In a week where Corbyn was blasted by Cameron for the cheap appearance of his suit, it is interesting that a reference to the importance of one’s suit in a fictional Channel 4 TV programme has gone unnoticed.
On Monday 22nd February, the new series of Fresh Meat aired on Channel 4. In this episode, the show’s token uppercrust character, Jack, struggles with the plans that his brother, ‘Tomothy’ imposes on him for his future. Tomothy responds to this by advising on his brother’s appearance; presenting his younger brother with a suit. This is a suit not unlike the kind of Saville Row suits you can often see Cameron sporting in fact. (The suit is grey, and slightly shiny, in appearance; presumably a product which denotes some kind of status to others.)
He tells his brother to mind his “Ps and Qs”, put on the suit, and go for an interview at the family firm. This, he says, will guarantee him a successful future. In no time at all, he can expect to be working “5 til 9” and presumably living a blessed life among upper, privileged society.
On Wednesday 24th February, during PMQs (which is broadcast live) the Prime Minster also had some advice for Jeremy Corbyn on his suit. When responding to a question regarding what his mother would say about his efforts to scupper the NHS, he replied by saying that she would advise Corbyn to ‘put on a proper suit, do up your tie and sing the national anthem.’
It is also worth noting that, in another strange example of life imitating art, which Cameron is no stranger to (see Black Mirror), the character of ‘Tomothy’ also looks remarkably like a younger Cameron in his appearance. It is almost as if the writers
based this young actor on the living caricature that is David Cameron. This throws up some peculiar questions; does our heavily mediated society have an overarching collective consciousness, which supersedes reality? Is this not magical realism becoming real magicalism?
David Strecher, in his article on the writer Haruki Murukami, defines magical realism as being ‘when a highly detailed, realistic setting [is] invaded by something that is too strange to believe.’ A fictional character in a television programme advising another on a suit. The prime minister, who bears a striking resemblance to the fictional character advises another on a suit in the House of Commons. A character in another television programme (the prime minister, in fact) is forced to have sex with a pig in order to, he believes, save his country from attack. Allegations arise, almost four years later, that the (real) prime minister, did in fact have sex with a pig. The creator of Black Mirror, Charlie Brooker, interestingly said that the story was complete fiction, and he had been suitably ‘weirded out’ by the whole debacle.
It also raises questions regarding materiality and reality. In Guy Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle, the concept of the spectacle consumes objectivity, the so-called ‘real’. ‘Lived reality is materially invaded by the contemplation of the spectacle while simultaneously absorbing the spectacular order (…) every notion fixed this way has no other basis than its passage into the opposite: reality rises up within the spectacle, and the spectacle is real’.
Cameron’s ‘dressing down’ of Corbyn on the basis of his inexpensive suit poses as ‘lived reality’; in the sober surroundings of the House of Commons nonetheless. But the spectacular order, the fictional TV programme, preceded this exchange by two days. (The same with the pig story and Black Mirror, which was aired in 2011.) In a sense, then, the spectacle, the ‘story’, becomes a kind of ‘super reality’; it has overtaken ‘lived reality’. In the theatre of the political, mediated as it is by the media, the true really is, then, ‘the moment of the false’.