The Tories’ attempts at pop culture references are rhetorical dad-dancing
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MITCH BENN asks why the PM would compare himself to the Hulk - a personification of uncontrolled anger, fury, and whose alter ego is desperate to escape.
It doesn't seem to take much these days to get me feeling old. Mind you, that's been the case since I was about 24; sometimes I wish I could travel back a quarter of a century so I could meet my mid-1990s peak Generation X self and slap the ennui right out of him. At least now I'm pushing 50 with a very short stick I'm entitled to feel a bit creaky; don't know what my excuse was back then.
(I'll hit the big five-O early in the new year, incidentally; having a January birthday means I generally don't bother celebrating since nobody else is feeling healthy or wealthy enough to go out and party so soon after the festive season, but I really should make the effort for this one. No idea where to start though, and I'm running out of lead-time. If anyone has any suggestions, find me on Twitter. Back to the column...)
So I find myself this week in the extremely unusual situation of being indebted to the Conservative Party. Because while there's not much that can make me feel young at the moment, there's nothing so rejuvenating as watching people who are even more out of touch than I am trying to be hip.
A few days ago I tweeted "TORIES. STOP MAKING POP CULTURE REFERENCES. YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND THEM." But on reflection, I take that back. Tories; please continue to make fantastically ill-judged allusions to current stuff because, as Ol' Blue Eyes might have put it, you make me feel so young. I may be old, grey and clueless but compared to Conservative MPs trying to be down with the kids, I'm an 'influencer'.
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I've been trying to fathom the rationale behind the bizarre Boris Johnson/The Incredible Hulk analogy; was Johnson trying to suggest that he was capable of feats of superhuman political strength, so as to be able to 'deliver' (God I'm growing to loathe that verb) Brexit in the face of the opposition of 'the Establishment' (ie. everyone except him and his fellow honest son of toil Jacob Rees-Mogg), the media (except for pretty much all of it) and now parliament and indeed the law itself?
If so, fair enough, but why the Hulk? Why not Superman, or Captain America (who, like Boris Johnson, was born in New York), or Thor (he's got the hair, sort of), or any one of the myriad and ever- expanding pantheon of comic book heroes to whom feats of superhuman strength come naturally?
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Why pick the one who's the result of a tragic gamma radiation accident, who personifies uncontrolled anger and unreasoning fury and whose creator and alter ego desperately longs to be rid of? At least it gave us a brief rash of gags about Brexiters having been exposed to 'gammon radiation' (oh and while I'm here, no 'gammon' is not a racist term; it's racist to mock someone's skin pigment when it's a product of their ethnic background, not so much when it's a product of booze and rage).
As if this wasn't cringe-worthy enough, Stephen Barclay, the Brexit secretary, compounded the error by stating: "The Hulk was a winner and was extremely popular and I'd rather be backing a character and a leader who is the Hulk, rather than one who is on the Chicken Run, as Jeremy Corbyn is."
Ok, stop now, just stop making these smug, chortling references to things you patently don't actually know anything about. Quite apart from the fact that this statement doesn't even hold together as grammar (had Barclay been exposed to grammar radiation? Ok enough now) the Hulk is not a 'winner'; in most iterations he (or at least his human aspect Bruce Banner) is a desperate outsider and fugitive, hiding from society until such time as he can control the savage beast that dwells within him (maybe that's what Boris was doing in Luxembourg).
Meanwhile, the Aardman animation feature Chicken Run is a parody of The Great Escape set on a chicken farm in which the chickens are the dauntless heroes (the fact that they're aided in their quest for freedom by a loudmouthed rooster voiced by Mel Gibson, a man who has nothing whatsoever in common with Jeremy Corbyn or any of his friends, needn't concern us here).
Look, Tories, I know you all have to suck up to the new boss and I know it's not easy to flatter a man with literally no positive attributes whatsoever, but come on, the Republicans have been managing it for nearly three years now so how hard can it be? These desperate attempts to appear switched on to pop culture are just rhetorical dad-dancing of the most flesh-crawling kind.
Look at Jacob; he's got the right idea. Just airily drop in a bit of pretend Greek or Latin from time to time and nod sagely. Nobody will know you're making it all up.