JULIE BIRCHILL (LAST OF THE CRITICS)

13/02/13

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Julie Birchhill was not in the Modern Review office when I was running errands for the editor, Toby Young in the fin-de-siécle-haze of the mid-90s.  She was too fucked.  Hungover, I was told.  My teen learning-experience with Modern Review lasted a day because The Modern Review was not a fun place to work: Julie was half-way through her fucking of Charlotte Raven, her writing protegé, having fucked the marriage to her husband and the magazine’s co-founder, Cosmo Landesman, and now the office was fucked.  I went back to training at Loaded (which meant note-keeping when everyone was too fucked to hold a pen) and at Dazed & Confused (where Julie Birchill was  fucking OLD school).

Listening to the iPlayer edition of R4’s Desert Island Discs with Julie Birchill has prompted me to bash my typewriter with the hammer I’d hold to the puerility of every critic, be them men, women, or children.  The listening experience was only saved by Kirsty Young’s treatment towards Julie’s pipsqueak defensiveness – like a nanny attempting to reason with a toddler who’d caned all the candy.

I’ve come across all types of insecure morons in the media, I’ve shagged them, and worked aside prime cases everywhere from the NME (prep-school-groomed wet-wipes who scared easy and wouldn’t have known dance music if it stuck a glowstick up their straight arseholes) through to headmaster-esque condescension towards audience at fashion and style titles.  Let alone the (at times) sickening and blasé assumptions of broadcast.

“The compensation of early success”, said Scott F. Fitzgerald, “is a conviction that life is a romantic matter. In the best sense one stays young.”

Birchill said she used to be precocious, that all writers have their best days.  But she’s still precocious, that’s her recipe, goading every inch of the media mic with a LOOK AT ME, MUMMY-desire.  And she’s made a good few million out of it, she boasted of Sugar Rush Emmy’s giving her credibility, but failed to mention the Transexual piece that’s been taken off The Observer’s site for prejudice (and re-posted by the long-jilted, Toby Young on The Telegraph).  The point in the Desert Island Discs institution is it’s music that means something to you – Julie could not conform to such a brief.  Her music choice was total shite – it was a calculated statement of outdated rebellion.  Perleaze, the Israeli national anthem, with “I wish I’d been a Jew”-type remarks?  That behaviour is older than John Lydon.  Unless she’s trying to get a film made, she could have at least tried a song of Yemen and ‘Wouldn’t it be great if I was Islamic?’  Get with the programme, Julie, a) music to sing along to, b) contemporary people live beyond categorisation in a Twitterverse without borders.  We’ve got to be liked.  I got RSI fast-forwarding through her attention-seeking playlist on the iPlayer. Skin-crawling.  Yet affirming my belief that all critics were bullied at school. Reviews = revenge.

It’s not that I don’t rate Julie Birchill’s work, I liked her novel, Ambition, I read it at the right time in my career, post-early-success-implosion, yet in the same way that it channels JC (yes, the holy Jackie Collins), she sounded exactly like a copywriter in her determination to be a “controversialist” on the radio, taking the punk ‘I don’t care what anyone thinks’-line, unconvincingly, and as she said in the first link – that does become a broken record.  Carbon copies, kerching. I’m going to start my own newspaper; I love the (glorified) tropes of journalism:  the fight for truth and a tenacity that would lead a pack of dogs across a desert.  But who’d back me?  The issue is, media ownership is a simple thing, you swap your soul with whomever you meet at the crossroads, but Taste? Isn’t one person saying, “Mine is better than yours” – like, ur, Hitler?  Or does every right-wing liberal reading The Guardian like the same thing?  Or has en masse media become less powerful than iTunes? P’raps the best thing a reviewer could offer would be a link in their byline to their fave records/wardrobe items/bookshelf, so readers can sit on the plateau of equality we all signed-up for.  Another element to the media fraternity is a pathological desire to achieve.  Doors may be held open with a smile, but if that person was wearing a balaclava they’d be slamming it in your face before you could laydown a cartoon oil-slick. That’s why I’ve done more yoga than journalism over the past years…anyway…

Folk need guidance but there’s always some naîve fuck somewhere who’ll swap ego for 4 or 5 stars on the poster.  I’ve done it, first screening I’d ever been to, they gave me some nice lil’ canapés.  As happens every morning to crews of bloggers being bought, literally, for Taste.  As a professional, whenever I’ve taken the hatchet it’s been a daft-move because, fatally, the thing would then chart phenomenally, like the God Is A DJ album by Faithless – whoops, I just didn’t get the concept as I spun tunes at Manumission (never mind how seriously I took my music, and everything available) – but as a film producer, with the past behind me, I learnt what it’s like to be on the other side of a journalist’s inability to respect years of artistic slavery.  Call the bad reviews of our movie karma or deserved, alright, touché, I was once an obnoxious young tart but my heart was always one of enthusiasm.  The film also received awards nominated by journalists and some stonkingly good reviews (and I didn’t even know those people) so where, pray, is the parity?

As the devastation relating to the Leveson Inquiry gets extended for another two years of police exploration building up for election, and our leader introduces a Royal Charter to govern the media – that can be changed, whenever the fuck they feel like, slowly eroding freedom of speech, that shock-shit of the 90s, my foundation, with stuffed sharks, stupid band fights and trendsetting abuse of cocaine – suggests we are living in more serious times.  The dream of a democratic online utopia has been shafted, the Alexa Top 100 is filled with media-megaliths preaching exactly what we may expect from them.  Status: in Zuckerberg We Trust.     I’m no cultural imperialist but everything is a choice.  My face was absorbed in The Face at 15, I’m now catching up with Dickens, but first, let me get back to fantasising about the Housewife of OC who gets shot by her husband, shortly after he’s sliced up her surgeon with a carving knife.
ImageOne of my training grounds, the backstage area for the magazine that was Loaded. 
AND THANKS DUE TO GEMMA PEPPE FOR OUR TWIT-RANT THAT SPURRED THIS…
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One thought on “JULIE BIRCHILL (LAST OF THE CRITICS)

  1. Thought this was quite an interesting quote from Jenna Lyons, J Crew’s creative Director: ‘My goal is not to be a tastemaker. It has never been that. I don’t consider myself that at all. The idea that you can make taste or influence someone’s taste is a very precarious and overly presumptuous concept.’…Probably wise words for Julie! x

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