Still more on Little Britain

After raising the topic of Little Britain on the GLW list I wrote a review that was published in Green Left Weekly for which I drew on the discussion in that forum.

But this week a letter has been published in GLW that is very disparaging about my efforts --

This letter asserts

"What kind of publication should Green Left Weekly be? Clearly Dave Riley and I have very different opinions on this, if his review of the Little Britain TV show (GLW #662) is anything to go by... But don’t try to tell me that Little Britain is some sort of progressive artistic achievement. Riley offers few comprehensible justifications for that view apart from the fact that it gives him some armchair belly laughs.

“Is that all Green Left Weekly has to offer in the field of “cultural dissent”?

The correspondent, Lachlan Malloch, is free to differ from my particular view about the merits of Little Britain but I can't see how my take on the program is some how OUTSIDE GLW's political (or cultural) charter.

I have sent off a reply to the paper's letter's pages(appended below) but in the space of 250 words I could not address the more substantive issues in apparent dispute. Malloch is suggesting that I either have no business reviewing Little Britain in the pages of Green Left Weekly or that I have some gall to be supportive of the program ‘politics ‘-- a reference I was very carefull to define.

I find this absurd. No one has to agree with my review of the program(I may even be a very crappy reviewer) -- but it is another thing altogether -- to argue that I had no business offering my opinion of it in the pages of the paper. In fact I was ASKED by one of the subscribers to the GLW list to review the program after I’d posted a few comments about it in that forum.

Gee I know how the Left thinks when it comes to cultural matters and I know when I am stepping into a debate. I’ve been reviewing odds and sods of cultural fluff or of substance for years. And it’s always great when you initiate a debate about some particular cultural product as folk discuss which subtleties exist and which ones are allowed to (yes that happens!)...

If you like I have a particular approach that I try to follow and that is to review ‘against expectation’ -- by taking the seeming apolitical and presumably merely entertaining and draw out of that a broader context, a political and ideological context and relevancy. I don’t know how that fits inside modern cultural theory or what have you, but I get annoyed with the often succession of left reviews which seek merely to vet films, books, music, etc as they rate them according to some political scale of relevance and import. I think there’s a role for that -- but at a pinch it comes across as a sort of left wing consumerism: buy this, read that,don’t watch the other,etc.

I think a much more productive challenge is to take everyday cultural fair --even popular cultural stuff -- and read into it an ongoing relevance and meaning to the way ideological product is harnessed in our society. That way you get to relate to some of the cultural dynamic .

Over at the Socialist Unity Website, Jim Jepps did this very effectively recently by setting up a ongoing review and forum about the British version of Big Brother when George Galloway MP was one of the housemates. It was a great exercise in a sort of dialectical consensus making about what was occurring in this particular context of Galloway, a crass TV show and the nature of RESPECT, the unity coalition. At stake was the question of popularity at what price and the nature of the program.

I assume that when I wrote a ‘review’ of Australian Idol I may have also been falling foul of Malloch’s political sensibilities as I’m sure he would have balked at the Big Brother exercise.

Sorry, he’d say, that’s not “cultural dissent’...

But socialists need to prove their social relevancy by applying themselves to the everyday otherwise their advocacy becomes a sort of abstraction alienated from mundane experience. I always thought that GLW was supposed to be a combination paper that not only addressed developed socialists but people who are very new to politics or who are at many different levels of political understanding.

Malloch apparently would have it , I guess, that when the topic comes up at work or at school or where ever about Little Britain it is his duty either to shut up or disparage it with a complete condemnation.

I don’t see it so cut and dried.

Dave Riley

As they say there is no explanation for taste as Lachlan Malloch (Write On GLW #663) confirms. Malloch attacks me for my take on the television series Little Britain. I think this is fine as I so often try to review items that don’t normally fall under political scrutiny and I don’t necessarily make a habit of reviewing by numbers -- something that I find the left is far too prone to when it comes to culture. I dislike tick box reviews that will seek only to judge film or literature by criteria determined by political platform alone.

Malloch forgets that I am not forcing him to watch the program. I am instead merely offering my own opinion. He also forgets that this is a signed review and that Green Left Weekly has not in the least editorialised on the topic -- and never will.

So why rail against the paper for publishing it? Does he consider that items like Little Britain should not be considered in its pages -- that the paper is somehow cheapening its role by reviewing items of popular culture which seem, superficially at least, not very political?

I strongly disagree.

The thrust of my review was to promote Little Britain as an example of grostesque and parody which I suggested had a strong tradition both in literature and in carnival. I see this tradition as an important burlesque that has so often been harnessed to turn the world at least momentarily upside down to make, often unconsciously, a political point.

The irony of Malloch’s protest is that I had shared my view of Little Britain on the Green Left Weekly Discussion List prior to writing the published review and had drawn on that fruitful exchange to develop my critique. It therefore comes as no surprise to me that there are some who object to my review. But hey, that’s what debate is all about aint it?

Dave Riley