Thursday, February 02, 2017

No laughing matter

Phil Harrison's assessment of Chris Morris' Brass Eye, 20 years after it was first screened, is for the most part astute. For instance, he observes (among other things) that "it actively required repeat viewings", that it helped to bring about a specific change in the broadcasting code (as well as influencing a whole raft of pale imitations) and that it appeared at "a cultural and historical sweet spot" when risk-taking was easier (even if Morris did test the limits "more fearlessly than most" and "did so with greater moral purpose").

However, I'm not so sure about his concluding point that "a glance at the current state of media and politics suggests we need the likes of Chris Morris more than ever". It's true, of course, that Brass Eye (even more so than its predecessor, the spoof news programme The Day Today) was "a show about ignorance and hypocrisy - about celebrities blindly parroting scripts that ten minutes of research would have confirmed as ludicrous; about news outlets manipulating and preaching and wallowing in self-orchestrated moral panics". But the problem for Morris - and anyone else who might try something similar, for that matter - is that what's now served up to us daily by the news media is often essentially indistinguishable from parody, a fact that is no longer hilarious, merely horrifying. There is now practically no space left in which Morris could profitably operate - hence why, I'd suggest, he's resisted any temptation to resurrect Brass Eye.

(Thanks to Adam for the link.)

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