I find Charlie Brooker a very good albeit irreverent pundit on the media. He has produced a number of series on this subject, particularly television and has latest series showen in the UK on BBC 2 “How TV Ruined Your Life” was broadcast earlier this year.
The six part series examined the influence of the television media and how it has become all pervasive and in many ways misleading peoples vision of the real world. The episode entitled “Knowledge” examined the rise of news presentation and the documentary and how it has been distorted since scholarly and seminal works such as Clark’s “Civilisation” and Bronowski’s “Ascent of Man” were produced in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.
An area of particular interest was the rise of the cult of the TV celebrity were various celebrities had been chosen to front documentaries and whose qualifications to do so were based not in their academic knowledge or direct experience of the subject matter but because they were “famous” and may have had some form of factious association with the subject matter being displayed.
This strand start at approximately 19:30 minutes into the documentary.
Due to his portrayal of former soldier and hard-man in the soap opera “Eastenders” Ross Kemp was asked to front a documentary “Ross Kemp in Afghanistan” about British soldiers fighting in the war in the aforementioned country. In a more bizarre twist actor Danny Dyer was shown presenting a documentary on UFO’s called with little ambiguity or sense of irony: “I Believe in UFOs”. To my knowledge Dyer has little or know experience or qualifications in the subject of the paranormal.
Perhaps the most disturbing thing - and that the reason that stimulated this blog posting - was issues that relate to animal-welfare; a subject area that needs cold and reasoned argument. Actor Stephen Tompkinson famous for playing an African vet in “Wild at Heart” was seconded to present a documentary “Stephen Tompkinson's Great African Balloon Adventure” in which it seemed his fictional character as a vet seemed to meld from fiction to reality with him stating at one point: “I will test my veterinary expertise with some of the hardest working vets in the world”. Tompkinson is an actor not a vet.
In the final strand of the section it was noted that Joanna Lumley - a high profile supporter of animal-rights groups such as the Born Free Foundation – was commissioned to front a documentary on the domestic cat who rather coyly admitted that she didn't actually own a cat.
So does this matter? Well I think it does.
We have seen over the years the endorsement by the famous using their influence to manipulate public option in many and various matters of which animal-welfare (although in many cases this issue is animal-rights) seems to be very popular.
This is, of course, not a problem if the said actors and personalities had actual experience in their fields of concern. I have no problem with the likes of actor and writer Stephen Fry fronting campaigns and indeed documentaries on mental health as this man has suffered from a well documented bi-polar disease for many years and he can speak with some authority on this subject.
However, I do take issue with celebrities who are quite willing to do no or little research on animal welfare issues but blandly seem happy to read script off an animal-right propaganda leaflet. Perhaps it’s is also the total hypocrisy of such people that many have been happy to accept work in the broadcast media and film that involved trained animals many of whom are animals owned or trained within a circuses environment.