Thursday, 24 September 2009

A Review of The Inbetweeners

I recall reading a sociology book some time ago about the English as a people. The main argumentative string was that the English are socially inept. (How insightful). The thing is that I have the impression that all the people, wherever I lived, see themselves as handicapped when communicating with people from other countries. The only ones who tend to think their people are ‘sociable’ are those individuals who then spend their time roaring like sea-lions in pubs and generally getting on everyone’s nerves. Typically, they also fail to get anything like female company unless it’s an out-of-luck transvestite and they’re so drunk they can’t figure it out. The last sentence only applies to the male ‘sociable’ guys, but mistake me not – there’s also the female version, normally expressed in something like a radical Christian girl belonging to the Church of the Presbiterian Schwlopping from the far mountains of Southern Austria or whatever. These girls are extraordinarily proactive and are at their most dangerous when an instantiation of karaoke is taking place. Take a single girl capable of speaking in tongues and you can empty a crowded pub in the space of less than fifteen seconds! (For the record, much like the ‘sociable’ men do not pull for shit, these girls do no-one the favour of offering some love, not even to their own husbands if they have any, which even by Christian standards has to be blasphemous).

Anyway, I was sitting as happy as a pear the other day in the break-room of my ‘office’ (if you can call a restaurant with two floors full of kids screaming louder than the lead singer of Linkin Park an ‘office’), when this friend of mine put on a DVD. It was a TV series which apparently goes very much in Britain, called The Inbetweeners. A brief sample of the stuff can be found here: I wish to dedicate this post to take a look at this British oeuvre. The story centres around four high-school kids who are, go and guess this, socially inept. One of them is quite the normal guy, but he seems to have all the good judgment of a suicide bomber attacking a mall during a bank holiday; he is in love with The Dumb Blonde of the day, who is not supposed to be The Dumb Blonde but The Cute Blonde, but is in fact so dumb that she either deserves the Oscar prize for Best Actress or she was born with half the natural share of skull-cream and was picked up for her genuine disposition to the role. The second guy is a sexual pervert who constantly claims to have fucked girls more often and in more circumstances than he has warmed up the palm of his hand. The third one is a weirdo whom I can’t really define (the guy dresses like an ape for his job, can’t come to terms with the fact that his father sucks cock, mercy-kills fish with his bare hands and is the only guy who somehow manages to get some sex going).

The fourth and final guy is the protagonist, a character with glasses whom I can’t figure out for the life of me. Leaving aside a couple of deus ex machina slip-ups, this guy is not only very smart but incredibly witty, yet he seems to become instantly ostracised wherever he goes. It’s like the act of wearing glasses makes you a nerd. By that logic wearing a sombrero makes you a Mexican. So the first series follows the misadventures of this gangly group of lobs as they consistently make fools of themselves in all the typical English coming-of-age experiences, from drinking under-aged to getting a driving license to trying to chat up girls to other stuff. By the end of the series, absolutely nothing is resolved or has been changed, yet somehow The Dumb Blonde falls in love with the cretin who is in love with her. If you’re wondering how this is possible, then don’t bother asking – I don’t have the slightest fucking notion. He never does anything other than make a complete idiot of himself (even implausibly vomiting over her little brother in a scene worthy of a Tucker Max tale), yet she finds him irresistibly cute.

The ending is meant to be educational – it is an old trope in coming-of-age narratives which teaches that romance is out of our control and that eventually things will follow their natural course (in the soppiest cases, in fact, it is suggested that this lack of control is precisely the ‘magic’ of romance). But this is an example of how bad execution can turn a timeless trope into nothing more than a cliché. Much like the protagonist is poorly characterised because it doesn’t make sense that someone so smart should meet with such social closure, so there is nothing to tell us why The Dumb Blonde should get attached to this dick, other than her being Dumb (so at least they’ll make a nice couple). This highlights a problem with the series throughout – all of the female characters are incredibly flat, posing as no more than cardboard cut-outs who stand there and offer one of two acts: 1.) Flaunting the power of their sexuality, be it by acting in a way that is seductive (wittingly or unwittingly) or simply by denying social acceptance to the men, and 2.) responding to whatever ‘hilarious’ demonstration of social ineptitude by frowning and going ‘What are you doing?’ or ‘What do you mean?’. The entire frigging show has no more than two facial expressions for its female characters! Where the hell are we, in an episode of Scooby Doo? There’s got to be more than ‘flirtatious’ and ‘frowning’ that can be done with the human face, surely.

I wish to state that I have great respect for British television, more so than for any other television in Europe. But The Inbetweeners is a very poor show. There’s some flashes of wit in the script and some of the situations have some humour, but mostly it is too stretched from plausibility and too predictable in its clichés to ever be truly immersive. Ultimately its juvenile bullshit means that it is a typical case of a work of art standing as an example of that which it wishes to represent (it performs that which it claims to satirise, appeals to the world which it wishes to deconstruct, and so on). This is a very common fallacy in art and learning how to recognise it is an excellent critical tool to possess (for an easy example, EVERY film produced by Zack Snyder displays this fallacy). The Inbetweeners is worth watching to practice this tool, but for almost no other reason at all.

Monday, 14 September 2009


Rightcha! I've decided I'm going to go all retrospective again and speak of another thing that happened to me when I was but a fresher!

One tool that was offered to students at the beginning of the year was Blackboard, an internet forum where freshers could post questions and discussions. It was used only and exclusively by the nerds. In fact it might as well have been called the Nerd Club considering the long discussions on the poetics of Orwell’s Animal Farm posted by the eighteen-year-olds who hung around (with myself at the very helm). There was also the feminine equivalent of those discussions, which were the same thing except that they went on about which guy Jane Austen was marrying to which heroine in whichever of her endlessly tedious novels we had the misfortune of studying. (The tediousness of Jane Austen’s novels has always been one of the greatest and most resolute subjects of disagreement between me and women. To this date I have no idea what the fuck there is of appealing in her round-robin of marriages in which nobody gets shot, fucked or at least killed if not by the most idiotic of methods, like falling off a horse or getting tuberculosis).

One day someone on Blackboard leaves a post saying, ‘Hey, let’s organise a meeting among bookworms.’ And I’m like, yeah, let’s do it. There are quite a few responses on the site, so I am expecting a proper social. It is therefore something of a surprise for me when, presenting myself at the entrance of the Union Pub, I am confronted with the solitude and the melancholy of a Celtic funerary urn. There is no-one there except for one other fellow whom I met once at the end of a seminar and who had struck me by no particular feature other than his being a Lord of the Rings profound expert (read: a fucking nerd). The guy has all the conversational skills of a dead mollusc so I am not too thrilled at the idea of having to spend the night with him. However it’s not like I’ve got a crowd of strippers waiting for me at home, so I suggest that we get a couple of drinks. We do so, then we sit down and start drinking.

The conversation is mortally boring. The guy seems to think that the publishing dates of the first Lord of the Rings copies would be the topic to end all topics and he goes on about it for approximately half an hour. If my life were a sitcom, this guy would get flamed for being cliché. Not even fictional nerds are so monothematic. About halfway through the night (as one would expect), two of the girls who were supposed to be part of the group showed up.

‘Are you guys the only ones here?,’ they ask. Just to drive in the humiliation.

We get them to sit down and immediately the guy on my left asks them if they’ve read the Silmarillion by any chance. I take my head in my hands and am pondering whether to drown myself in the beer or whether to break it on the idiot’s forehead. Fortunately the two girls are a little more fun than the guy and the night picks up a little, to the point that another pint later they invite us up to their college (an offer which sounds really enticing, but which in reality was not at all for two reasons, the first being that there was no sex even remotely hinted towards, and the second being that even if there had been, the girls had two faces like a pair of omelettes loosely bashed together stuck on top of two bodies like public water cisterns).

So we go up to their place, and that’s where the tragedy takes place: I insult their poster of Russell Crowe in Gladiator. It’s like I had insulted the ancestors who fought in the One Hundred Years War for their families. They get up in a rage and start defending their idol. I am rather drunkish by this stage and I have the impression that if I let it go, then the other guy will start talking about Frodo and Pippin, so I keep up the talk and go into pretty extensive detail as to what Russell Crowe does between three and four a.m. in the gay quarters of Rome.

The girls are offended. They sit down, cross their arms and start talking among themselves. I really don’t want to speak about Gandalf, so I temporarily walk away from my friend and sit down in front of the computer. I check out, in succession, my e-mail and my forums. Finally I pop over onto Blackboard.

One of the girl calls me to tell me how anti-social I am being (after she had been the one to freeze me out) so I leave the computer and go there to have my say. Eventually the beer dissolves all tensions and we are having a nice chat.

At around half-midnight, the girls have to go to sleep and me and my friend are unceremoniously kicked out of the room. What with the alcohol I am starting to feel like making a pass, so it’s a blessing from heaven that I am not allowed the time – not only would I have felt bad on the night if they had rejected me, as was likely (tremendously likely, to be punctilious), I would have felt far worse in the morning in the unlikely event that that pair of walking pizzas had consented. Amen.

We wander like lost leaves for about half an hour. Eventually we find someone whom we know vaguely and who is still awake, so we spend three of those pointless hours one spends when one is drunk, watching meaningless videos on the internet. Finally I go back to my place and fall asleep.

I have to wake up early the next day because I have a two-day road trip with a couple of fellows from the literature department to go and see some medieval castles (or what was left of them – from my recollection it wasn’t so much a castle as six or seven rocks taken up there in a sack and thrown about in the grass, but what do I know). I go there in a state of considerable tiredness of course, but it makes for a good two days all things considered and we have some fun.

When I come back home, I switch on the computer. I check several internet sites, then I end up on Blackboard. I check my list of unread messages, and I find a strange topic entitled, ‘Regarding poetry.’ I crease my brows – it had been opened by me. I click on the link and read the following paragraph:

Not to be crass here, but does anyone else think that Japanese porn is so much better than Western porn? The core of the dialogue is a bit silly at times but the effect of the animation is so much better than those saggy-boobed Eastern European ladies, those always make my balls pull back in shivers xx

Oh. My. God.

Below that are the comments of several professors pretending to be ‘anonymous students’ and kindly suggesting their disapproval. Most of them start with phrases like ‘Oh dear’ or ‘My, my.’ I don’t know which are more embarrassing – if those, or the comments of some fellow students who applaud what is obviously an act of drunken bravado and encourage me to repeat myself in the feat. I barely even register them. I am thinking of those two flying bints with whom I’d had the Russell Crowe argument two nights ago. Obviously I had left the Blackboard account open on their computers and their act of revenge had been consumed by such lateral means.

‘We assumed you’d delete it within ten minutes,’ one of them later exculpated herself. Ten minutes? Ten freaking minutes?? ‘We didn’t know you were going off for that country-hick trip of yours,’ she continued. What pisses me off is that the fucking thing stayed up for thirty-six hours as a consequence of my trip to the jungle, and she wasn’t even trying to look serious while she told me all this. In fact she was laughing.

I never used Blackboard again, and I have yet to see the film Gladiator without cringing. Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose, and sometimes I don’t want even want to talk about it.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Shopping for girls

Friends and allies,

If there’s something I hate it’s that way that vomit has of rebounding onto the concrete and returning like a bloody boomerang onto your shoes. Not that they were new shoes, mind you – I needed to buy a fresh pair anyway. But the fact that destiny should remind me with the tidal wave method was a little jarring.

I understand that that’s a bit of a drab opening (“ooh look at me, I got drunk the other day, I’m like, so cool!”), especially considering I haven’t put a word in a blog since Matusalem’s grandfather was conceived, but I’m afraid it was the necessary prologue – both to my writing, and to its subject. You see, I underwent a revelation. An epiphany, if you like. One of those things in which you stare absently at a light bulb for an hour until eventually some bird comes pecking on one of your nuts and you suddenly figure out ‘Oh my God, that hurts like hell’ and finally wake up to send the bird away. Imagine what that must be like. That’s the kind of thing you wouldn’t expect to have happened even to Christ while he was on the cross, and yet we all undergo some major revelation at some stage in our lives which allows for the woodpeckers or robins or whatever comes by to hit a trance rhythm on our balls.

I’m sure your expectations by now have mounted as high as my aforementioned vomit in my throat, so before they fall back down to the ground (again like my aforementioned…), here’s the meat and the potato: I have understood what shopping is like for girls! I had to tour a couple of stores to find some new shoes, and I’ve comprehended what this activity means for the ladies. It’s basically like clubbing in the day-time. You walk into the shop and you’re sledge-hammered in the face by some blaring grunge music which always reminds me of a lorry crashing into a small house and breaking it down, there’s bodyguards outside and a crowd inside that runs like they were in the Pamplona bull race, God knows what for. If you’ve seen the film Platoon, then it’s just like that: an Indochinese warfare for the friggin’ shoe-shelves, charges and digging trenches, people weeping in a corner, huddled up and screaming “I can’t take it! I can’t take it!” and mortars covering the perfume sections… something. Got carried away a little.

Now that you’ve finally resolved this question of incredible interest to you about the fact that I’ve got new shoes, we can talk about something more interesting – like the weather. Well it’s been a couple of degrees short of the ice age over here and I can barely walk at night, let alone falter, the grass-fields outside in the morning are as white as Hillary Clinton’s ass after she’s rubbed it with sour cream (that was the worst analogy I’ve ever used), and I’m working like a bitch night and day. I was reading Tennyson’s Maud the other day and tonight I went to see a live poetry event which was dominated by a beat poetry hip hop guy who looked like he didn’t have the strength to inject enough cocaine into his dick to stand up straight (I mean him, not the dick). As far as lowering one’s standards goes, that’s got to be up there with Tom Cruise going from banging Nicole Kidman to eating the placenta of that black-haired goat-resembling girl he’s shagging now (or whatever else he’s done in the gross cultic bullshit he undergoes with his fellow priests – was it something like showering with the amniotic fluid? I’m not even joking. But whatever).

One of the links that led me to writing on this site has been sports, so I thought I may say a couple of words about that. Unfortunately, this conjuncture catches me with all the good timing of a Kamikaze pilot crashing on his own fishing boat on the day that his father is testing the new nets. I follow football, where by football I mean what yanks bizarrely call ‘soccer’ like it’s a sport for people who get socked (the only other etymological link I can find between the two has to do with socks, and I’m passing on that. To my knowledge footballers never did wear kinds of socks so peculiar and distinctive that their entire sport would come to be identified by that name. By this logic we might call the sport of Swimming ‘Bermudas’ because people used to wear Bermudas back then. ‘Hey look, Michael Phelps just won eight gold medals in Bermudas, his mother must be so proud.’). Anyway, going back to the pre-parenthesis oratory, I was saying that this is a severely difficult time for me to speak of football because of the current state of AS Roma, the squad I support in Serie A. The team’s form lately has been less that of a football team and more that of eleven sacks of shit thrown randomly onto the field and expected to run and shoot together like it had been implanted in their DNA. Every time I see them play this year it reminds me of a battle I saw once in a documentary where a band of chimps repelled the onslaught of a solitary camera-man by storming him with cannon-balls of turd. In this case the role of the camera-man is mine and Roma represent the party throwing shit at me for watching. As someone else once said, I would rather fuck the Queen of England than write about how we have been doing in that sport, so I think I’m going to close this dissertation here before it pisses me off.

Oi, begorrah! Onwards ye masses!

ACKNOWLEDGMENT: Debt is owed to Max Tyler for some of the material in the first paragraphs of this entry!