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Borkowski Weekly Media Trends: Jonas vs. Jonas, Marina Abramovic & MORE
PLUS: Female Players in EAFC | Murdoch's drama-free Succession
Poor Judgement Jonas
Analysing the PR battle between actor Sophie Turner and her estranged husband, overgrown teenybopper idol, Joe Jonas, has become a social media obsession. When rumours of the couple’s split appeared in early September, it was camp Jonas seemingly steering the narrative. Sources came forward blaming the pair’s differing lifestyles, - Jonas prefers to “stay home” while Turner “likes to party.” This characterisation continued with a story that ran prominently on the Mail Online, featuring images of Turner joining bar staff in Birmingham for shots and cocktails. Throughout this character assassination, Turner maintained a dignified silence. This brave but well-advised approach has only increased the power of this week’s counterattack from House Stark.
On Wednesday, Turner linked arms on a thoroughly photographed dinner date with none other than the queen of breakup revenge herself, and fellow Joe Jonas ex, Taylor Swift. It was the ultimate flex. The images swept across social media, in a torrent that only the female millennial and gen z population can muster. Then came the killing blow – news broke that Turner was suing Jonas to return their two children to England, with the cutting reveal that she first heard about her own divorce via the media.
If the original furore around the split was indeed stirred up by Jonas’s team, it seems they have forgotten their target audience: young women who grew up buying Jonas Brothers lunchboxes, many now with children of their own, were never going to respond well to Mother Bashing. Hell hath no fury…
Naked Ambition – Abramovic at the RA
After a three-year delay, Marina Abramovic’s Royal Academy exhibition finally opened this week, marking the first time in its history that a woman has led a solo retrospective there. The post-opening press has been, typically for Abramovic, controversial, with the Daily Mail crowing that visitors will have to squeeze between a naked couple to even enter the space (other doors are, of course, available).
Abramovic might be a unique genius with an unparalleled ability to shock, but in our torrid times, do the methods by which she made her name have the same currency? Headlines like the Mail’s were inevitable, and both the artist and the institution have no doubt courted them. Outrage, however manufactured, makes the season’s most anticipated show an even hotter ticket – why see an Abramovic performance if it isn’t causing controversy?
But the show’s reviews suggest that, at least artistically, the approach may finally be wearing thin. The Times called it remorseless and suffocating, while the New Statesman’s description of a “catalogue of self-harm” was far from enticing, even for those familiar with the art. Abramovic is now 76 and widely revered, but there’s a lesson for the aspiring provocateurs following her path. In a time of culture wars, when even the most innocuous act can lead to widespread condemnation, do works that deliberately try to generate it carry the same authenticity?
EAFC: Intro of Female Players moves with the times
Video game publisher EA Sports has transitioned from the iconic FIFA branding to EAFC, the first major shift since its 1993 introduction after the choosing not to continue licensing ‘FIFA’, citing a reluctance to “pay a premium” for the license.
This isn’t merely a superficial renaming but a significant move towards gender equality. EA’s flagship mode, Ultimate Team, allows gamers to collect and play with virtual cards of their favourite players. However with this rebrand, women are included and stand on an equal footing with their male counterparts.
Since 2015, EA began featuring women’s national teams, incrementally integrating more female players. Previously, the women’s segment could be overlooked unless sought out intentionally, but now influencers, pros, and casual gamers will eagerly compete using female athletes. And as they unbox player packs - reminiscent of Panini stickers or Pokémon cards - they’ll revel in acquiring the game’s elite women.
Many gamers and fans of the franchise criticise the changes, citing unrealistic physical attributes, despite EA being renowned for leaning more towards an arcade-style experience, letting players combine modern stars with ‘Icons’ such as Maradona, Pele, and George Best, legends no longer with us. Remarkably, FIFA 23 even redefined traditional roles, turning goalkeepers like Petr Cech into top-tier strikers with special cards.
EA’s strategic move is timely and astute, mirroring the rising stature of women’s football in the UK. We’ve seen millions back the Lionesses like never before, and using EAFC to amplify the women’s game could cement its place further in mainstream consciousness. Upon the game’s UK release next week, we’ll closely monitor sales to discern its true resonance.
Succession without the drama for Murdoch
Rupert Murdoch, the world’s most famous media mogul and the king of ‘legacy’ media, this week abdicated the Fox and News Corp crown, handing it over to his son Lachlan.
For a polarising figure whose life has been riddled with controversies, disputes and divisive behaviour, Murdoch’s retirement has so far been a reassuringly uneventful affair for anyone working for, or managing the corporate reputation of any of his properties.
Recent reputational turmoil for Murdoch includes the whopping ‘Dominion’ court settlement for peddling conspiracy theories around the 2020 US presidential election, a failed merger of News Corp and Fox, the defenestration of Tucker Carlson, and the blackly comedic melodramatisation of his family’s internal struggles in the form of Succession (which also reignited interest in the Murdoch progeny’s real-life scheming and power struggles).
The empire Lachlan is inheriting does not quite span as far over the horizon as it once did, the FT pointing out that 2017’s sale of 21st Century Fox to Disney, while great business, retracted the borders drastically.
However, mixed sentiment (to put it tamely) about his legacy aside, Rupert’s universal name recognition means scrutiny on the new crown prince of media will be forensic and unforgiving. But given the Murdoch dynasty’s propensity to create drama, the announcement of the changing of the guard being (at time of writing) something of a non-event is close to a best-case scenario.