Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Charlie Brooker the height of cool? Why?!

Fashion is a strange thing, especially hard to pinpoint when it doesn’t refer purely to aesthetics. I recently found myself obliviously at the height of fashion when I was given a Hummingbird Bakery cookbook for Christmas and hosted my very own cupcake party, complete with a Cath Kidston apron and everything. I subsequently noticed cupcakes in the window displays of the trendiest shops and a common subject of Facebook statuses.

Fashions also seem to be distinguishable in more intellectual matters. It seems that the current trend in reading and viewing material can be summarised in two words: Charlie Brooker.

A segment of his comedy/current affairs programme Newswipe became YouTube’s highest-rated clip with over 728,833 views last week; his G2 comment pieces for the Guardian are re-linked thousands of times on social networking sites; and his Twitter profile has over 100,000 followers. I have even heard girls name him as their “celebrity crush”, despite having a self-proclaimed “face like a paedophile walrus”.

Last week, award-winning Guardian feature writer Simon Hattenstone guest-lectured at Kingston University, where I attend. In a lecture theatre full of journalism students, hands shot up when we were invited to ask him our questions. With only ten minutes left and perhaps forty students keen to contribute, it was pure luck that decided who got to speak.

One of the lucky students who were picked posed the following: “Is Charlie Brooker as angry and hilarious in person as he seems on TV?”

It does say a lot about the state of universities when that is the best a journalism student can come up with. But more to the point, Mr Hattenstone had shared stories of interviewing the likes of Woody Allen, Helen Mirren and Lou Reed, yet the celebrity he was asked about was Charlie Brooker.

So what exactly is it about this self-proclaimed “embittered cynic” that young people find so attractive at the moment? To be honest, I can’t work it out. Despite moderately enjoying his writing, I am not a fan of his TV persona. The over the top cockney accent and unwavering pessimism make me want to shout at the TV: “Who died and made you judge of the world?!”

Yet in an era when turning on the television subjects you to the likes of Popstar to Operastar, Take Me Out and, of course - the staple of the last decade - Big Brother, I must admit that there is something refreshing about a show that gets an opinion out of you.

But is his elusive ‘cool factor’ a reflection on the quality content of his programmes and writing? Or is it simply a je no se quois that Charlie Brooker innately posses (and I will never learn to identify)?

Comments and debate welcome!


  1. Lol. Sirena :-)
    Charlie Brooker is great. He tells it how it is. He's not scared to say what he wants, and that's what makes him so interesting I suppose :-)

  2. Two things about Charlie Brooker:

    1. He doesn't have a cockney accent, over the top or otherwise.
    2. The pessimism is far from unwavering. He's certainly at his funniest when he's laying into something he thinks is shit, and admittedly he thinks that about a lot of stuff, (he and any right-thinking person, surely?) but the praise is there if you look for it. Off the top of my head I can think of The Wire, Deadwood, Battlestar Galactica, Dr Who, and Colombo as examples of programmes he's offered abundant praise for.

    That said, good post.

  3. Newswipe is brilliant. A bit of Yankee bias, but the Voice of America segments are hilarious.