Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Lucy Mean-gan


I've noticed that a good many people who come to this blog do so by searching for 'Lucy Mangan'. They inevitably end up on my rant about her stupid piece about decaff (I've decided to keep the second 'f', it just looks better) coffee. Some seem to think I harbour a grudge against Ms Mangan. Truth be told, this was the first article I'd ever read by her. So, in a spirit of fair play, I thought I'd trawl through the Grauniad's website to sample her other material, in the hope of understanding the mindset of her apparently vast fan club.

What's alarming about her 'journalism' is that two themes emerge from it strongly:
  • Lucy hates herself.

  • Lucy hates everyone else.
With regard to Point One, the references to self-hatred occur about once an article: "they exuded a confidence that I spent the next 20 years looking for in myself but never found"; "how deeply I wish to plumb the depths of self-loathing"; "my house is full of gin and scrofula"; "I was only deflected from a hugely promising career as a mathematician by the inability to spell it on a UCAS form", and so on and so on. Self-deprecating humour can work, but only as an antidote to laughing at one's own jokes. Week upon week of it just looks pathetic.

As for hating everyone else, Lucy seems to enjoy picking on other social groups, especially fellow females. For example, glamorous older women: "Madonna is 47 and has devoted her life to looking 12 in Lycra"; actresses: "staring into the middle distance with a slightly superior expression while people move scenery around you, a la Amanda Burton?"; women who have facelifts: "women keep flocking to the butchers instead of the bakers during their lunch hours"; iPod owners (OK, but Hungbunny has been doing this sort of thing for months, and much more wittily); and, for an inexplicable reason, Scarlett Johansson, for whom she often has a choice epithet.

It's not that she doesn't have a sense of humour, or that she can't pack an elegant turn of phrase into her pieces (several turns of phrase, in fact, so that the article becomes less a serious critique of social trends and more an exercise in "look, aren't I just the female Stephen Fry?"*). But her pieces are classic examples of Cynicism Journalism, picking on people whom she finds irritating (because they are wealthier and happier than her, or aspire to be so) and throwing snide comments at them, in the hope that some of her readers will be equally self-loathing and enjoy a conspiratorial snigger.

And it's not that what I write is any wittier or has more impact or should necessarily be taken more seriously. It's just that she's given a platform by a national newspaper, one that I read regularly, in order to moan about how annoying she finds everyone. Something about that just doesn't feel right.

[* In fact, any reading of Fry's pieces for the Telegraph will reveal a genuinely radical but wise philosophy behind the wit, which is not matched by anything Ms Mangan produces.]


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