Borkowski Trends now comes with an audio debrief. Listen as the Trends writers discuss and break down their favourite trends - along with Mark Borkowski’s Trend of the Week!
Goats on Zoom
This week, the Borkowski team were following closely this story about a Lancashire farm, who have raised over £50,000 by renting their goats out for corporate zoom calls. Ever one to jump on a trend, we did a deep dive into the history of goats, and what we found knocked us off our hooves.
Before Ozzymandias the ‘Kid of Kids’ gambolled on to our weekly team meeting to say meeeh, we looked into the history of the representation of goats throughout art. It turns out, goats have always vacillated between two images. Symbols of pastoral innocence on the one hand, they were also associated with the sensuous excesses of wine, music, and the perils of Bacchic frenzy—a duality that many celebrities to this day struggle to navigate in their public persona.
The Borkowski Team meet Ozzymandias ‘Kid of Kids’
We’re in awe of the PR genius of Cronshaw farm owner Dot McCarthy, who realised exactly what the moment needed: a dose of absurdism, and a window into a far-away, pastoral landscape, driven by the natural cycles of birth, feeding, sunrise, sunset—the beautiful union of doe-goat and buck—of the bucolic imaginary hundreds of miles away from our bedroom-ridden existences.
McCarthy told the BBC that the number of people who have paid for the ‘Lulu the kid’ to goat-bomb their corporate calls has been ‘insane’. (We did some quick maths, and, at £5 a pop, this means at least 10,000 people have booked in goat zooms.) Industry people: take note, this is the best PR bump the Goat Lobby has received since G.O.A.T. became the ubiquitous internet acronym for ‘the greatest of all time’. More like greatest digital strategy of all time.
At first glance of the news that Jeff Bezos is stepping down as CEO of Amazon to focus on other, more philanthropic projects, an optimist would be forgiven for hoping this might mark the long overdue move by Bezos to start distributing his gigantean wealth to good causes. If that was the case, it might mark an overhaul of Bezos’ image, and a much needed one at that: Over the past year the public’s idea of Bezos has shifted from ‘uninteresting, unemotional tech-bro’ to ‘evil capitalist overlord’, a change accelerated by the news that the legions of Amazon staff working through the pandemic were not being fairly paid, or sufficiently protected against Covid 19, whilst Bezos’ wealth grew by 13bn in just one day, bringing his total riches to almost 200 billion.
In 2020, consumers started to feel fully the toxicity of their relationship with Amazon. Lockdown had us shopping online more than ever, but also made us increasingly aware of the perversity of it all. Convenience-fuelled shopping addictions lured us into cycles of unnecessary consumption – pumping out waste and lining the pockets of a man who could solve world poverty with a click of his fingers.
People started to boycott Amazon. If it were any other business, and you might see the CEO trying to stop them. But Bezos doesn’t seem to care, and this makes sense when you understand that Amazon, contrary to popular knowledge, is not just an online retailer. Amazon, rather, owns a vast amount of the digital infrastructure we use day-to-day, most notably the cloud that hosts the likes of Netflix, Facebook, BBC and Linkedin. Amazon’s success really, really does not depend on whether we buy our new doorbell from him or our local Homebase.
And it shows. Bezos’ ‘other projects’ do include some charitable causes, but critics note that the bulk of his wealth will go towards his continued path to world (or rather, universe) domination – spearheaded by his space project Blue Origin, to which he invests most of his money. It sounds like egotistical Silicon Valley dreaming. But in Bezos’ view, this is philanthropy: laying the groundwork that will see future generations populate space; using other’s planet’s resources to preserve Earth as a mostly residential area.
This doesn’t sit well, given the amount of aid that is desperately needed by humans alive right now, ones whose living conditions are unquestionably being worsened by the likes of Amazon. As The Guardian puts it, he ‘seems less interested in protecting the future of the planet than protecting the future of capitalism’. For now, at least, Jeff Bezos is going to remain a public enemy. Whether, in years to come, he winds up as quite the opposite - the father of space-civilization, a pioneer of humankind, the saviour of Earth itself - remains to be seen.
READ IT AND UNDERSTAND IT
If you haven’t heard the name Jackie Weaver screamed at you on a lo-res zoom call, have you even been on the internet today? Friday, 5 February 2020 a star was born. Her name? JACKIE WEAVER. It took a viral Parish council meeting for most of us to discover Jackie, but since the footage surfaced, we haven’t looked back.
This is yet another case study on how the ‘15 minutes of fame’ has evolved thanks to the mainstream meme culture. We’ve seen Alex from Glastonbury, four lads in jeans and the Wealdstone Raider elongate their 15 minutes to full-blown careers as influencers.
Jackie Weaver has been quick to capitalise on her moment in the spotlight, interviewing on Woman’s Hour and even used to announce Gordon Smart’s return to News UK.
There is a darker side to this story, one of mansplaining, sexism and bullying. The cruelty of ‘the meme’ reduces clips to their shortest form, devoid of any context and stripping down for maximum enjoyment. During Handforth Parish Councils most chaotic moment, we see Jackie Weaver ejecting disgruntled Zoom attendees as they laugh and shout at her. Jackie is portrayed as Karen-like busybody, winding up council members with her no-nonsense approach to managing the meeting.
However, when you watch the full version, the aggressive men were inexplicably angry and the rest of the meeting was harmonious, showing Jackie Weaver’s marvellous sense of humour and ability to target the gay community's support, tactfully choosing ‘Britney Spears’ as her choice of name when the groups laugh at a council member tagging himself as ‘Handforth PC Clerk’, despite not properly being elected.
This has created a unique opportunity for Jackie to platform her side of the story and with it a career as a hilarious icon that navigated a Zoom call that encapsulated the worst parts of video comms that we’ve all experienced (on steroids).
Golden Globes Under Fire
Major awards ceremonies are embattled. True, the advent of the meme has extended the lifespan of various funny moments that in ages past would have more quickly been lost to the ether. But that’s where the good news ends. The digitisation of our culture has allowed for more immediate, in-depth interrogation of the processes that drive these ceremonies. We know exactly how the sausage is made and we have strong opinions.
In ages past it was harder to challenge bodies like the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s self-image as the ultimate showbiz authority, the judiciary of a system we plebs could never hope to understand. Now, though, social and digital media have created a new Estate to which these arbiters of taste are accountable.
Beyond accountability, the age of pile-ons and cancel culture has birthed new means by which to visit brutal vigilante justice on those seen as corrupt, prejudiced or tasteless.
This reality has converged on the Golden Globes this week. A year ago we were arguing about virtue signalling speeches and whether Ricky Gervais was still funny. This year the collective outrage of the internet is directed at the nominations, specifically the perceived snub of I May Destroy You, and the inference that the acclaimed drama’s lack of recognition symbolises the racial and pro-establishment prejudice of the Hollywood elite.
For some it’s about artistic merit (versus such theoretically inferior products as Emily in Paris). Anyone prioritising that argument doesn’t understand the Golden Globes, which is voted for by red carpet journalists and not critics or artists, and has therefore always prioritised slightly tacky glitz over less broadly accessible art.
What’s galling others is that even in an age that’s apparently more socially, culturally and racially aware, in which POC are making hit films and television that get the audiences and reviews they deserve, the ‘best’ television still just happens to be what USA Today described as “blindingly white”.
It should be noted that the Golden Globes improved its diversity in other areas. But major awards are all about balancing the favourites of the court with the mood of the proletariat. Reaction this week suggests they’ve got it wrong again.