This year we will see a number of films, plays and TV shows which reflect the post-Trump era in a case of art imitating life. Or is it the other way around?, asks Allan Prosser.
Events in Ireland and the world recall a phrase which has been attributed in various forms to an unlikely trio comprising Catch-22 author Joseph Heller, head grunger Kurt Cobain, and international power broker Henry Kissinger.
“Just because you’re paranoid it doesn’t mean they’re not after you.”
It’s a word play that works at a number of levels and its sentiments have proven resilient for far more than a century. Those feelings of being victimised, and of lacking power or control over our lives, are becoming rapidly more ubiquitous.
Such anxieties are the fountainhead of the campaigns against faceless or elite power and globalisation which led to the Brexit and Donald Trump votes and which will cause further political tremors in the next 18 months.
In our societies, we see plots everywhere and are increasingly subject to what psychiatrists and psychologists describe as “attribution bias”.
Because many of us have a flawed view of the world and the way it works, we characterise the unthinking or incompetent actions of others as being implemented by design and with malice aforethought.
This is accelerated by the white noise of permanent commentary. In an interesting interview in the Sunday papers yesterday (The Observer, since you ask) the thoughtful Irish actor Cillian Murphy voiced his frustrations over “the reductive nature of most journalism”.
“It is getting absurd with the dumbing down, the level of questions you get asked,” he added.
Anyone working in the media might provide a mea culpa for that accusation and, at the very least, we can recognise our own contribution to the state of public discourse the next time we are moved to criticise it.
It has been a grand week for conspiracy theories. I learned through the splendidly titled ‘Vault 7’ WikiLeaks release of documents that I can’t trust my mobile phone (I never have) and that the smart TV in the corner of my flat is a monitoring device that would have felt right at home in Winston Smith’s apartment in Victory Mansions, Airstrip One, Oceania.
And what would they have discovered about me this weekend had my Samsung been subjected to a ‘Weeping Angel’ hack?
That I admired George North’s performance on Friday evening; that there was a hard lesson to be learned for Robbie Henshaw in the maul and that I missed Tom Hardy’s tats and mystifying grunts on Saturday night’s Taboo.
If I was a Person of Interest — Carlos the Jackal, perhaps, who goes on trial in Paris for a 43-year-old act of terrorism this week — then I don’t think the case would turn on the evidence of the gogglebox.
Persecution, you see, depends on your perspective. Quite the most jaw-dropping item I read this week originated from a purportedly Catholic blogger who said: “Ireland’s ‘mass graves’ story is fake news.
“It was a lie in 2014 and it is a lie in 2017. There is no evidence of a mass grave outside a home for unmarried women operated by nuns in Tuam, Ireland, near Galway, in the 20th century. The hoax is now back again, and an obliging media are running with the story as if it were true.
“Any objective and independent reporter would be able to report what I am about to say, but unfortunately there are too many lazy and incompetent reporters prepared to swallow the latest moonshine about the Catholic Church. If there were a Pulitzer for Fake News, the competition would be fierce.”
There is more polemic in this vein, found easily through your choice of search engine. The writer chooses to take issue with the use of the phrase “mass grave”.
Unlike others, including Ireland-based priests and bishops, he does not attempt to place the discoveries within the context of the era.
If you have the appetite, please do read these criticisms of the known facts so far and draw your own conclusions as to whether what happened at Tuam and Bessborough falls into the category of “moonshine”.
Into this febrile atmosphere of the post fact and fake news environment it is timely, therefore, that we are about to see the first great movie of the modern Age of Paranoia.
Get Out — described as a social thriller — tells the story of a multi-racial relationship in the US. So far, so Sidney Poitier.
But in this case the techniques of horror are used to ventilate the subjects of eugenics, of being an outsider, of police brutality, of liberal complacency.
At its heart is a British actor, Daniel Kaluya, playing Chris Washington (no coincidental choice of surname). Here I declare a slight interest.
I have known of him tangentially since my partner taught him drama in an inner London comprehensive, have always been in the audience for his on-stage performances, and watched his screen career race on through Silent Witness, Doctor Who, Skins, Psychoville, Black Mirror, Johnny English Reborn, and Sicario.
His success in Get Out was tempered slightly last week when Samuel L Jackson wondered aloud whether an American actor could have brought something more to the role than a Brit.
After a celebrity Twitter storm, he clarified his comments. He was talking about the Hollywood casting system. He had been misunderstood.
Also misunderstood was Daniel Kaluya when police arrested him on a London bus in 2013 and accused him of obstructing an officer in a prosecution in which they subsequently offered no evidence.
Police said that Kaluya “had matched the description” of “someone behaving suspiciously in the area”.
Following its dismissal that case was heading to the High Court to deal with a compensation claim.
In an interview after the launch of Get Out, Kaluya said: “This is how racism feels. You get really paranoid, and you internalise it, and you get really weird around people that are close to you.”
For racism, he could have said injustice.
The artistic world is very quick to see trends. It’s no surprise that John Le Carré is bringing George Smiley, the archetypal, cynical, Cold War warrior, out of retirement for his next book.
And just how prescient is Corcadorca’s choice for its big summer show on Spike Island?
Caryl Churchill’s highly unsettling 2000 play Far Away imagines a world at war with itself (“the cats have come in on the side of the French”) where even the elements are enlisted to whatever the cause might be.
(“The Bolivians are working with gravity... but we’re getting further with noise, and there’s thousands dead of light in Madagascar.”)
As a society, we need to replace cynicism with a healthier form of scepticism if we are to get the truth of matters, and remember that everything will look yellow to the jaundiced eye.
But this is not the same as being healthy.
You can view the trailer for Get Out online at www.getoutfilm.com/videos
Terry Prone is on leave this week
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