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

Share
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

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Full Stack Developer (.NET 4.0, ASP.NET, MVC, Ajax, WCF,SQL)

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Full Stack ...

AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - Investment Management

£450 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - I...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Jihadist militants leading away captured Iraqi soldiers in Tikrit, Iraq, in June  

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Robert Fisk
India's philosopher, environmental activist, author and eco feminist Vandana Shiva arrives to give a press conference focused on genetically modified seeds on October 10, 2012  

Meet Vandana Shiva: The deserving heir to Mahatma Ghandi's legacy

Peter Popham
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?