Thursday, 27 March 2008

The Apprentice: Wednesday 26 Mar 2008

When did ‘I’m making an executive decision’ come to mean ‘I have an inferiority complex’? People used to use the active ‘I decide’, and that decision could then be characterised as executive by others. Bloody reality television has changed all that. Now we’re far too exposed to the pretensions of non-actors (they would be the real people) as they whimper their meek self-assurances into the camera.

This is particularly horrific for language when done on shows like How To Look Good Naked. It’s now impossible to use words like gorgeous and glamorous without the implicit meanings of fat and cheaply over-dressed. While the inflection of words like curvaceous and voluptuous has always carried a certain wry irony, gorgeous and glamorous were straightforward positive words. No more. As Homer might have lamented, ‘They ruined all our best words like love, and glamorous, and gorgeous. Those were the best words we had!’

Anyway, this series opener was otherwise standard introductory fare, which I hope is why it veered so sharply between the unnecessary voiceover exposition and the squabbling scenes. One thing the voiceover didn’t do, though, was clearly label which fool spewed which of the obnoxious publicity quotes. The cretin who can’t say loser should never be allowed to forget it, and the idiot who thinks she’s the best salesperson in Europe should have that ridiculous boast stapled to her forehead.

This first episode also set up the dynamic that I guess will drive at least the boys’ dynamic this series, class or education or culture or whatever anodyne term conveys the divergent speech patterns and accents they’re effecting. Let’s hope they can unintentionally satirise all class-aspirational stereotypes out of existence. To stretch the thin Simpsons motif, this year’s candidates seem to be guitar-playing rasta surfer rappers like never before. Who wear proactive attitudional aviator sunglasses.
Buy now: The Simpsons - Season 8

3 comments:

Swineshead said...

Great review, but I wouyldn't say language has been 'polluted' by reality TV. The distortion doesn't really travel outside of the box. I can still call a woman gorgeous without coming across as camp OR patronising. One can take these things a little too seriously if one tries hard enough.

TATB said...

Thanks! Yeah, I think the Simpsons comparison is a little trite; I don’t think such terms are camp (I was thinking of them as mainly woman-to-woman comments) so much as disingenuous. I try not to say them (‘really nice’ is pitifully the highest such compliment I can muster), but when I hear them I can’t consider them anything but the platitudes of a Heat follower.

People on these shows sincerely use phrases like ‘executive decision’ or ‘glamorous’ to describe things that to the viewer are patently the opposite. Orwell’s doublethink entailed maintaining opposing views without any internal conflict; this is expressing a view you genuinely believe to be true that is diametrically false. What’s a good word for that? Bubblethink: holding opinions in a bubble unpenetrable by objective external facts? Probably not. Urony: an unintentionally ironic comment made by someone who does not doubt the absolute truth of what they are saying? I don’t know. I’m no good with puns.

BPP said...

I'd do the best saleswoman in Europe, mind.