Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Unsigned contracts

Having recently had a particularly nasty experience with a 'verbal contract', Charlie Brooker's latest on the Faustian pact that celebrities have all formally signed in front of witnesses rang a few bells.

"...from here on in, anything negative that happens to you has been instantly rendered hilarious. Lost your mind? Haaaaaa haaaaaa haaaaaa. Lost your children? Haaaaa haaaaa haaaaa. Here's hoping you get drunk and stumble into a threshing machine so we can print out the pictures and stick them on the office noticeboard and laugh till our noses run."
One point he doesn't make here, so I will: Why is it assumed that - because somebody promotes their career in light entertainment by courting the newspapers - that they automatically become fair game for any amount of intrusion, ridicule, insult, baiting or blackmailing? And what about the people around them? Their families and friends?

I know that in a half-educated media-studies sort of way, they have signed a formal contract in which they get celeb-related revenue in return for all of the above, but .... well... they haven't really, have they? It's a bit like 'constitutional issues' in this country. We haven't got a constitution.

I'd strain this point as far as, but not beyond, the notion of the Social Contract. The Social Contract is a big thing - it's what stands between us and a Hobbesian State of Nature. It's so big, and so central to every aspect of our life, that we can be considered to have signed it. But The British Constitution? Or The Celebrity Treaty With The Tabloids?

Being a good metaphor doesn't make it a good fact, does it?

2 comments:

stephen said...

I know that in a half-educated media-studies sort of way, they have signed a formal contract in which they get celeb-related revenue in return for all of the above

How about, if you sleep with dogs you may catch fleas? If you court the media to plug your latest film, book or hobby horse then you are likely to be of more interest to the same media when you do something newsworthy yourself, like being caught tired and emotional in a public place. The rich and famous have more than enough allies and ways of fighting back when they become the subject of unwanted press intrusion. I am rather more concerned about the rights of ordinary members of the public who find themselves the subject of unwarranted press intrusion. The haven't the means to sue and can't engage Max Clifford to tell their side of the story. But then they also don't give large donations to political parties so no one in our political establishment gives a flying fuck about them. Witness Cameron courting Murdoch as assiduously as Blair before the 97 election.

Paulie said...

Yes Stephen. As I said, "in a half-educated media-studies sort of way, they have signed a formal contract in which they get celeb-related revenue in return for all of the above."