Death by hard-sell: Hype is killing off considered criticism

Related Topics
In the past 24 hours I have been told that there are five things I simply, simply must do. I must read Patricia Cornwell's Cruel and Unusual: it's the best thriller in years, darling. Everybody says so. I have to land tickets at the National for The Seagull, which is the very best mounting of The Seagull since . . . since the last very best mounting of The Seagull. It is also essential that I immediately rush to the cinema and expose myself to Love and Human Remains, if only to compare the play with the celluloid version and savour the non-PC sexual politics: so transgressive.

From here I must dash to Billion Dollar Babes, the club to see and be seen in. Hot, hot, hot: attendance is mandatory. No one gets out alive. And why haven't I blagged seats for Frank Skinner next month? He's the comic to book for. Eddie Izzard is old hat. Didn't I know that? Where have I been? What have I been doing? As a matter of fact, who am I?

I am a victim of hype, that curious hybrid of publicity and bullying that so perfectly fits our restless consumer/conformist times: you will, you must, you have to be party to the latest music/art/food/fashion thing because . . . you will, you must, you have to. Very post-modern.

On one level, this is hardly surprising.

London is a hype haven, as most Western capital cities are; here congregate the big public relations agencies, the promoters, the bull-shitters, the boys and girls who service the media, as the happy sucker fish services the hungry shark. A certain degree of hype is therefore to be expected and maybe even welcomed.

In its proper place - balanced by criticism, word-of-mouth and good old-fashioned cynicism - hype alerts the city's tired citizens to the wares currently on sale in the busy cultural bazaar. It gives us something to talk about, a spectacle to share as our once solid sense of community - of being Londoners - disintegrates. Hype can (he said through clenched teeth) perform a service. And a disservice if allowed free reign. Given half a chance, hype becomes a tyranny, not a means to an end but an end in itself. Its effects are both devastating and deadening: you begin to attend events with little or no expectation of pleasure - the point is not to be left out of the loop.

One samples out of self-defence, out of the fear that dinner party or office or casual conversation will turn to, say, Oleanna, and you'll have to confess that you haven't seen it. Protesting that you loathe, have always loathed, and will always loathe Mamet, and simply do not wish to see Oleanna is no protection. Oleanna is in the air and pitying glances will be automatically directed your way. Obey, obey, obey . . . Yet, even if one wanted to, who can keep up with hype? There are only so many hours in a day and so many Next Big Things demanding your time and attention, and demanding them now.

Feeling left out of the loop is inevitable - as inevitable as the bankruptcy that would result from shelling out every day to grope the ever-mutating urban zeitgeist. But, like an addict chasing the impossible high (the Next Big Thing will be brilliant, stunning, absolutely fabulous) you keep buying the drug and dreaming. Hype springs eternal.

Yet appetite is never satisfied. No wonder hype makes you bitchy (or more bitchy than usual). Very few things can live up to their hype - no, not even the Picasso exhibition at the Tate - so disappointment of some sort is almost

inevitable. Only it's never anything as trivial as disappointment. Hype is the art of extremes - it doesn't allow mild words or middle ground. It works you up and then works you over; we're either talking masterpiece or steaming pile of ordure. The language of considered thought (and considered criticism) is banished from the vocabulary.

Hype says all or nothing. In more ways than one hype has now become the media's natural state, so if you haven't heard of something - something low-key, something hard to hard-sell in a headline, something little that could mean a lot - it more or less ceases to exist.

'No buzz on it, baby, the hipster will mock, even while insisting that he's open to new experiences. Hell, he had dinner at Beach Blanket Babylon last night, didn't he?

Some saw it coming. As Howard Schuman lyrically predicted in the TV series Rock Follies of 77: 'Everyone/Has something to sell/A film/A book/An album/Their politics/ Religion/They're all after a pigeon/To peddle visions to.

'With so many peddlers/All out on the street/We have to get our skates on/If we want to compete.

'No time for relaxing/For sleeping like logs/ Too many other hustlers/ Are after Joe Bloggs.

(Graphic omitted)

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Day In a Page

Read Next

An unelectable extremist who hijacked their party has already served as prime minister – her name was Margaret Thatcher

Jacques Peretti

I don't blame parents who move to get their child into a good school

Chris Blackhurst
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent