Friday, July 20, 2007

What would Beth Ditto do?

Earlier in the week, the Guardian had a special edition of G2 marking the 50th anniversary of Guardian Women. It was a little clanging that, while other decades were marked with extracts of reportage from Greenham Common, the abortion debate and reclaim the streets marches, 2007 was represented by an extract from What Would Beth Ditto Do.

Today's column, as KarlT points out, Beth is dealing with the problems of being a have-not in a land of haves. In a fascinating attempt to both have her cake, and pretend she doesn't have any cake, Ditto attempts to side with the underclass while, simultaneously, stressing her fabulous life:

I highly recommend being one of those people such as Dolly Parton, who embrace the dirt under their fingernails, flip that blue collar right up and let all the haves know how a real person lives and behaves. Remember that in the wider world there are far more of us than there are of them, and that alone is empowering.


Once you've mastered that you should be able to have more fun with the culture clash - I had an amazing moment recently when I was standing with the head of Sony and my crusty punk best friend. My friend was talking loudly about scabies.

Now, I know Beth is trying to show how success hasn't changed her - look, I still have my old friends - but once you start even arranging in your mind that your best friend is somehow a total opposite from the head of Sony Records, never mind using her as an example of that in a newspaper column, you start to look more than a little smug. Look! I'm so street, I bring people who talk about scabies to stand front of my important business contacts.

We might just have had some respect for her if she'd phrased the anecdote the other way round - the other night, I was hanging out with my best friend when a business guy from Sony came over and started talking about market shares - but however much Beth might claim the poor is an 'us' rather than a 'them', her attitude shows otherwise.

Hang on, she's about to share another anecdote from her amazing life:
That last piece of advice is really important, as I found out recently when I took my first first-class flight. I was so ready for it - my laptop was primed for the comfort of a full desk, I had my fash mags in hand and I was ready to spread out like a picnic with the best of them. We boarded first and were escorted through security - proof right there (as if you needed it) of the class system.

I reclined happily in my lazyboy chair. There were nuts, champagne, good food. And space for everything! Then a bout of turbulence sent the honest-to-god silverware shaking. I am not usually afraid of flying - and the turbulence ended as fast as it had begun - but this time I was freaked out. Out of the whole first-class section, Hannah (Gossip's drummer) and I were the only women, and we were also the only ones awake - the men were still laid out like babies after warm milk.

Meeting Hannah's eye, I saw the real world, right there and the reason I felt so upset hit me. I didn't wanna die with these other people! If this plane went down I didn't want what parts - if any - were found of me to be entwined with them. At that moment I missed the crying babies, the mums juggling their kids, and the tiny Twix that comes with a prepackaged meal too small to satisfy a kindergartner, in my usual section of the plane. I missed my own.

We're a little confused - the fast line at airport security is nothing to do with class, and everything to do with money. And while we can't prove Beth is lying, we bet she is. Nobody would choose economy over business or first - there's a very real truth in that Seinfeld episode where he tells Elaine "you can't go back behind the curtain". Having family on both sides of the Atlantic has meant, over the course of half a decade, we just about managed enough airmiles to allow a transatlantic upgrade coming home after last Christmas. Only to business - it wasn't being paid for by the head of Sony Records - but I can't imagine that anyone, much less someone for whom the standard airline seat would prove something of a squeeze - would ever, honestly, choose to be wedged in next to a mewling toddler for six hours simply to make a half-considered point.

Karlt, meanwhile, says of the 'my friend and the Sony man' anecdote:
Did your ever so punk friend say "boo", "botty" and "wee wees" in front of the big important man in the suit as well? And is this the same Beth Ditto who was banging on about being 'underground' and complaining about her audience not having heard of the Ramones?


Libby said...

I suspect that when anyone has achieved a rare status, fame or fortune, almost no matter what they say it sounds affected or strange. It is their status that is unusual and supplies the context and our understanding of who they are...

simon h b said...

It is possibly true that that is the case, Libby.

However, "look at me with my scabies friend hanging out with a Very Important Record Company Person, and I feel my heart is in economy" doesn't sound affected, it is affected.

Unknown said...

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