Friday, 19 October 2007

Emperor Ming, Pot Plants, Cromwell and Beautiful People

So the liberal emperor Ming (can the liberal democrats have emperors?) has packed up his pot plant, put his desk tidy and framed photos into a small cardboard box and moved out of his office. Was he too old and doddery to lead a political party or a victim of rampant ageism? Who knows, perhaps it isn’t age, it’s a question of being photogenic. Robert Retford is older than Ming I believe but I think he might not have been pushed out so quickly as the camera loves him. Gordon Brown is not exactly the stuff that the camera dreams of but then he did slip in on baby faced Blair’s coat tails. Cameron, a good looking boy, looks at least half way decent through a lens and no doubt this was a factor in his choice. Is it really about age, I tend to think it’s about how those that choose think the shallow voting public will see their chosen one. I am sure given the choice between a gorgeous looking articulate fascist who is at ease in front of the camera and an old crone of a liberal who can’t seem to get the hang of being media friendly there may be some who would be swayed purely by the media package they are presented with. How can you run a country if you are really ugly and are not at ease with Jeremy Paxman? Are only the beautiful fit to govern? In the past of course our leaders could get away with not looking the bees knees as there was no television or photographs. Disraeli, Gladstone, Canning were less that gorgeous but they played the wise old sage card really well then better than MacMillan or Alex Douglas Hume (now there was a man who’s screaming skull looks certainly put off the voter)

I have a small problem with only the young ( under 50’s) being thought capable of governing but I have the greater problem with the concept of only the beautiful. This may of course be based on the fact that I am not photogenic; I hate being photographed and know that should my photograph be placed on a book the sales would probably dip. I am told this is a woman’s issue. Men do not have this as an issue however I note that many male writers and poets have photographs of their younger selves on their book covers. Personal vanity or a certain belief that how you look may lose you punters, just as in politics, seems to quite pervasive. Would I ignore a book simply because the author is old and ugly? Being perverse I might actually buy a book because the writer has a long track record and shed loads of life experience and their face on the dust jacket looks suitably raddled by a life lived. I know of course that the use of that word ‘ugly’ alone is very un PC. People have their own kind of beauty, both physical and spiritual, no one is ugly everyone is beautiful, literature and politics is too important to take account of such facile and superficial things. Did I see pigs flying past my window as I was typing just then? I note that publishers and the market often refer to a new young writer but not a new beautiful/handsome writer but now and then you have a sense that they are implying the latter comes with the former.
I watched a new reality show the other night it was to choose classical musicians for a high profile recording and media contract. Those that played well but as one judge said weren’t easy on the eye seemed to be having an uphill struggle to be in the running. Character was useful but the violinist with long dark hair and classical good looks got the benefit of the doubt whereas the more acne ridden ones got the boot. It perhaps was ever thus but with quick access to TV and images, who you are and what you are gets packaged and presented in terms of how you look. Byron of course could sell a good media package but the older Wordsworth and probably Tennyson would have been urged to keep their photo off their latest collection these days or at least have a very small one managed by photoshop. I urge myself to think that age and looks is totally immaterial in the world of literature, people who buy books and poetry collections don’t give a damn about such things. I urge myself but I keep catching the tail of that flying pig in the corner of my eye.

I come from the fens where Cromwell roamed the fields as a boy poking things with a big stick. He famously ordered an artist to paint him warts and all…no photoshop for him. Here was a politician who was at pains to present himself as he was. No doubt if he were around now his media advisers might be advising discreet wart removal at the very least but more probably there would be dark rumblings within the Puritan Party and before you could say ‘No camera close ups at the party conference’ Oliver would be packing his pot plant.

I post above the picture of a Brazilian man who won 'The World's Most Beautiful Man Contest'. Now be honest this blogger, if he turned up on my doorstep as a local politician would I be more inclined to give him the time to explain his policies? If he were an unknown poet would I be just a tad more open to hearing him read at a local venue? Gentlemen and ladies who prefer blondes you will have to image whatever rocks your boat to answer that question!

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