Borkowski Weekly Media Trends 29-01-21

Boris's Scotland | Fast-Food Fiasco | Fendi’s Collection | Armie Hammer

Boris’s Scotland visit is brilliant…for the SNP

The ‘visit’ is a staple tool of performative political PR. Presence demonstrates that our leaders care, however little they do after they arrive. Similarly, absence is tantamount to a lack of care however much supportive action is happening remotely. This tension sustains a weird, self-perpetuating ritual.

But are some issues too big to be salved by a ‘visit’? Scotland has been in perpetual constitutional crisis since 2013 and this year’s Holyrood election could be the latest to shake the foundations of the union.

Polling points to a powerful SNP majority and support for Scottish independence has consistently outweighed that for the union for months. The combination is a strong mandate for another referendum.

Enter Boris, or whatever’s left of him, who has been persuaded march the 9th Legion beyond Hadrian’s Wall and into Caledonia to ‘save the union’.

Chances of success? The SNP is as embattled as it has been in the past decade. On one flank, disgraced former leader Alex Salmond is lobbing missiles like a chubby poltergeist, and on the other a row over transgender rights has seen young members quit in droves.

And the Scottish electorate is sophisticated and vengeful; just look at the number of seats swinging SNP-Tory and back in recent elections.

This context may have given Boris & Co. the false impression that now is the time to strike. But in our tribal culture, political divisions have calcified and metastasized and even these crises may not be enough to destabilise the SNP.

Far more likely, Boris’s presence will act as a reminder of the factors that drove Scotland to this brink; Brexit, the bungled pandemic response (Boris is perceived to have done much worse than Nicola), Tory austerity, and the general condescension of the English towards the Scots. Get Irvine Welsh and Frankie Boyle (nationalists both) in a room to invent an English Tory bogeyman that symbolises these ills and more, and they could not create a more perfect lightning rod for Scottish nationalist sentiment than Boris Johnson.

At the nadir of SNP unity, and if he’s able to remain lowkey and gaffe-free, Boris’s best-case scenario is probably nil net impact on the polls. But it’s unlikely that even a bloody stalemate will do him any more good than staying put and quietly stoking the SNP’s scandals.

Subway’s Tuna Meltdown

If you’ve ever had the misfortune of eating a tuna sandwich from Subway, you probably weren’t eating fresh tuna; in fact, you were eating something that was ‘made from anything BUT tuna’.

Subway have been sued after a recent discovery has found their tuna sub doesn’t even contain fish, following an independent investigation by two Californian residents.

This isn’t the first time Subway have faced widespread criticism over their food (remember when Ireland's Supreme Court found that Subway's bread contained too much sugar to be called bread), and Subway aren’t the only ones – pretty much all of the global brands have some kind of notorious moment in fast-food history.

Sadly, the Teflon fast-food industry will survive the crisis with its reputation unscathed. Fast-food eaters know they are inhaling unhealthy food. When you’ve subconsciously been told that you are ‘Eating Fresh’, this revelation isn’t going to stop you from ordering your weekly Subway. Fast-food brands are impenetrable – if ‘SuperSize Me’ couldn’t kill off McDonald’s, then surely people will keep eating their fish-less Tuna Sub—but the PR just might be bad enough to force Subway to up its nutritional game. 

Couture debut draws mixed reactions

Fendi’s latest womenswear collection was a bit… weird. What’s weirder, are the polar-opposite responses to it to be found in the mainstream press and social media. 

The mainstream press loved it. Harper’s Bazaar declared it ‘stunning’. Vogue called it ‘deeply personal’. (They also explained all the references—in case you missed the allusion to the Bloomsbury Group.)

The show marked the Fendi debut of British designer Kim Jones, who has been rightfully celebrated for his work with Dior’s menswear. Jones succeeded the late Karl Lagerfeld as artistic director, joining Silvia Venturini Fendi, the only member of the family still working at the Italian fashion house, early this year to carry the brand forward into the twenty-first century.

And for his debut couture show, they pulled out all the stops. Kate Moss walked alongside her daughter Lila Grace, Naomi Campbell rounded it out in a silver cape, and, for some reason, Demi Moore was there

Despite this star-studded cast, many on social media were not impressed. Opinionated fashion influencers @diet_prada didn’t exactly lacerate the collection; instead, they pointed out some repetitive elements and allowed their followers to hate on it in the comment section. (A frequent observation likened Kate Moss’s dark-grey satin dress to a quinceañera outfit.)

Others had more pointed concerns: including a question of whether another white man should have succeeded Karl Lagerfeld, whether men can design for women without objectifying them, and how the models were able safely to travel to Paris despite pandemic restrictions.

Recently, it seems traditional media commentary is often out of step with the hot takes circulating on social media. What can explain this divergence? Are the Vogues, Elles, and Vanity Fairs of the world out of touch with the people who consume fashion? Or does social media simply provoke a more unforgiving (and vocal) audience?

As we discussed this question amongst ourselves, one Trends writer presented a more ominous possibility, taking a cue from Vogue’s ‘5 Things to Know’ piece. It is possible that writers for wide-circulation magazines see themselves as explainers. They imagine themselves on the side of the producers of culture, not its consumers. They thus see fit to educate the mob, and sometimes, they find themselves defending the indefensible.

Hammer to Fall?

In the latest scandal to rock Hollywood, screenshots, leaked last week, showed violent sexual messages allegedly sent from Golden-Globe winning actor Armie Hammer to various women. Initial outrage at the messages mostly focussed on the fact that Hammer is married with two children...until more screenshots emerged, featuring fantasies about rape and cannibalism.

Numerous women came forward with screenshots and anecdotes about their alleged relations with Hammer – all of it pitch perfect fodder for gossipers. The messages were all outrageously explicit, made even more salacious by Hammer’s unfaithfulness and, obviously, by his fame. Whilst he was quick to call the claims ‘bullshit’, his lawyer has since said of the messages ‘any interactions with any partner of his, were completely consensual in that they were fully discussed, agreed upon, and mutually participatory’. Hammer has now pulled out of filming three major projects.

In a post-MeToo world, where Hollywood exists as a kind of 2.0 - one that is acquainted with the concepts of accountability and equal rights, if not quite fully integrated with them - what does this mean for Hammer?

This is undoubtedly a tale of a man taking advantage of his power but, unlike many MeToo stories, this case goes beyond comparably simple questions of consent and sexism, to debates about what we, as a society, deem acceptable behaviour within the realms of kink and fetish, addiction and delusion.

Hammer is unlikely to face any legal battles here. Instead, he will have to accept his status as a laughingstock, forever branded as a cannibal, as a freak.

But, whilst Hammer’s reputation will continue to plummet until he is no longer relevant, others will capitalise on the opportunity. In an impeccably timed twist of events, today the news broke that the director of Call Me By Your Name, Luca Guadagnino, and Hammer’s former co-star, Timothée Chalamet, are reunited for a new project: a cannibal love story.