The Loneliest Jukebox

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Thursday, October 21, 2004


Chav, charva, pram-face, chip-shop ... as the list of insults grows - some being added to the dictionary - so too does the media preoccupation with these delightful folk (a.k.a ordinary people outside the narrow worldview of the media industries). Popularised by a website, British pundits who'd spent years cultivating political correctness finally got to relax a bit and let rip at those they see as white trash. Were we in danger of becoming a sneer nation, asked the Independent. Or was it all harmless fun? The ambiguity was summed up when the anonymous Chavscum webmaster became upset and defensive after students started posting eugenic solutions to the 'Chav problem' on his message boards. What did he expect? The same sort of confusion was expressed by sports journalists trying to make sense of the recent Football Factory movie (click here to buy the DVD). It leads to editorial conflict in the offices of a certain educational publication, where some editors like to name school students in articles 'Darren' and 'Sharon' as a coded way of saying white trash, in line with the prejudices of some of their readers/teachers.

Two cheers then for balloon-faced Julie Burchill, who is fronting a Sky documentary on the topic due out next year. Burchill has rightly gone on record as saying "White trash by any other name stinks yet the rank odour comes not from the despised trailer trash themselves, but from the creeps who use such charming examples of social-racism as 'pram face', 'chip shop' and 'chav-scum' to describe fellow human beings," she said [this link eventually turns into a subscription only page]. It's a bit rich coming from Elizabeth Murdoch's production company, when dad Rupert has used the Sun as a bully pulpit to popularise the idea of chavs (e.g. a 'Lord of the Chavs' top-10 virals JPEG). Sky TV does more of the same, setting up both my old local The Parkway Tavern and a boozer now closer to home (The Tavern on the Hill) as examples of Britain's Hardest Pubs. (Hype aside, I still don't fancy a drink in the Loudon Bar, which was also featured.)

The problem with Burchill is that she gets it wrong - e.g. on Iraq - more often that she gets it right (e.g. on asbestos poisoning). Given that most of her journalism is based on 'me me me', I fear her proposed celebration of 'Chav culture' will turn into a celebration of Julie Burchill.


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