Opinion: Emily Anderson

Culture Vultures: Niamh Cullen and Emily Anderson review the week in Pop Culture - 12th February 2021

You scumbag you maggot - Beaker is BACK (illustrated by Nick Sharratt)

Have you felt the cosmic shift this week? The way the sky is just a bit brighter, the grass just a bit greener, the air just a bit cleaner? Well, there’s a reason for all this. Tracy Beaker is BACK on our tv screens this Friday (the 12th) in the new CBBC series “My Mum Tracy Beaker”, based around (as the title would suggest) Tracy’s daughter, Jess Beaker.

I choose to not believe that “The Dumping Ground” is apart of the Beaker lore as it clashes with timelines if we are to believe Tracy has a full on child that looks like they are in Year 7.

The plot of this new show (which has been accepted by me into the official Tracy canon) is based around the book of the same name released in 2018.

Because I am a serious journalist I read the first 3 chapters of the book (for RESEARCH) and found out some key points of interest for the series. So, Tracy is a single mum dating a fit footballer, well on her way to becoming WAG of the year I’m sure, and her daughter Jessica Bluebell Camilla (named after foster mum Cam not Parker Bowles) Beaker.

Things get meta in the novelisation as Jess references the tv show Tracy Beaker as if the show was a documentary of some sorts… bit confusing.

The show will see the return of Cam and Tracy’s mum Carly (who is also the mum in Bridgerton - this lady really is having a career renaissance) as well as true queen of the Dumping Ground Justine Littlewood.

I will be tuning in purely to witness Justine put down Beaker with a simple glare. I expect my Pultizer will come through the door any day now in recognition for this contribution to investigative journalism I have made in my research of this show. (NC)

It’s okay! They’re wearing masks!

I have always known America is a place I would never quite get a grasp of. In the words of one esteemed social media commentator: "like wha, bit confusin, will never understand..."

This week, the US of A, like Dua Lipa and her frequent travels, truly took the phrase “say no to strangers” to the next level. They have said No! to the pandemic, and instead hosted their annual Superbowl with a crowd of 25,000 in Florida.

The Superbowl, an event I decidedly do not understand, is (I think) a concert with a football game as the warmup.

Tom Brady is usually there, apparently, and influencer Instagram stories are full of people shouting things like “go Bears!” and “yay Hawks!”. Dystopian!

This year, the concert was headlined by The Weeknd, who for all intents and purposes put on a fairly fabulous show, complete with strobe lighting and a mirrored maze to run around.

Image: Kayla Johnson from Wikimedia Commons

But The Weeknd definitely had a slither of his spotlight stolen by the pandemic, pancetta, pan’s labyrinth (cred N. Cullen) which continues to rob me of my right to embarrass myself publicly.

Also working against Mr Weeknd is the fact that no Superbowl will ever compare to the perfection that was the 2016 show, with Beyonce, Bruno Mars and Coldplay headlining together. The masses are still unsure why.

A cocktail of chaos that gorgeous can never be beaten, I fear, but Abel put on a show, and someone won the game, and, hey, as the disclaimers told us – they all wore masks!

The “free Britney” movement hits the mainstream

I hate to claim that I am ahead of the curve in life, but I’m afraid it is the truth as I speak from the perspective of an early days “Free Britney” supporter.

Back a couple of years ago, the suggestion that a star as huge and iconic as Britney Spears was under complete control and was not free to live her life independently was beyond belief to most people.

However, with the release this past week of the documentary “Framing Britney”, the world could see just how the conservatorship she was placed under following her 2007 very public breakdown has come to be a weapon used against her.

Public perception of Britney has been defined by the exploitative tabloid coverage narrative which was at its peak during the 2000s, with the hounding press and intrusive media directly contributing to what was deemed in the press as a breakdown in 2007 which subsequently led to her father becoming her conservator, placing him in control of every aspect of the star's life, from who she sees to where she can go during her day.

Image: Kevin Winter from Wikimedia Commons

Public perception almost ends there.

She was a child star, had explosive fame, and fell apart in front of the cameras, ready for the paparazzi and media to descend and pick her apart like vultures.

It feels like now, with the rise of the free Britney movement which support her court efforts to have her father removed from being her conservator and her life restored to be under her own control the tide is turning.

In reality she was a 25 year-old single mother of two young children who was under constant harassment and public glare having her personal life discussed on TV and news sites as though she was a fictional character.

In the years following she has had the reins of her life taken from her due to the nature of the conservatorship, leaving us to ask how could a 39 year-old mother of two who has produced multiple albums and tours and maintained her position as one of the most famous people in the world have been completely without control of her life for over 10 years - and how could this be just?

Britney went on to make an album just months after this breakdown and proceeded to tour extensively in the following years, holding a Vegas residency which raked in over $137 million.

Was all this work evidence she's unstable and requiring intense controlling and is all this work evidence of a conservatorship putting her well-being before profit? Fat chance. (NC)

An ode to a forever crush

With the heaviest of hearts I begin with a farewell to Christopher Plummer, a man universally talented – and sexy – to the end. Best known for his role as hot dad Captain von Trapp in 1965’s The Sound of Music, Plummer died peacefully aged 91 on February 5th.

His seven-decade spanning career saw him as Shakespeare’s Iago (Broadway 1982), Bernard Shaw’s Caesar (Stratford 2008) and even a Disney villain in the form of 2009’s Up.

But it was The Sound of Music that clung to his being, like a good-ish secondary school test mark that your mum still goes on about.

Image: Miami Film Festival - from Wikimedia Commons

It is hard to formulate words that describe my love for this film. The landscape, the colours, Julie Andrews, the music. I watch it several times a year and sit through every one of the 174 minutes.

You didn’t ask but here’s a recap: Ms Andrews, as Maria, sashays out of the convent across the streets of Salzburg towards her new life as a governess to seven (seven!) children. She arrives at a house that a David Walliams character would steal from and meets said children, who hate governesses but love her.

Then – then – we meet the von Trapp patriarch (Plummer), who is all work, no play and courting the most glamorous woman in Austria (Eleanor Parker). Then there’s a marionette scene, some unparalleled misogyny, a ball and suddenly Maria and her sexy boss are hitched and have to escape the Nazis. Riveting!

Watching this as a child was like a drug, breathing in the rolling hills and understanding from an early age that songs that ricochet out of convent chimneys deserve Radio 1 treatment.

And through it all, there was Christopher Plummer, my first and forever crush. A fabulously talented man, described by all as gracious and kind-hearted, he has also had the privilege of taking up space in my brain for the best part of fifteen years.

Specifically, his Oscar speech from 2012, during which he looks at his statuette and tells it “you’re only two years older than me darling, where have you been all my life?”. A historic, rent-free king.

I hope to continue his legacy by starring in murder mystery films in my late eighties and being hot and fabulous until the day I die.

If you need something to do in this long stretch of lockdown, go and watch Plummer’s 1997 and 2000 interviews on The Rosie O’Donnell Show and perhaps you’ll see what I mean. (EA)