They’ve Become Bluth

I am absolutely not qualified to talk about any of the major stories in the world today; The Irish referendum on abortion, Harvey Weinstein finally getting arrested, Morgan Freeman repeatedly harassing female co-workers. Beyond showing my support for women having more autonomy over their own bodies and condemning the acts of monsters, there’s not a whole lot else that I need (or should) say.

We don’t need another male voice on women’s issues floating around in the echo chamber. So I won’t be discussing any current events surrounding attacks against the liberties of women.

Ron Howard: “He will”

Having said that, the incident with the cast of Arrested Development is at least related to television, an area that I can discuss with a very very minor degree of authority. I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes or cross a line, so I want to start out by unequivocally condemning the on-set actions of Jeffrey Tambor. Plenty of talented, older comedic actors don’t sexually, or verbally, harass cast, or crew, members. So while I find his prior works entertaining, there’s absolutely no reason anyone should want to work with him again.

I’ve been thinking about the cast’s interview with the NY Times a lot over the last couple of days. I read it on the day it was published and came to similar conclusions as most. We saw Jason Bateman mansplain, Jessica Walter bravely reveal details on an incident that happened on set between herself and Tambor, and where in the ever-loving heck was Michael Cera?!?

So I went to bed that night, thinking about the exchange between the cast members. Among everything else I found it amusing that they seem to be as dysfunctional as the family they play on-screen. Which might actually explain their amazing comedic chemistry. It could be that the casting directors intentionally brought together a group of actors that they knew would rub each other the wrong way.

They am become Bluth!

arrested2
Jessica Walter and Jeffrey Tambor as the matriarch and patriarch of the Bluth family.

Then I woke up to see that Bateman and David Cross has been accused of gaslighting Jessica Walter in the moments after her revealing the verbal attack from Tambor. I tilted by head to one side and verbally said, “hmm”. I genuinely had to think about that for a moment. As someone who has previously been a victim of prolonged gaslighting in a relationship, it really made me stop and think.

For those who don’t know, the term ‘gaslighting’ is used when someone intentionally manipulates the reality of someone else, to the point where the victim begins to question their own sanity. Techniques used by attackers include denial, misdirection, contradiction and lying. It’s typically associated with sociopathic and narcissistic behaviours.

In my experience with gaslighting, in what hopefully makes up an informed opinion, I think that’s a pretty heavy word to throw around so quickly.

So I re-read the article from a new perspective, and then dove down the rabbit hole of secondary articles commenting on the reaction to the article. I saw headlines like ‘Arrested Development Men Accused of Gaslighting Jessica Walter to Defend Jeffrey Tambor’ which immediately set off alarm bells in my head.

To dissect this particular headline, it implies that all of the other men in the room were attempting to gaslight Walter. While I can see where the argument can be made for Bateman and Cross, this implies that Will Arnett and Tony Hale were also involved. Which they absolutely were not. Now we have users on various social media platforms branding the entire male cast as toxic, despite the fact that Arnett and Hale listened to Walter and did nothing but condemn the actions of Tambor.

Now let’s talk about the ‘defending of Jeffrey Tambor’ portion. At no point did any of the cast members say that what Tambor did was okay. In fact, the most forgiving person of Tambor’s actions was actually Walter herself.

“I have to let go of being angry at him. He never crossed the line on our show, with any, you know, sexual whatever. Verbally, yes, he harassed me, but he did apologize. I have to let it go. [Turns to Tambor.] And I have to give you a chance to, you know, for us to be friends again.”

And because I’m not a clickbait article writer who needs to produce quotes out of context in order to shock you one way or another, she then went on to say…

“In like almost 60 years of working, I’ve never had anybody yell at me like that on a set. And it’s hard to deal with, but I’m over it now. I just let it go right here, for The New York Times.”

After Bateman’s mansplaining, and man-oh-man did he mansplain, on how the industry supposedly works, Walter corrects him by stating that nothing as bad as Tambor’s verbal abuse has ever happened to her. She even gets the final say on the subject before the interviewer moves on to a lighter topic.

“I’ve just given it up. And you know, there’s something really, really freeing about that now. I realize that. I don’t want to walk around with anger. I respect him as an actor. We’ve known each other for years and years and years. No, no, no, no. Of course, I would work with him again in a heartbeat.”

It’s my opinion that Bateman was not attempting to gaslight Walter, but was attempting to play mediator in a very public media interview that he knew would negatively effect the job that he, and everyone else present, needed to do; Promote their new show.

The only reason I felt as though I needed to say something is because the last twenty-four hours have been about dragging mediators through the fire, whilst ignoring some of the wishes of Walter and seemingly putting Tambor’s actions on the back burner.

Seriously, check out some of those articles. Do a quick google search and you’ll see websites first and foremost condemn Bateman, with a little sidenote about the latest Tambor revelations. With some of Walter’s later comments being ignored at the same rate as Tambor’s actions. It’s twisted when you stop to think about it for a moment.

jessicawalter.gif

It could be that I’ve just mansplained the entire situation. That I’ve just mansplained Bateman’s mansplaining. If I have, then I apologise. Having experienced gaslighting, and the cocoon that it put me in for months, I just felt compelled to comment on a situation where the word was being thrown around with shocking ease.

And I don’t know guys, people are very much entitled to have opinions. I’d love to hear from anyone who has differing opinions from my own. If I’m wrong to not venomously strike out at “the male cast” and only Tambor, then I’d love to be educated. As long as it’s in more than 280 characters.

I just think that, as a society, we should be condemning the actions of an abusive person and listening to all of the words of the victim, before we start attacking third parties.

Did Bateman handle the situation well? Hell no!

But can we please listen to victims and then slay the monsters, before we burn the village idiot alive.

Today is Friday, May 25th and the final track on Modern Vampires of the City sounds like the Bagpuss theme.

Barry

I’ve just finished watching HBO’s dark comedy series, Barry, and I highly recommend you give it a try. I’m going to attempt to avoid direct narrative spoilers here. Instead I’ll focus on the overall tone of the show, as well as highlighting what it does well.

Barry follows the life of a low-level hitman in LA who is becoming increasingly unfulfilled with the work he’s doing. Through his “work”, he stumbles upon an acting group and instantly feels more at home than he has for a long time. The series centres around him trying to escape his past whilst attempting to conquer his future. The whole show plays out like the storyline from an as yet unreleased Grand Theft Auto game. Albeit with a lot more heart, and fewer micro-transactions.

Let’s start by showering praise all over Bill Hader. Go on Bill, pop yourself in the praise shower while we all collectively turn our praise faucets one-hundred-and-eighty degrees to the right. Lather that praise all over your pasty white bod, you deserve it sir.

barry4

I’ve always been a fan of Hader’s work. Whether he’s in sketch shows, comedy movies or more dramatic roles, he is always memorable. Barry is no different. Bill’s performance (we’re on first-name terms now apparently) as the eponymous lead is as humerous as it is heartbreaking. I’ll quickly take this moment to recommend the film The Skeleton Twins, for another example of Bill’s range.

Moment taken.

There are a handful of scenes in the final few episodes where Barry is faced with some pretty harrowing decisions and Bill, who I typically associate with comedic genius, sells these moments perfectly. For what it’s worth, I expect him to get at least an Emmy nomination. I don’t know how much the Outstanding Lead Actor for a Comedy Series award is worth anymore, since Jim Parsons won four out of the last eight awards, but some recognition would be great.

The praise shower is over. Pop your towel on Bill, we can see your ding dong.

Just to clarify, that’s not the word I typically use for ‘penis’, but it is the word that a Bill Hader character would use.

The overall story arc of the series was so brilliantly satisfying that it’s hindered the potential for a second season. Barry has already been picked up for season two and I, no doubt, will give it a try. The show ended on just the right note. I certainly know how they could continue, but whether or not they should is something else.

That’s nothing against Hader or co-creator Alec Berg, more the money-driven system of continuing on with a story, just because it receives acclaim in one form or another. I’d rather see the pairing write a new and original story. Although I’m very happy to be proven wrong, if the second season proves itself to be just as compelling.

I will say that an eight episode run was the perfect length for the narrative, and I’m glad that we’re seeing the trend of stateside shows running for the appropriate number of episodes. As opposed to testing how much milk, puss and blood they can draw from a potential cash cow.

Unrelated reminder that The Big Bang Theory is still on the air at 255 episodes.

Barry captures incompetence in three different fields of work; acting, crime and policing. Supporting characters from each of these worlds are portrayed in very similar ways, as buffoonish caricatures of the professions they’re supposed to have. This is where most of the comedy comes from. The central characters have their moments, but it’s the acting friends, the incompetent criminals and the slow police officers that keep the show lighthearted, in places.

barry5.gif
Noho Hank explains a mobile game as his men torture someone

The writers play with the expectations of drama perfectly. For about five minutes at a time you’ll forget that the show is supposed to have any comedic elements at all. You’ll be tricked into thinking something horrific is about to happen, only for a dark and twisted slapstick routine to play out. Those were the moments that gave Barry a unique style and hook. It’s not that I came to expect them, but as the series rolled on they were less of a surprise, in the most satisfying way possible.

The pacing, for me, constantly had a Breaking Bad vibe, with weighty character development followed by explosive and intense action sequences. It could be that’s just the feeling we get now when we see the crime genre mashed with slice-of-life. The bar has been set.

Barry falls for a struggling actress in his group, Sally, played by Sarah Goldberg. There’s a sub-plot where she doesn’t get an audition due to her refusing to sleep with her agent, which leads to several highly emotive scenes. Given the current climate, and how we know women are being treated in all industries, this storyline hit me hard. Particularly in a universe where a (mostly) kind-hearted hit-man exists. I found myself wanting him to carry out another hit, if you catch my drift…

I wanted him to kill her agent.

barry2.gif

The rest of my notes on Barry contain a helping of spoilers. So I’m just going to recommend this little show once again. It has something for everyone, as long as you understand the tone and pacing of dark comedy. This isn’t a laugh a minute riot, but when it’s meant to be funny, it hits its mark. It’s LA noir but written by comics and shown through a 21st century lens.

If you’ve already seen it, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Particularly on whether or not you agree with the decision for a second season. Personally, I’m satisfied. I’ve just had an excellent entree and there’s no need for dessert.

Today is Thursday, May 24th and seeing the paws of my cat emerge beneath the bathroom door is usually enough of a reason.

Fox Lays the Smackdown for a Billion

On Monday morning Fox Sports announced a five-year TV deal with WWE, worth over a billion dollars. The publicly-traded pro-wrestling giant then had their stocks hit an all-time high, meaning Vince McMahon himself is now worth nearly 2.5 Billion American Big-Bucks.

I believe that’s the proper name for US currency. I’m still learning some things.

The deal includes broadcasting rights to one of WWE’s weekly shows, Smackdown. A two-hour live sports entertainment programme, that showcases original content for fifty-two weeks of the year. Which, I believe, is all of the weeks.

So why are Fox putting so much cash on the table for a show that WWE themselves classify as their ‘B-Show’? Well, appointment viewing is hard to come by in modern times. Live sports typically do well in the ratings, but scripted shows have been suffering. Largely due to the rise of streaming platforms and binge-watch culture.

Enter WWE. Their programming has the look and feel of a sports show, but it’s entirely scripted entertainment. WWE has a strong and avid fanbase, with the average viewer dropping a lot more cash on the product, when compared with average television brand. They use their show to promote live events and merchandise, as well as their own streaming service, the WWE Network.

Now, WWE’s ratings have been declining steadily over the last several years. Only, in the last eighteen months, they appear to have levelled out to between 2.5 and 3.5 million weekly viewers. This is dependent on which part of its ‘season’ the product is in.

Other scripted shows are in a ratings free-fall, whereas WWE seem to have hit their personal rock bottom. At least for the time being. This makes them a hot commodity right now, in the dying world of broadcast television. Whether or not Fox are correct to throw so much money for rights to one-half of the broadcast live shows (Flagship show Raw will remain with NBC) is for the future to decide.

This will be a huge influx of cash for WWE. With their previous deal with NBC being for a mere $180million a year, which is for both Raw and Smackdown. The new deal sees Fox paying $205million per year for Smackdown alone. With NBC expected to pay a similar amount for Raw, they’ll be more-than doubling their revenue from TV alone.

vincemoney
Vince McMahon, pictured with the love of his life

So, what will WWE spend all of that extra cash on? Well, as a fan I want them to bring back pyrotechnics. Which is something that they cut from their personal budget a few years back. I’d love to see them invest their money in establishing their “independent” brand, NXT, as an internationally toured live-show. Which would put it on the same level as Raw and Smackdown.

But I’m going to put my evil, capitalist business hat on for a few minutes and make a proposal to the WWE.

No, I don’t want them to invest in my idea for ant farms that are as big as regular farms. Where the ants are genetically engineered to be the same size as people, and visitors walk by a giant, one-hundred foot high, glass box. You can drop a giant leaf in at the top and watch them carry it all the way to the bottom. Everyone will gather around the queen, like they do the Mona Lisa at the Louvre. Ant Land. Registered Trademark.

antfarm.jpg
This is not a regular ant farm, this is a scale model of giant ant farm.

Not that.

I have a proposal that will extend their reach on both the wrestling industry and entertainment business, as well as giving talent a well-earned rest every once in a while.

The wrestling industry as a whole has a lot of top-tier talent on the independent scene right now. Whenever someone gets a little too popular in a specific market, WWE signs them to a contract and puts them in their NXT brand. Or, in the case of UK talent in particular, they’re signed and then they’re barely utilised.

The life of the average WWE Superstar is six days on the road and four or five nights performing for TV and live shows. There’s no off-season and talent are wrestling a faster style than ever, in order to compete with the independent talent I just mentioned. This causes a lot of strain on performer’s bodies, it’s an extremely physical job, and has lead to burn-outs and career-threatening injuries.

kalistoladder
I know I’d want a two month break after this

It’s also well documented that WWE dislike the term ‘wrestling’. Vince McMahon enjoys the term sports entertainment, but even that is too clunky for some of the younger executives. It seems to be that they’d rather wrestling was known simply as WWE. The same way that Disney don’t want you to see films, they want you to see a Disney Movie.

Human 1: “Hey bud, shall we go watch some wrestling?”

Human 2: “What’s wrestling?”

Human 1: “Where the people grapple each other to a soap-opera style storyline.”

Human 2: “Oh, you mean WWE?”

Human 1: “Yeah! Let’s watch some WWE and then go see a Disney before we come home and play an EA!”

Did you like that? I played Human 2. Really trying to break into the acting scene.

So, if WWE want to be the only major wrestling brand out there, but there’s also more talent than they’ll ever need out on the independent scene, then my proposition is that they spend all of that new money on talent. That’s right, they do what they’re doing already but to an extreme degree.

Only this time they don’t just keep these talented individuals hidden away, they put them onto the weekly programming and live shows.

Human 1: “But Matt, there’s already not enough time on WWE programming to feature the talent they already have.”

Great question Human 1! Can you give me the number of your agent?

WWE doesn’t have an off-season, but they can rest characters for 1-6 month stretches without damaging their brand. My proposition is that they plan character arcs, similar to any other show. That way:

  • Talent get some guaranteed time off every year
  • WWE owns most of the top talent in the world
  • Characters don’t get boring, their absence builds intrigue
  • They can continue to put on shows 52 weeks a year
  • More talent are featured, meaning more merchandise sales
  • No company could ever compete, and wrestling officially becomes WWE

It’s important to note that I’m a huge fan of independent professional wrestling and I don’t 100% agree with my own proposition. I think, in any business, it’s important to have competition, as well as independently created content.

But of all the ways WWE could spend a large wad of American Big-Bucks, I think this makes the most sense from a business perspective.

Thing is, Vince is probably going to spend it all on the XFL in 2020.

That, or a giant sex yacht.

Today is May 23rd, 2018 and if an ant managed to successfully mate with an elephant, than unholy animal would still be called an elephant.

You, Intern! Fetch Mrs Obama a Coffee

Imagine being an intern in the television industry. You’ve been at it for two years and nobody wants to listen to your screenplay pitch. It’s about a regular guy named Mark who, one morning, wakes up as a T-Rex. It’s going to be great kid, keep trying.

The majority of your last twenty-four months have been spent fetching coffee for sleazy executives and producers. You hate it, because they’re the worst people, but you really want this. So you try extra hard to remember their no-foam de-caff half and half caffeinated cap. With sprinkles.

Then, just as you’re about to give up all hope on anyone reading Jurassic Mark, a different pair of producers walk into the office building and set up residence. They’re tall, charming from the get-go and are more than happy to smile as you pitch your dinosaur themed body-swap movie. They politely decline, but they at least listen.

Also, you think you might know them from somewhere. They had a starring role in “the news” for about eight or so years.

obamas

President Obama and his wife Michelle have signed a deal with Netflix to produce original content for the streaming service. The exact nature of that content has a pretty vague description, with yesterday’s statement reading that the deal includes potentially making “scripted series, unscripted series, docu-series, documentaries and features.”

So pretty much everything other than a stand-up special.

It’s a perfect move for the couple. Clinton had his sax and George Bush Jr had his hideous paintings. It just so happens that the latest ex-commander in chief has a penchant for digital media.

I’ve seen a lot of articles joke about the programming that the Obamas could make, such as Orange is the New Barack or Barack Mirror. Which I think are ABSOLUTELY HILARIOUS. Get it?! Because his name is Barack Obama and the word ‘Black’ sounds just like his first name? Oh man. Wow, such pure genius…

I want to speculate on the kind of content we should see from the Obamas. This very much sounds like it’s going to be in list-form so yes, dear reader, have yourself a delicious clickbait title.

6 Shows or Movies That The Obamas Should Produce At Netflix, Number 3 Is So Shocking You’ll Want To Cry Rectangles!

1. A Family Sitcom

They’re perhaps the least interesting of the sitcom sub-genres. With the all-time greats being made back in the 50s, greats that we can’t even go back and watch because the 50s were a very (very) racist time in America. The 80s tried to revive the genre with shows like Roseanne and The Cosby Show, which…also became awkward viewing.

Let’s face it, the best American sitcoms have never been in a family setting. But they’re a staple of American culture, and one that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. With Roseanne back on our screens as an out-and-out Trump supporter, I think we need a counter-balance to what represents the average American family.

Which, sidenote, that’s not satire by the way. Having a satirical, ageing Trump supporter would provide plenty of comedic moments, and I agree that the character of Roseanne would’ve been a Trump supporter. But the show always seems to have Roseanne get the last word in every argument. Which, when it comes to politics, is dangerous.

roseanne
The character advocating equality is made the butt of every joke. Keep it balanced, or don’t attempt satire.

Make the new family sitcom meta. Make it about a group of actors who play a family on a family sitcom. The genre is dying in favour of work and friend based sitcoms, so we may as well pull the curtain back a little on the whole genre.

Most important of all, make it diverse. Modern Family nearly hit the mark, except everyone was upper middle-class. Sitcoms traditionally have their pulse on where America is at, and America is a brilliant mix of people from all walks of life. It shouldn’t be diverse for the sake of it, but diverse because America is.

2. A Docu-series

Personally, I want the Obamas to produce and champion ideas that revolve around other people. However, if Netflix forces their hand, due to the strength of the Obama brand, then I want them to put their faces on a show that educates.

I’d want an Obama-narrated educational documentary series with zero political spin. Having had conversations with Americans, I think there are gaps in their knowledge of how government works. Or how it’s supposed to work. I know that I personally need a better understanding on a lot of areas of political systems in the USA.

A well-educated electorate is something that the Obamas have always championed. They could narrate episodes centred on the house of representatives, how the electoral college works and what special interest groups are. They could openly and candidly discuss how political campaigns are funded. What’s legal and what’s not legal. They’d all be facts, facts that are written into American law.

Again, zero spin would be the key. Often when you present the truth as bare bones, it speaks for itself. Hard-right conservatives would criticise it as a left-leaning look into politics, but something I’ve found is that the honest truth happens to always land you slightly left of centre. Which makes you think.

3. Alternative Voices

This isn’t genre specific, more the kinds of content creators that I would expect the Obamas to champion. This can include looking to minority groups for writers and directors, but it doesn’t always have to. I, as a consumer of media, just want something different. Show me a perspective that I haven’t seen before.

More often than not that will end up including a female voice, or a non-white voice, or an LGBT+ voice. Which has nothing to do with inclusivity for the sake of it. It’s more that the scales are simply balancing. SWM’s have been producing the majority of content for so long that any voice other than our own feels different and exciting.

I want to live in a world where we don’t need to tout the ethnic background or sexual orientation of a content creator. I want to live in world where we talk about the voice of the writer, the emotive talent of the actor or the visual style of the director, no matter who they are.

We’re not there yet, but I believe that the Obamas can help to balance the scales.

4. A Fantasy Epic

Yes, we have Game of Thrones and Amazon are working on a Middle-Earth TV series, but there’s always room in the fantasy genre for more. The only limits to world-building are our imaginations. Which sounds crass, because it is.

The Obamas are famously fans of the hit HBO show, with one of the producers commenting back in 2016 that “the president wanted advanced copies of the episodes.” Whether or not HBO obliged has been kept a secret, but to even make a request like this shows that the Obamas are as addicted to the fantasy genre as we are.

Game of Thrones is steeped in historical and political commentary, it’s part of what makes the show so great. I’d like to see the Obamas produce an epic fantasy series, set in an entirely fictional world, that provides a social commentary on modern living.

It could be that the characters talk about how a great evil was defeated eighty years ago, but now it’s slowly seeping back into their towns and villages. It’s infecting the minds of the people, and it turns out it’s a group of dark wizards who’ve created potions that make the drinker believe anything they’re told. It’s a Crafty Fox Potion etc.

That’s not at all subtle, but you get my point. I’ve never seen fantasy as pure escapism, but rather an alternative universe in which to tell very human stories.

5. The Daily Show

dailyshow

This is more of a plea to give new life to a specific brand. Back in the UK, during my teenage years, I was lucky enough to be able to watch the latest episodes of The Daily Show on an eighteen hour tape delay. Which, at the time, was pretty current.

Comedy Central have always been half-decent at championing original comedy, but fewer and fewer members of our generation pay for cable, let alone watch broadcast television. I think if the brand was acquired by Netflix, and produced by the Obamas, it could help boost viewership. As well as aiding in the aim for Netflix to produce more “live, ongoing” original content.

Trevor Noah does an excellent job and he’d be a great host to at least establish the first year on a new platform. In recent times Last Week Tonight has, rightfully, taken the place in the public consciousness that The Daily Show once had.

Trust me, in a Trumpian world there’s definitely room for two well-made and well-researched satirical entertainment shows. With the right backing, Daily Show clips could go viral in the same way that LWT clips do. Although they would have to wait until Trevor Noah’s contract with Comedy Central ends, in 2022. If we’re all still here.

This really could be produced by anyone, but imagine sitting through twenty-two minutes of biting satire only to see the credit: Produced by Michelle Obama. Conservatives are already under the assumption that these shows have a bias, when typically they simply present facts and sprinkle in jokes. So why not enrage them further by adding an Obama to the production staff?

6. The Apprentice Rip-Off

Come on now.

Okay…fine.

Keep all of the filming secret and under-wraps. Zero promotion, it just drops on Netflix on a random Tuesday morning. No pre-title sequence. Just open on Barack Obama walking into a room of twelve prospective business partners, with a knowing smile on his face.

“Now, I’ve devoted my life to serving the American people the best that I can. I consider myself a public servant, not a businessman. But apparently anyone can do anything now, so here we are, welcome to Not The Apprentice!”

20 Million people stream and old Donald quits the White House in order to battle Obama in a ratings war. Trump is back in the realm where he belongs and Obama has somehow managed to save the day, again.

Today is May 22nd, 2018 and there’s a tiny part of me that now wants to write Jurassic Mark.

The Kayfabe Breakup of John Cena and Nikki Bella

How far would you go for fame and fortune?

Would you wrestle an alligator for six hours straight? How about six baby alligators, but only for an hour? Would you give up that ancient treasure map that’s been hidden in your attic for all these years or, better yet, follow that map to the jungles of Guatemala and face the curse of the Mayan Gods? How about legitimately call off your wedding with a soul mate, so that it can be used as a plot twist in your scripted reality show?

It could be that you’d do none of those things. It could be that you’d do all of them.

Does anybody know where I can buy baby alligators?

Okay. Same questions. Only this time you already have both fame and fortune. In fact, you’re well regarded in your industry as one of the greatest of all time. You carried an international brand on your shoulders for the better part of a decade and now you star in Oscar-nominated movies.

Still want to fight those alligators? Still feel the need to risk a fate worse than death in the form of wrath from ancient gods? Still want to end things with your adoring significant other?

Welcome to the crazy, meta-reality and scripted lives of John Cena and Nikki Bella. Two professional wrestlers and reality TV stars. Last month the couple ended a six year relationship, a month before their wedding.

Except *psst* get this. *Leans in close and whispers* They didn’t.

cenabella
John Cena (41) and Nikki Bella (34)

Every single entertainment news outlet reported on this split as though it was legitimate, and most still are. Hell, BBC News even had a small piece on the break up.

So in professional wrestling there’s this term, ‘Kayfabe’. It’s essentially an old carny codeword for anything that belongs to the storyline of the performance. For example, if a wrestler is dropped on his back and he writhes around in theatrical pain, then he is ‘kayfabe’ hurt. If a wrestler is dropped on his neck and needs to have legitimate surgery, then he is hurt in reality.

I put it to you that John Cena and Nikki Bella never broke up, and that they only kayfabe called of their wedding. I believe that both parties are, in fact, in on the storyline. Along with, presumably, their families and loved ones. It’s also my belief that they did this entirely to increase viewing figures for their upcoming third season of Total Bellas, as well as to secure a renewal by E! for a fourth season.

So let’s rewind a little and chronicle some of the events in this bizarre blurring of fiction and reality.

On April 2nd 2017, Cena proposed to Bella at Wrsetlemania in the middle of a WWE ring. Now, 99% of what WWE presents to the cameras is entirely fictionalised. Fans, including myself, thought that this was just one of those rare cases where reality is stronger than fiction. I mean, if you and your girlfriend are both professional wrestlers, then what better place is there to get engaged?

The engagement itself served as the second season finale of Total Bellas, with the hook of a future wedding for the third season.

However, on April 15th of this year, Bella and Cena issued a joint statement:

“While this decision was a difficult one, we continue to have a great deal of love and respect for one another,” the couple said in a statement tweeted out by Bella. “We ask that you respect our privacy during this time in our lives.”

That’s when the internet blew up and entertainment news outlets everywhere began reporting on the split.

A couple of weeks went by, with several outlets reporting that Bella had gone to live with her twin sister, Brie, in Arizona. A few sketchy “news” sources reported that Cena had been spotted in Arizona with Nikki Bella. At the time, I didn’t think anything of it, but then the TV appearances started…

You really don’t have to watch these two, awful upper-middle-class women interrogate a celebrity on a breakfast show. It’s just to illustrate the point that this actually happened.

Cena makes a planned and scheduled media appearance, despite the fact that he’s not really on the press tour for any movies right now. He’s there to exclusively talk about his relationship with Nikki Bella. As well as the upcoming season of Total Bellas

Hmm.

He plays the victim, but he also apologises for anything that he might’ve said. He doesn’t go into too many details, leaving plenty of intrigue and mystery to be revealed in the reality show. He talks about the complications of planning a wedding, as well as doing that in front of the cameras.

Then, a few days later, Bella makes a scheduled appearance on another equally awful morning gossip programme. This time on E! itself, the same network that wants high viewing figures for their reality show.

She also takes partial blame, but interestingly (and even more-so than Cena) she links everything back to Total Bellas, and how that’s the show where everyone can find the answers to the questions they have.

Both parties make reference to the fact that they can see each other getting back together very soon, and that they’re currently working on that. Flash-forward to a few days ago, and they were spotted grabbing a coffee together.

The season finale of Total Bellas is expected to chronicle the cancelled wedding ceremony and subsequent split. With, presumably, a fourth season to be commissioned in order to document all of the fallout and eventual reconciliation.

I think that these two are master manipulators who’ve been presenting a version of themselves to the cameras for most of their professional lives. You can draw your own conclusions, but I think that the pair sat down together and made a joint decision to hoax their split, in order to increase their personal stock as a collective brand.

This raises even more questions about the nature of reality in our entertainment. Scripted reality shows have been popular since the turn of the millennium, they’re nothing new to our TV screens. Only, most intelligent viewers and reporters understand that what they’re consuming is entirely a work of fiction.

By announcing their split on social media and allowing the media to speculate, Cena and Bella convinced reputable sources that their breakup was as legit as Brad Pitt!
(And Angelina Jolie, but it doesn’t rhyme in an awful way if I include her name)

Through my research on this trashy subject, I found that Kim Kardashian pulled off a similar “reality marriage” back in 2011. Only the speculation there was that the relationship was never real to begin with.

The situation between Cena and Bella is unique and bizarre. In the sense that we know their six year relationship was/is real. We know an engagement was made, we were all witnesses to that. Only everything since then seems to have been entirely kayfabe. A kayfabe storyline that only the performers are in on. With the aim for the audience to lap up every fictional moment of in order to entertain.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have been worked by two professionals.

cenanikki

I’m going to pose some final thoughts in the form of several questions:

Why does an already successful couple need to put themselves through the emotional turmoil of faking a breakup? 

If it’s not a work, are they two individuals who live so much in the public eye that they’ve become the versions of themselves that they originally fabricated? And if so, what does that feel like?

Is it unethical to do what I presume they have done? If two pro-wrestlers can fool reputable media sources, is that all any person in power is doing?

What is “real”, anyway? Does it matter? Am I real? …Are you?

Today is May 21st 2018 and I can’t decide if this topic is celebrity trash or an insight into a new form of real-life storytelling. Also, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one in the comment section below.

Royal Wedding 2018

It never ends, does it? First, colonisation and slavery. Now, they won’t stop getting married and reproducing. I hope at least one of the next generation of royals is asexual, so we at least have a chance of fewer weddings.

Royal weddings probably won’t even matter by then, because the nukes come for everyone. Although it wouldn’t surprise me if they have a Royal Bunker, deep in the bowels of Windsor Castle. A bunker that ten lucky British citizens will be allowed into, in order to aid in repopulating the nation.

Plot twist: Prince Philip is the only survivor. Good luck ladies! Your country needs you!

Prince-Philip-Royal-Wedding-2018

In all seriousness, I haven’t minded all of the Royal Wedding hype this time around. Did I watch any of it? Absolutely not. I’m not that bored yet. But I wasn’t as annoyed by its presence.

I think that might be because current events are so eye-achingly depressing, that I’m finding it more of a challenge to be angry about the happier moments in the social consciousness. Yes, a wedding between royals is, at most, an expression of love between two people that nobody else should care about; And at worst a positive publicity-grab to make up for the billions they’ve exploited from the rest of the world over the centuries.

But it’s better than another mass shooting, or the slaughtering of people in the middle-east, or Laurel/Yanny.

It could be that I’m not as cynical about the royal wedding this time around because I’m less than a month removed from my own wedding. A day that I originally thought to be a pointless public expression, of words that you’re always happy to tell the only other person that matters. But actually, because we did things our own way, it was a lot of fun and a unique experience. Plus, I felt all warm and disgusting in my heart.

We decided to write our own vows, and I’m glad we did. Any other way wouldn’t have felt, to us, like a genuine expression of our love for each other. I understand why a lot of people use the traditional vows, they’re a safe and trusted option on a day that can already be stressful enough without having to put forward your original thoughts to a room of people.

It’s my understanding that Harry and Meghan did not write their own vows, and that they opted for the more traditional route.

Boring!

So, let me present to you the ENTIRELY FICTIONALISED, but very personally written wedding vows, of both Prince Henry Charles Albert David Windsor and Rachel Meghan Markle. I’m certain that these are the words they would’ve said to each other, were it not for the pressures of society, and the fact that hundreds of millions of people were watching worldwide.

These are the words that they’re definitely (not really) thinking about each other.

Meghan’s Vows For Harry

M’prince.

Ever since I was a little girl, all I wanted to be was a fairy. Not a fairy princess, an actual fairy. I wanted to flap around at the end of long and winding country gardens, convincing people that I exist, only to disappear in a cloud of smoke.
Poof! *Explosive hand gesture* 

Then, when I was older, around twenty-eight or twenty-nine, I decided that fairies weren’t real. So I followed my second dream of becoming an actress, which are things that definitely exist. They pretend to be people who don’t really exist, but the actors themselves are real people. Ain’t that cool?!

Anyway! Harry, my darling, my slice of ginger cake on a hot summers day, I love you. I love you with all of my heart, mind, body and soul. You are my English crumpet, buttered and served with a pot of huckleberry jam. You are my prince charming and I am your frog. A very beautiful frog, who happens to look exactly like a really hot human, but a frog nonetheless.

I promise to take care of you, but let’s be real, we’re sorted on the whole money-front. So we can just buy a new palace whenever we have a fight. Won’t that be adorable! And we could- we could pay a scientist to biologically engineer fairies! And then they will be real dammit! They’ll be real and *turn to congregation* you’ll all be wrong! I’ll be the fairy princess and I’ll rule this shitty little country with a delicate flicker of my wings!

*Grab Harry by his face and kiss for approximately twenty seconds*

Harry, babe, I am your god now.

royalwedding1

Harry’s Vows For Meghan

Meg! Just got to say, I loved you in Suits. It wasn’t on my binge-watch list but I saw a trailer and thought, “Wow! That tottie is hottie!” So I called your agent up and said that I’d like a piece of that action, and the rest is history.

Now, this is not a time for me to talk about my history. I don’t want to look back on moments in my life that I’m ashamed of. Like when I dressed up as a nazi for shits and giggles. That’s not the man I am anymore. I stand before you today, dressed like a Sith Lord from the inevitable fifth Star Wars trilogy, as a changed man.

I am no longer the party animal I once was. You won’t catch New Harry™ calling you a racial slur, or falling into one of our many swimming pools. I am no longer that man. Although maybe we can play strip billiards every once in a while, because that shit is a lot of fun. *Pause for posh laughter*

Meghan. You have allowed me to become the man I’ve always wanted to be; a handsome prince who’s getting off with a smoking hot actress. And I thank you for that. I promise to be by your side, and lamp any unwanted paparazzo that come our way. I promise to love you until the fourth Death Star has been destroyed. Which will be never, because we’ve learned to not have a weak-spot this time.

Megz, I love you, now kiss me bbz. xoxo

weddingvows

I would one-hundred percent start paying attention to Royal Wedding’s if they went down like that. And you know what, I didn’t watch a single minute of the ceremony, so as far as I’m concerned that’s exactly what happened.

It’s Sunday, May 20th. Happy birthday brother!

Ten Lives Lost

“And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They’re quite aware of what they’re going through”

santa-fe-shooting-vigil1

It just doesn’t make sense anymore.

I wanted to talk about the latest episode of Westworld, or some other diversion from the horrors of it all. Yet, here we are again.

We’re about twenty-four hours removed from another senseless school shooting. A domestic terror attack at Santa Fe High School in Texas, that left ten people dead and a further ten injured.

My opinions on gun ownership are what they are. Having lived in the USA during some of the more recent tragedies, I struggle to comprehend why anyone would defend the ownership of high-powered weapons. I think it comes down to a fundamental lack of empathy. Yeah. That’s all it can be at this point, right?

It can’t be the whole “well-armed militia” thing anymore. Anyone with half a brain should understand that if the American government violently turned on its people, they’d have the entire United States army behind them. As well as the nuclear codes. No sane person can possibly think they’d stand a chance against highly trained soldiers, with their weekend assault rifles. Surely? Maybe, this is America we’re talking about.

So if its not that, then it’s just people not wanting to give up a right. Right?

Which, to me, signals a lack of empathy. It ignores the pain of countless families and loss of life that could be prevented in a country that’s free from high-powered weapons. It sounds crazy that this is my opinion, given that six months ago I was anti-guns of any kind. Now I see that the issue is more complex, and for whatever reason people truly love these phallic sticks of metal that are designed to kill.

I’ve heard people talk more passionately about guns than they have their loved ones. So I know there’s something there that’s deeper than a debate to be had over the internet.

Guns vs No guns will be a conversation that America will have for the next hundred years. It’s a complex issue rooted in history on one side and guided by the future on the other. It’s what all “conservative vs liberal” ideological arguments come down to in the end; Are we who we were, or are we what we want to become?

But Assault Weapons vs No Assault Weapons feels like a no-brainer at this point. Or at least it should to anyone with a heart.

If we’ve established that it doesn’t matter which weapons you have, that you’ll never be able to defend yourself against bombs and nuclear warheads. Then surely removing assault weapons from the public sphere is a logic next step. Having typed that sentence, it’s felt logical since Pulse, but then Vegas happened. It felt logical then, but Parkland was a thing. And now Santa Fe…

Speaking as an outsider, I sometimes feel as though there’s a portion of American citizens that hate Americans. They’re usually the people who tout their love for their country the loudest, yet show a complete lack of empathy for their fellow citizens.

Now, please don’t misunderstand me, I love America. I wouldn’t have moved here if I wasn’t fascinated by what it has to offer. It’s a picturesque continent that’s home to some of the best cultural products ever made. The majority of people here are positive and wonderful, and they genuinely want the best for everyone they come into contact with. Those people, to me, are the real patriots.

It’s my opinion that if you allow people to live the life they want with complete and total freedom, as long as that liberty doesn’t directly inhibit the liberties of others, then you are an American.

Just because you don a red hat and wave a flag, whilst standing for ideologies that lead to the deaths of children, doesn’t mean you love the country you’re from. Honestly, at this stage, it means you loathe it.

I know I’m politicizing a tragedy already, but that’s how change happens. If we keep something in the public conversation, and educate others into finding the middle ground, then maybe we can collectively put an end to the violence.

There’s one thing that we all need to agree on. Whether you’re pro-gun or anti-gun, liberal or conservative, Republic or Democrat. We need to agree that the NRA is a poisonous, noxious terrorist organisation, whose only goal is to collect “membership” fees whilst your children are murdered in cold blood.

After every mass-shooting they capitalise on the bloodshed by promoting their membership plans and insinuating that lawmakers plan on taking away ANY AND ALL guns that you own. We’re decades away from any kind of legislation like that. All of the lobbying and increased advertising comes down to one thing; The NRA gets rich on the premature deaths of children. They happily let the bodies pile up, whilst they count their coin.

I want to address any pro-gun citizens that might be reading this. You might be rolling your eyes or mentally rebutting each of my statements. I commend you for that, and I agree that the debate of guns vs no guns should contain voices from both sides. I will defend your right to have your opinion, and I would expect the same in return. I just want you to think about the NRA for another minute.

So…

Dear anyone who is pro-NRA,

Having an organisation enforce their dogma on you, that doesn’t sound very free and American now does it? You’re a conscious, self-governed individual and you’re letting some men and women who earn six-figure salaries tell you what to do? You’re better than that. Own your gun and take all the safety measures you possibly can, but giving money to the NRA is to support a toxic special interest group.

Remember how Trump talked about draining the swamp? The NRA are the epitome of that swamp. They don’t need to exist for you to continue owning your weapons, and yet they claim relevance. You’re a free American who should be able to make the choice as to whether or not you want to own a gun.

Please, watch this advertisement from last year and tell me it’s not structured with the exact same tone and editing as a terror-recruitment video. It encourages Americans to turn on each other, divides us at a time where we need to find the middle-ground.

My middle-ground is banning assault weapons, but you don’t have to agree.

My proposition to you, is that your middle-ground includes dropping your NRA membership. Hell, you’ll save a hundred bucks a year and you’ll still get to keep your weapons! As well as getting to stick two middle-fingers high in the air to a boardroom of rich, corporate layabouts who’re happy to see your children die.

Sincerely,

Someone

I’ll leave you with this quote from a survivor of yesterday’s shooting. With the knowledge that the NRA is salivating at the fact that this is the America we live in.

Interviewer: “Was there a part of you that was like, ‘This could not happen at my school?’”

Santa Fe High School student: “No. It’s been happening everywhere. I’ve always felt it would eventually happen here, too.”

Today is Saturday, May 19th and I encourage you to be empathetic in any and all situations.