Charlie Brooker on “Kony 2012”

Charlie Brooker’s rant about the Kony 2012 viral video, as seen on the British comedy program 10 O’Clock Live last week, including the round-table discussion that followed.

Along with countless millions of others, I watched the “Kony 2012” video recently, but unlike most, was completely creeped out by it. In fact, I couldn’t even make it through the whole thing because it was so incredibly puerile. Nice to see my intuition corroborated to some degree by Brooker’s focus on the “strange, weird, culty side” of this dubious marketing campaign/social media phenomenon. As David Mitchell said of the film’s director Jason Russell, “Nobody that certain can fail to be a maniac.”

Charlie Brooker’s 2011 Wipe

To end the year on a fittingly sardonic note, here’s Charlie Brooker’s brilliant take on the past twelve months as darkly viewed through the pop culture lens of a jaded media critic:

If nothing else, you can just skip about half way through the video to enjoy a short documentary gem by Adam Curtis about “how Rupert Murdoch took over the old newspapers of Fleet Street and used them to wage a cultural revolution against the snobbish elites that dominated Britain…”

This short film not only provides a succinctly plausible explanation of the “weird logic” behind the rise of Murdoch’s media empire, but suggests that the same populism once driving the success of its luridly intrusive tabloids has now digitally metastasized itself in the form of… Google.

It Felt Like a Kiss

And now for something completely different… This “documentary” by British filmmaker Adam Curtis is a story about America and how, starting in 1959, it set out not only to remake the world, but our lives and imaginations.

Writing in The Guardian back in 2009 when it debuted as part of a multimedia theatrical experience commissioned for the Manchester International Festival, Charlie Brooker described it this way:

…where his preceding works have occasionally been a touch eccentric, this one takes the piss. It is completely and utterly demented – in a positive way. I’m not saying it doesn’t make sense; if anything, it forges its own new brand of coherence whether you like it or not. This is a documentary running on alien software. I’m at a loss to describe it. For starters, the trademark Curtis voiceover has gone completely, replaced instead by occasional, simple captions. Music is at the forefront. Ominous soundscapes and bubblegum pop weave their way around the images: archive news, Hollywood movies. It’s hypnotic.

The film’s title comes from a Carole King song that describes how “he hit me and it felt like a kiss” and that was produced, eerily enough, by Phil Spector.


In part six of How Television Ruined Your Life, how its notion of informative programming has devolved over the years; from leisurely tours of venerable intellectual concepts guided by boffins like Sir Kenneth Clark and Dr. Jacob Bronowski, to a motley collection of ostensibly “real” fact-bending simulations of supernatural nonsense, grandiose visual spectaculars drawn from dubious prehistorical hypotheses, fatuous online conspiracy bumwash, and thoroughly inane drivel fronted by globe-trotting celebrity presenters.

“TV’s relationship with information has taken fact on a lengthy and unusual journey. Documentaries morphed from high-brow historical lecturing into low-brow, pantomime historical re-mixing… And our taste for experts shifted from knowledgeable, respected academics to tit-witted celebrity puppets. And what about those fact-based dramas? Well this traditional sense of reverence soon got pissed through a tinsel coated hosepipe. Where once the Tudors looked like old paintings, TV now portrayed them like the cast of a sex-crazed 16th century take on Hollyoaks. And the news went from a basic, unemotional explanation of the facts to a non-stop entertainment format sold on the basis of its emotive impact.”


The fifth installment of Charlie Brooker’s How TV Ruined Your Life examines how television has warped our relationship with technology.

It’s somewhat surprising that Brooker failed to mention Star Trek, which since it debuted in 1966, has surely one of the most influential TV programs in terms of shaping people’s attitudes towards technology.


The fourth installment of Charlie Brooker’s new series, this time about how TV has warped our expectations of romance; which in his case appear so low as to be absolutely subterranean. “I suppose chewing gum is a pretty good metaphor for most romance,” Brooker says while commenting on a particularly insipid advertisement for Wrigleys. “After the initial burst of excitement you soon find yourself just going through the motions, really, while your interest drains away, and then you end up spitting it out into a hankie.” Ouch.

Although Brooker’s deeply misanthropic take on the notion of “love” itself arguably spoils the otherwise irrefutable logic of his critique in this instance, it’s nonetheless filled with scads of wickedly enjoyable material.

The Lifecycle

The second installment of Charlie Brooker’s brilliant new series How TV Ruined Your Life demonstrates how television has something to infuriate anyone of any age.

“In summary then, TV has never quite got you. When you’re a kiddywink, it’s just a meaningless light source. When you’re young, it either demonizes or patronizes you. When you’re in your middle years, it makes you feel too old by ruthlessly highlighting your flaws. When you’re older than that, it wipes you offscreen altogether leaving you feeling socially irrelevant. And when you’re really old, it sneaks into your room in the dead of night, holds a pillow over your face and quite literally murders you with invisible electric hands. What a monster!”


How TV Ruined Your Life

Here’s the first installment of Charlie Brooker’s new six-part BBC2 series that explores different universal themes in an attempt to explain the gaping chasm between television and real life.

From the vantage of a darkened, chaotically jumbled viewing room, perched on his now familiar leather couch, a disheveled Brooker cynically examines a bizarre archive of petrifying PSAs (or PIFs as they’re called in Britain) that have over the years appeared on the “warning box” attempting to scare the piss out of people, ostensibly for reasons of public safety.

Other fear-inducing aspects of television’s perilous world are also touched on as Brooker grimly hopscotches through subjects as diverse as creepy children’s programming from the 70s and the proliferation of dismal shows based on apocalyptic nuclear scenarios that enjoyed a strangely popular fascination in the 80s.

Along the way, Brooker dismissively slaps around hysterical, crime and terror obsessed TV news coverage, as well as all manner of frightening programs designed to alert an increasingly anxious viewing audience to the dangers of new potential threats; from the mundane to the improbably hypothetical. Or, in the case of the satirical sketch “If Pens Got Hot…” a brilliant combination of both.

p.s. More information about theory mentioned in the program which asserts that TV viewing “cultivates” distorted perceptions of the real world can be found here. In fairness, it should also be mentioned that other sociologists have subsequently disputed the findings of Gerbner et al., contending the “cultivation” hypothesis lacks empirical support or any scientific basis in fact.

H/T: Thanks once again to Shiner in the comments for alerting me to this wonderful new series and to lemonandjack for posting it on YouTube so quickly.