I also point out that my favourite character is Naomi – one of the few characters I did not write off during episode one.

I even like Cook now – the outfits he wears are supposedly a mash up of violent youth culture over the past 50 years, which I think is a fantastic allusion – particularly since it is so malleable a medium.

I complained about the unrealistic feel I got from series three at the beginning: everything was over-the-top, special effects – and there still is an element of that – but the Bristol underworld does not play so big a part anymore. More to the point, it has been given its own place in the background: an integral part of the class system* building up around the characters in a way far more obvious than the previous series. Effy Stonem lives in the same house, yet now, the fact that she comes from a middle class part of the city is far more important. Bring on the bourgouise disillusionment.

*I am arguing that class is becoming less and less important with someone over MSN right now – what a charlatan I am.

One thing I was able to apply to this realisation of how important the class system is in Skins was that I was born to middle class parents, and am of the generation of the characters, regardless of being older than the original cast. Boo hoo.

But from my objective viewpoint, the series revealed itself to be – intentionally or otherwise – modelled on Dostoevsky’s “The Idiot”. I only realised tonight, with the revelation of JJ’s autism, that he could be argued as taking the role of Prince Myshkin. Perhaps this was all too obvious since he was episode seven’s protagonist.

However, on a grander scale, Effy Stonem must be modelled on the damaged and damaging Nastasya Fillipovna: knowing that everyone loves her on sight, but does not really care; treating those around her as objects and experiments.

Perhaps thankfully, her character seems to be opening like a matroshka doll and allowing her true self to come out from within a beautiful shell.

My only concern is that when the main character in Skins – or any programme, since they are all so homogenous anyway – opens up like this, the series is surely drawing to a close. Please don’t leave me, Skins! I need you.

Final point: the music was, yet again, incredibly important. Thank you, Alex Hancock, for giving us an episode littered with Debussy – and thank you, anonymous gatekeepers of the rolling credits, who gatecrashed the screen before the actors names were given and rightfully spelled out the words “Music by Claude Debussy”. I knew we were listening to Clair De Lune on the first two chords, but suppose other people didn’t? Why deprive them from enjoyment out of some ridiculous snobbery?

On that point, there is far less snobbery in culture. I won’t go any deeper, but it is something to think about: maybe that is where the class system is breaking down. I will probably blog on this at a later date since I have decided to launch a journalistic campaign in favour of free downloads and against the restrictions on YouTube from the music industry generally which are hampering my enjoyment of life – no hyperbole.

Anyway, yes, Skins, yes, thumbs well and truly up.


The Resolution of a Ridiculous Man

Sometimes I really hate this country – specifically the weather. The other night, there was the most distraught looking fog covering my street, and it is getting too cold to stand outside for more than five minutes. Even when I’m just sitting about the house, it’s too cold to remove myself from the bed.

The other night, I came home in the taxi of my favourite driver – not only does he let me smoke in his car, he gives me cigarettes and a light – and we were discussing this depressing weather. He made reference to the fact that we had no summer to offset the cold.

Now, we are already being bombarded with television adverts for Christmas – the first being Tesco’s completely inappropriate advertisment for toys. Why are they trying to whip children up into a toy-frenzy at the beginning of November?! No child can sustain excitement for so long. I suspect Tesco are trying to catch the idiot-mother-buying-presents-now market as well as the omg-my-child’s-head-has-exploded market; hoping that the latter group will be buying first aid kits from their supermarket along with the weird pig-thing from the adverts which inexplicably requires batteries.

Anyway, the point of this rambling is that I have become unable to work – uni work has come to a complete dead end – and am somehow shifting my focus ahead by two months. Specifically, I have been thinking about new years resolutions.

Last year, for 2007, I wrote quite a comprehensive essay detailing my new year’s resolution. However, for 2008, I don’t seem to have bothered. The entry in my diary closest to this date a year ago (Sunday, 9th September, 2007) reveals that I was considering leaving my course and applying for an English Literature and Politics undergrad degree. I did actually try to apply for a course around this time, but soon forgot about it – possibly because I was getting confident in (or just too busy) with the course I evidently stuck with; possibly because I hate filling in forms.

The impression I get from this pre-2008 entry, and the subsequent entries which begin again a week into January, is that nothing was ventured and nothing was gained. I set out no goals and achieved nothing – at least in terms of things which one sets out in a resolution!  That sounds negative, from a superficial point of view – I did pass my degree this year, but that was something I had already set my mind to. The point is that I see a resolution as a time to change one’s outlook, or habits. I think the end of this year signals the time for me to consider my own mindset. The 2007 resolution worked well in my favour, but it needs to be updated for 2009. Obviously.

I don’t have much else to contribute right now, other than that I think this short story, The Dream of a Ridiculous Man by Dostoevsky should be read. I read it lastnight and it is so powerful – a great example of the great man’s writing.

Sarah Palin Naked – Haha Made You Look!

I have about a week left of my summer holiday. According to my five year plan*, this is my last education-centric summer holiday; yet I have done nothing whatsoever to mark this event. Now, because I have, essentially, been hanging around my bedroom for months; I can’t wait to go back to uni. So much so, in fact, that I have twice called one of my lecturers – at her home – in as many days. Isn’t that wrong? Isn’t that stalking?! In any case, there is a new intake of first years on my course. I am going into fourth year, and my first task as a degree-wielding Citizen of the World is to help the new students run a completely amateur newspaper. Isn’t that fun!? Isn’t that wonderful!? Because there is a surprisingly large intake of first year students this year, the task of my fellow graduates is to weed out the weak and scare anyone not up to the challenge – of becoming a proper journalist within three years – off the course. We are to be hard, unflinching task-masters, whipping our slaves while the lecturer watches; filing her nails to a fine point. I feel like I am Darwin with a knife, proving his own theories by slaughtering an entire island of endangered birds.

*I don’t have a five year plan; I do not believe I am capable of planning beyond about five months ahead of myself at the best of times. Five years ago, my five year plan had me in a coffin circa-2006.

Speaking of journalism, it is not often that I come down on the side of the Labour party, but I actually applauded Siobhan McDonagh MP’s call for a Labour leadership challenge. She was interviewed tonight on Channel Four News and I thought she – for one thing – had a good argument (that Brown was not elected, and because of that, he has not had to lay out his policies; so people – including his own MPs – do not know exactly what those policies are) and – for a second – was able to hold her own in the face of a very tough interview. I felt that Samira Ahmed was needlessly argumentative in her interview, since Ms McDonagh was giving frank and concise answers to difficult questions. I do not agree with the standard, aggressive-interviewer journalism that is all over television. Even when “grilling” very biased types such as politicians, there is no need to bound into an interview, teeth exposed and clenched. I hate watching Paxman-style interviewers, who seem to be more interested in bravado than answers; in showing up an interviewee as weak and “below” the interviewer than actually hearing their side of the story. I understand that perhaps some people do tune-in to televised news in the hope of seeing an argument; but I think this is just more evidence that news broadcasts are being needlessly dumbed down. I read an interesting comment piece in this week’s Sunday Herald, where Joanna Blythman attributes the Guardian’s huge interview last week with Alistair Darling (where, to paraphrase, the Chancellor of the Exchequer claimed that the economy was doomed and that we are all fucked) to good interview techniques. None of this all-out, I’m-better-than-you bravado; Darling was relaxed by the journalist and felt at ease to be candid and truthful.

Actually, I also applauded Darling’s honesty during the Guardian interview. It is strange that people complain that politicians do nothing but lie, then when one does tell the truth, people complain about that instead. How very British of us! That is, however, two applauds for Labour in one week. They’re obviously going up in my estimation!

At present, I am reading a combination of books which are making an interesting collage-of-concepts in my head. The death, despair, deceit, disorientation and derangement of Dostoevsky’s The Idiot is mingling with Sheila Weller’s half-cocked decision to write a triple biography of Carole King, Joni Mitchell and Carly Simon in Girls Like Us. The latter is a very good biography of all three women, however it is laced with feminist thought and strung together with the could-or-could-not-be idea that these three women are somehow linked beyond having fucked James Taylor. The former is a masterpiece that has changed my opinion on organised religion. Strange to read them at the same time, I tell you! Add to that Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, Sylvia Plath’s The Colossus and snippets from the middle chapters of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and the odd page-long revelation from Lloyd Whitesell’s The Music of Joni Mitchell*, and you’ve got yourself a headache worthy of Prince Myshkin himself!

*I refuse to start actually reading the latter two books before I’ve finished the others; otherwise I will never finish any of them. I always get into this mess. I’m physically unable to read one book at a time. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

In any case, I am now ready for uni, what with my crazy conspiracy theories; angry left wing rants; an abundance of up-their-own-arse books; the ability to type; and anything else that seems requisite that has been mentioned in this blog, then subsequently forgotten during the outro. I also have a swish new Manbag that makes me look less tranny-more man; and a new haircut which makes me look less student-more downy; since I did it myself during what can only be termed an epiphany at five in the morning, using a pair of old scissors and two mirrors used in tandem. Long live DIY!