By Tom Penn
When I was a young boy my dad used to tell me that watching Neighbours would turn my brain to mush, and with the benefit of hindsight, he was absolutely correct – although oddly enough he never told me to switch it off. Perhaps this in part explains why, after having watched the Twin Towers collapse whilst in my local pub – pint in hand, pea soup in skull – I remained ignorant to the ramifications of the event until at least 2014; long after the Tony Blair Witch Project had ‘gotten away with it.’
Now it is my father’s generation who consume just as voraciously as their offspring, the infantilising tripe that the butchers of intellect force-feed us – their foie gras goslings – in order to fatten the livers of our insensibility and reduce us down to some kind of profitable, puerile pate; to smear on their spreadsheets at apéritif. Nowadays, the adult population can often seem little more than big, hairy babies; wanting only to play with their smart-toys and watch the goggle-box – and just as frequently full of mushy crap.
One way of attempting to answer the question of just how we gave up our legal right to think post-26/3 (not very marketable is it) is to look at how childish the design and thematic content of our ocular-dependencies and leisure-gadgets has become.
Sombrely informed that the plague has washed up on our shores, of course we’ll fill our nappies and then strap them to our faces – like state-issue nosebags – because we inhabit a patronising, fairy-tale universe of humiliating advertising, Dragons and Goblins, romanticised suffering, and high-tech, low-substance pacifiers. Any ominous threat seeking to intrude upon our endless play-date at the fantasy petting-zoo of Butlins Britain, will be quite naturally amplified once set against the Smurfish backdrop of the cosseting, imaginary worlds in which we reside, and will therefore be taken very seriously indeed.
We’ll triple-check a door we’ve just locked, just in case; to prove to ourselves that in no way could a sleight of hand – by a bogeyman lurking in the bushes, intent on ransacking our home – outsmart the mechanism. But ask us to double-check that we are indeed under attack from Fluella de Vil’s Killer Droplets, and not more accurately, a highly-selective virus of miniscule threat to most – you know, just in case our faculties are being burgled – and we’ll baulk at the prospect of having to momentarily depart Wonderland to investigate. We’ll throw a tantrum and then stomp off into cyberspace, or hop on our e-scooters to go and fly our drones, in the peace and quiet of a recreational space pulsating with portable Bluetooth speakers. If Ministers are saying that a Chinese Dracula has flown a jumbo-sized, infected bat into Alton Towers, and that we must all go home to hide under the stairs in groups of six, then of course we’ll do it, so puréed are our senses; so processed our priorities.
If, as adults, our heroes are still the now-transmogrified, hideous telecast-harlequins of our youth, whose puerile yackety-yak, sinister buffoonery, plasticised features, and preposterous panto-costumes we guzzle up with the demented, gullible cheer of 6-year-olds; and if all our playthings and gimcracks must still in some way reflect totemic allegiance to the lifestyle brandings of the babyish broadcasts on which we suckle, then, beguiled by the simpletons of the world – the glitterati – and attempting pathetically to inhabit the realms in which they prance and prattle around, when Top Brass announce that the actual devil is at the gates, who will we trust to beat him back on our behalf? That’s right – Chuck Boris, Matt Hancock Alan Partridge, Jean-Claude Van-Tam, and their team of scientist Thundercats. They’ll protect Castle Grayskull from Skeletor’s hot, foul breath. We need only navigate the new behavioural platform-game they have designed to help us outwit his evil exhalations at every turn. Every venture into the outside world will be like a challenge from Crystal Maze; a puzzle to be solved within the now contagious labyrinth of our booby-trapped neighbourhoods. If we succeed – then just like the Goonies – One-eyed Whitty’s treasure-chest of liberty will be ours, and Washington will be saved. If we fail, we’ll be incarcerated in a holding pattern – like Tom Hanks in The Terminal – and be forced to remain inside until our original identities have been given clearance to return.
We don’t stand a chance against the paedophile of Parliament if we carry on as if life were a Hollywood blockbuster – albeit a pirated copy, dubbed into the new lexicon of the Propagandacene; by Hodor. We don’t need to be bribed with MSM gobstoppers into surrendering our will: we spend every available hour sucking on our own. We’re big boys and girls now, and use our freedom-coins to buy the sherbet of our own abidance; in whatever our favourite flavour happens to be that day. Then, sufficiently high on conformity, we go for a spin on our e-bikes, convinced beyond all reasonable doubt that the giddy rush of assisted propulsion is in fact our new-found Lance Armstrong esque super-fitness, and not a battery. We’re doped.
Imagine a beautiful, innocent young angel of a girl playing with her dolls for hours in the pink, candyfloss never-never land of her bedroom; ensconced in the decorative Disney imagery so soothing to naive, delicate little souls – her safe place. She’s whispering to them, combing their hair, and dressing them up for the Fairy Ball, oblivious to all but the swaddling delight of her romantic escapism. It’s soon time for beddy-byes though, and after tenderly coaxed into putting away the prized possessions around which the dreams of infancy revolve, she scampers to the bathroom in Finding Nemo jim-jams to brush her impish, round teeth with bubble-gum flavoured paste using a Little Mermaid electric toothbrush – her sweet, underdeveloped brain and fun-sized, lily-white arms not yet able to adequately clean out the remnants of alphabeti-spaghetti and Haribo, without a little gentle support. Then, our little hummingbird-princess frog-leaps into her marshmallowy nest, to the hushed, lulling tones of a lovingly narrated bedtime story about mischievous woodland animals and their benign, wizard leader; as she snuggles down into deliciously warm Moana bed-linen, clutching her favourite Care Bear. Lights dimmed, the illuminous stars on the ceiling above her cherubic face begin magically to glow, as her little mind – permeated with wonder – falls drowsy, and tip-toes imperceptibly off to the land of nod. Aaah, utter bliss.
Then, all of a sudden cackling maniacally, her mother violently straps her down, super-glues her eyelids open, whips out a laptop and terrorises her psyche with a full volume, Dolby surround-sound, HD showing of The Conjuring, quickly followed by The Human Centipede; all the while snarling that she’s going to kill her own granny – and her best friend’s granddad – because she’s a selfish, wicked, disobedient little troll.
Parenting 101: SAGE style. Suitable for ages 1 to 100. May cause distressing neurological disruption. If symptoms persist please consult the NHS app.
Project Petrify was bound to induce hysterical fear. Little wonder we put paintings of rainbows in our bedroom windows, and clapped on our doorsteps – like superstitious, medieval peasants warding off the hocus-pocus of a rumoured witch in the shire.
Several years ago, weary of my inability to fill the stomach of my evenings with anything other than bland, televisual-porridge, I went cold-turkey and gave up watching fiction – of any sort, any length and on any platform. It was quickly replaced by a hoggish consumption of documentaries, which in turn was superseded by football; itself then losing appeal due to the introduction of the very same technology being currently used to dilute the enjoyment of life itself – VAR: Vanquish All Risk. I don’t remember the last time I watched a movie. I’d finally grown bored of slurping on gloop. The dysentery it caused was dehydrating my identity.
You are not the Catwoman of your street, no matter how skinny a pair of faux-leather tights you’ve managed to wriggle into, and despite your monumental efforts, nobody in your neighbourhood thinks you are Leonidas from 300. Neither are you the Wolf of Wall Street or the Jim Carrey of your workplace. A surf van doesn’t turn your life into Big Wednesday, and when you swagger along the high street there are a total of zero people who give a tinker’s cuss about whatever genre of make-believe aura you have adopted for the outing.
The only people who are thoroughly captivated by your ceaseless identity crisis are Government; because whilst you’re fannying and farting around trying to make manifest in your life the idealised fabrications, and glorified misery of the entertainment industry’s cooked-up, crooked sales agents, they’ll bring the curtain down on any sense of authenticity without you even knowing it; because how could you?
You are not John Snow, and I am not some hip, urban oracle, but winter is coming. It won’t be a normal one, that much is patently obvious. To what extent it may or may not resemble the halcyon winters of our youth – or even that of the 2019/20 tax year – is yet to be revealed; once SEGA SAGE iron-out the bugs on the app version of The Truman Show 4.
Set yourself a challenge: by the time the official grand opening of the flu season arrives – to coincide with the game’s release – try and have vaccinated yourself against fiction. That way we can all stop living in the stinging, soapy cells spuming out of Government’s new Bubble-making Machine – it’s we forever blowing them after all.