Monthly Archives: August 2011

Sanctimony of Marriage

A few weeks ago an article appeared in The Irish Times concerning the treatment by Iarnród Éireann staff of a same-sex couple on their way home from a march supporting gay marriage. The relevant details are in the link provided, but the situation can be summed up in the succinct reply the men were given when they protested their case: “Irish Rail doesn’t recognise same-sex marriage.” How admirable of such an organisation to step out of their remit of having people driven around in trains and branch into holding strong opinions on weighty moral and societal issues. Obviously the company does, however, recognise a PR disaster when they see one as they were quick to issue an apology.

Gay marriage is quite a contentious issue at the moment. New York officially legalised it this year, and there is currently an ongoing debate in Australia after the gay brother of politician Bob Katter criticised his sibling’s remark that gay marriage “deserves to be laughed at and ridiculed.” It’s quite impressive that a hick Australian politician can find the time to sneer at the idea of same-sex unions in between asserting that Muslim immigrants are ruining the country and complaining that Aborigines get preferential treatment. Incidentally Katter also refutes climate change, and admits to throwing eggs at The Beatles in 1964 as an act of ‘intellectual reaction against Beatlemania’. Indeed.  It’s people like him that make you sorry we didn’t find somewhere even more remote to send all of our criminals back in the day.

The usual argument against allowing same-sex marriage is that the sanctity of marriage must be protected. Marriage is the union of a man and a woman and exists mainly for the purpose of procreation, so they say. This of course ignores couples who can’t, or simply choose not to have children, and conveniently glosses over single-parent families, as well as the sheer amount of straight couples that are truly awful parents. Procreating is easy, it’s the next part that requires a bit of effort.

There is also the slightly more pressing matter of our planet being hugely overpopulated. In a hundred years time there’ll be 9 billion of us perched on the only mountain-top that hasn’t slipped underwater, huddled around watching the world’s last drops of oil burn away, cursing all that time we spent inventing nuclear weapons and thinner phones when we should have been relocating to Mars. If anything we could probably do with a few married couples who don’t plan on producing any more mouths to feed.

The religious conservative right is, of course, the loudest voice calling for the integrity of marriage to be preserved. The polemicist Christopher Hitchens made an interesting point a few years ago that if any group should embrace the idea of gay marriage, it is the conservative right. He notes that the gay movement has moved away from the idea of being different and set apart from everyone else, and has expressed a willingness to conform to conventional societal norms.

He states that gay marriage is an example of the socialisation of homosexuality, given that marriage is such a fundamental part of human society, and the fact that many within the gay community now want to be classed as husbands and wives like everyone else. He is absolutely right but obviously such a daring display of logic and reasonable thinking will not dissuade the right wing from inarticulately and loudly voicing their grievances.

The arguments about preserving marriage as it is are interesting because such rationale is not applied uniformly. Changes to law and social tradition are often welcomed if viewed as positive progress. For example, not so long ago voting was the exclusive preserve of men who owned land. Now it is a right for all adults. Most sensible people don’t see this as an erosion of values. Rather it is simply a reflection of changing values. Society is dynamic and is constantly evolving, and the law has to keep up if we’re to progress. The view persists, however, that legalising gay marriage will somehow cheapen the whole thing. Although I’m pretty sure that with Vegas weddings, the astoundingly huge divorce rate, constant infidelity, and people playing Kelly Clarkson for their first dance, the gays couldn’t possibly cheapen it any more even if they tried.

Most of the opposition to changing the status of marriage is based in religion, especially in countries with a strong religious conservative base like America. Even himself is guilty of it. Incidentally I’d imagine Jefferson and the rest of the founding fathers are just over the moon with how their vision of a true secular nation turned out. Nice job lads. Many of these religious types are profoundly un-Christian when it comes to certain matters, homosexuality being a prominent example.

Refusing to mind their own business, they seem intent on telling everyone else exactly why they’re going to Hell. Some of the hatred and invective directed towards certain groups of people by self-proclaimed followers of Jesus is somewhat at odds with his whole message. A wise man once said that it seems the more you talk about Jesus, the less you have to act like him. In fairness though, anyone would find it hard to act like a 2,000 year old Jew who’s lived in an ethereal paradise for most of his afterlife. The accent would be a nightmare to get right.

Whatever the reasons, religious fundamentalist types seem to love imposing their views on others. Imposition is the key term here, because everyone is entitled to their opinion but nobody has the right to impose it on another. Live your own life by whatever moral code you wish, but don’t force other people to live by your values. If you don’t agree with abortion, do not ever set foot in an abortion clinic with a view to availing of their services while you have a foetus inside you. If you don’t agree with gay marriage, don’t any time soon find yourself entering a civil union with a homosexual person. These are not difficult situations to ignore. In fact they are rather difficult to manufacture and would require quite a bit of planning. There are not many stories that begin with you telling the lads in the pub, “You’ll never believe what happened to me yesterday” and end with “Well I’d better head off, me and the husband are up early to go and buy some new curtains. Simon says blue is so last year’s colour.”

It is fairly apparent that we are slowly but surely moving towards a world where gay marriage is not an outlandish concept. Each generation of young people is by and large more liberal and tolerant than the last, so it’s basically just a question of waiting for the ignorance to die out. Which, thanks to modern medicine, can take fecking ages. This is invariably a good thing though. Hopefully if any of my grandchildren turn out to be gay my decrepit body will have survived long enough to enjoy the wedding. I just hope they’re not Kelly Clarkson fans.


National Anathema

Watching the Irish rugby matches over the past few weeks I’ve been reminded of just how awful our national anthem is when compared to those of other nations. Considering Amhrán na bhFiann is all about soldiers, conflict and beating back hordes of thieving Saxons, you would expect it to be a bit more rousing and exciting. As it is, the monotonous dirge that is usually droned along to in a half-hearted fashion couldn’t be any less inspirational. Apparently Yeats was right; romantic Ireland’s dead and gone, it’s with O’Leary…who didn’t even make the squad. To be fair, our anthem is still significantly better than that Phil Coulter abomination that we have to sing to placate the Ulster lads, but that’s hardly a ringing endorsement.

Written in 1907, the song soon became a popular marching tune for the Irish Volunteers. It was also sung by the rebels in the GPO during the Easter Rising. Funnily enough, the song wasn’t translated into Irish until after 1916. The image of young, rebellious Irish freedom fighters singing a nationalistic war tune in the King’s English seems a bit incongruous. Then again, that entire conflict was basically a suicide mission dreamed up by some deranged homosexual poets who wanted to die a bloody and glorious death and bring as many innocent, impressionable Irish kids with them as possible. So I suppose it wasn’t the strangest part of those few days.

Among other rugby nations, in particular, our anthem falls disappointingly short. The Six Nations tournament boasts some seriously impressive anthems. God Save the Queen, while inherently akin to fingernails on a blackboard for Irish people, does in fairness have a certain bombastic quality. The lyrics may be imperialistic nonsense that belongs in the dark ages, but it’s a catchy tune. The Welsh anthem is similarly pleasing to the ear, helped greatly by the fact that every Welshman is blessed with an incredible singing voice. And the fact that Katherine Jenkins is often the one singing it.

The Scots touch on similar themes to us, but in a much more violent fashion. Flower of Scotland is basically a history lesson and an Anglophobic hate crime rolled up into a Highlands tune, which is why everyone loves it so much. The French have La Marseillaise, possibly the catchiest anthem of them all. It’s a stirring and upbeat tune that is always sung with great gusto and passion, and best of all it ensures that two whole minutes can pass without the French booing their own players. Finally we have the Italian anthem, which, while a little dated at this stage, is still a great sing-along tune, and accurately encapsulates the Italian personality.

Our own national song definitely needs some updating if it’s to compete with its contemporaries. A competition to find a worthy replacement would appear to be in order, and could take the place of our ridiculous annual search for new victims to send to the Eastern Bloc love-in that is the Eurovision. I’ll give you a heads-up lads, if we’ve never had a genocidal dictator then we’re not going to win. Those depressingly generic landlocked Soviet abortions of countries have it all sewn up. They all give each other douze points every year, and in return they have a free trade between themselves in worker donkeys, landmine detectors and framed photographs of Stalin that they can hang over their cooking pot and spit on whenever they pass by. That’s what the Western European media tells me anyway, I don’t see why they’d lie.

If we couldn’t find a suitable entry from Ireland, we could always get some professional help. Perhaps we could pool together what little cash we have left and pay Hans Zimmer or John Williams or the like to compose a dramatic new piece that would be the envy of the anthem community. Although the Garda band might have to expand its ranks a little in order to do it justice. Walking all those cellos onto the Croke Park pitch every weekend would be a bit of a chore.

The other alternative, of course, would be to adopt an existing song as our new anthem. Something that reflects the direction we’re heading in, like this Talking Heads number. Having it sung at national occasions would hardly be uplifting, but at least it would show a realistic approach to our current situation. In a few years we’ll probably be forced into adopting some sort of happy-clappy pan-European anthem anyway, so we might as well enjoy our autonomy while it lasts, and have a bit of fun with our new anthem. Just make sure nobody tells Phil Coulter about it.

The X Factory

The UK version of The X Factor returned to our screens this week, without Simon Cowell or Cheryl Cole, but replete with new, even more annoying judges such as ‘that girl from N-Dubz’ and ‘your one from thingy who isn’t Beyonce or the other one’. Cowell is busy overseeing the expansion of his brand across the water, where the show is replacing American Idol as the most important element of Midwestern American culture after Billy Ray Cyrus and calling Obama a socialist.

The phenomenon that is The X Factor has come a long way, and has really settled into a rhythm over the last few series. Each episode follows pretty much exactly the same script. First we have a hyper-edited intro set to an upbeat pop song by one of Simon Cowell’s bands, consisting mostly of fat contestants crying, flamboyant contestants flicking their hair, and close-ups of Louis Walsh’s tiny, dead shark eyes as he splutters his way through whatever icy put-downs the producers have assigned him this week.

This is followed by a slightly more substantial montage, usually backed by one of those six or seven classical music pieces that even poor people know from watching movie trailers, in which the most dramatic parts of the episode are shown to us before they happen. The pattern is identical each time: clip of a judge saying that a performance was amazing/average/a pile of steaming shite; close-up of a singer looking suitably proud/confused/incandescent with rage; stock footage of crowd reacting by cheering/booing/braying like a herd of wild donkeys.

The rest of the show unfolds mainly through additional montages, interspersed with about three minutes of actual auditions that showcase the different types of contestant. There are the token lunatics who try to stab the judges when they’re told they sound like a bag of cats, and don’t look much better. Then you have the bereaved middle-aged men with average voices whose sob stories are told to the camera over the dulcet tones of ‘Fix You’ by Coldplay, and who will receive pity votes and eventually finish in the top ten or so in an attempt to convince viewers that the producers actually have souls. Eventually, after toying with your emotions for three quarters of an hour, the show will finish with an unassuming young girl who has the voice of an angel, and an appearance and cultural background that will appeal to the biggest demographic. The crowd goes wild, Louis’s eyes actually become visible, and about seventeen more montages are needed just to close out the show in a suitably dramatic fashion.

Despite all the obvious manipulation I really have to confess a grudging respect for the show’s creators. It is quite possibly the finest example of exploitative theatre for the masses in existence. The beauty of it is that no effort is required. Thousands of people offer themselves up as contestants, to be judged, mocked, celebrated or whatever the producers decide they want to do with them. No amount of actors or scriptwriters could ever come close to emulating the depths of pathetic delusion displayed by the deluge of untalented people who genuinely believe that they have a shot at stardom. Or at least a shot at a Christmas number 2 and an appearance on next year’s Celebrity Big Brother, where Sylvester Stallone’s postman and Amanda Holden’s plastic surgeon will smile emptily at them and pretend to know who they are when they enter the house.

At this stage the entire programme is basically just a manufactured algorithm, in which just the right amount of variables has to be entered each week: crazy people, likeable people, poignant music, uplifting music, good judge, bad judge, pliable crowd, and the most important element of all, people at home wilfully being drawn in by the whole thing. The show is such a car crash of human experience that they even pull in the more discerning viewer who can claim to be watching in an ironic way, but is secretly hooked just like everyone else.

Shared experience is one of the most important facets of the human condition, and it is no surprise that something as all-consuming as this light entertainment show continues to grow in popularity. Everyone has an opinion on it, and it is something that everyone can experience together, whether it is in the form of criticism or adulation. There is also a perverse pleasure to be taken in watching people humiliate themselves, which is one thing that the show is never lacking.

The X Factor is about as artificial and contrived as an entertainment show can be, and every part of it is made specifically to exploit and to manipulate. The feelings it elicits in people, however, when witnessing the full range of desperation, sadness, delight, despair, viciousness, generosity and cruelty of humanity, all pre-packaged in a neat little bundle, are as real and tangible as can be. If you think you could never do as the Romans did, and watch the bloody and barbaric sports of the Colosseum, stick on the telly this Saturday, have a look at the judges seated in front of an audience baying not for blood but for humiliation, and think again. I’d rather be thrown to the lions than that lot.


The Union of Students in Ireland has this week reported several cases of Irish J1 students encountering difficulty with their passports in the United States. It seems that many of them had doctored their passports with a laminate sheet in order to appear to be over the age of 21. Even when this laminate is removed, the residue can be picked up by scanners in airports, alerting the authorities to the fact that it has been tampered with.

Since passport fraud is a federal crime in the US and carries a minimum 10-year prison term if convicted, the Irish consulate will no doubt be contacted by a large number of students over the coming weeks who have ‘misplaced’ their passport, and require a replacement to travel home. It’s either that or endure a horrific Midnight Express-like few hours in a back room somewhere in a US airport having some military reject customs officer get to know your colon as if he just bought it dinner and half a dozen Cosmopolitans.

It’s a ridiculous state of affairs when 18, 19 and 20-year old young adults have to resort to falsifying their passports so they can have a few drinks or go to a bar or club. Many Irish people have quite an unhealthy attitude to alcohol, but notwithstanding this fact, each adult should be allowed to choose whether or not they want to drink. Alcohol can lead to lapses in judgement and there are very few young people who haven’t made mistakes while drunk, but dealing with the consequences of your actions is an essential part of maturing into an adult. Besides, half the relationships in Ireland are based on such mistakes.

America’s overly puritanical attitude is, if anything, a counterproductive measure. It infantilises young adults and ensures that Americans are years behind in terms of their maturity and attitudes concerning alcohol. Not to mention the fact that physiologically, they have built up very little tolerance to it. At the age where most reasonably sensible Irish people have stopped drinking themselves into unconsciousness like they may have done from the ages of say, 16 to 18, the Americans have much less experience to draw on and consequently many of them have an attitude, and physical reaction to alcohol that belies their years. Lightweights, I believe, is the preferred clinical term. Your average nagan-wielding schoolgirl on her way to Wezz on a Friday would probably drink any 20-year old frat jock under the table. Although she’d probably then do unspeakable things to him while he was unconscious, which is another issue entirely.

The US is in exalted company, however. Only about a dozen countries have such a high legal drinking age, including such stalwarts of progressive thinking and liberalism as Tajikistan, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Cameroon, Kazakhstan and Israel. In fact in Israel you’re conscripted into the Defence Forces at 18, and can’t even enjoy a glass of champers to celebrate when you successfully ‘relocate’ your first Palestinian family from their home in the middle of the night. How inhumane is that?

Not only is the reasoning behind the law flawed, but it is also unrealistic to expect it to be enforced successfully. It is fairly easy for teenagers in Ireland to get their hands on drink if they want it, but the fact that these kids are invariably still in school, and under the care of their parents, severely limits their opportunities to get wasted. The fact that it still occurs so regularly speaks volumes for the ingenuity of our teenagers, by the way, who are forever being maligned in the media for wanting to enjoy one of life’s great pleasures a year or two before it is arbitrarily deemed to be socially acceptable.

In the US, on the other hand, you have college students living in dorm rooms hundreds of miles from home, all of them old enough to drive, smoke cigarettes, get married, vote, or join the army. And these adults are expected to go through their last few years of education before joining the workforce without enjoying the occasional tipple? Common sense dictates that they will drink regardless, so why not allow them to legally have a few beers in a bar as opposed to making them hold illicit parties where everyone drinks out of red cups like some kind of playschool lunchtime, only with more whiskey and a lower standard of conversation.

America’s drinking laws are symptomatic of the country’s attitude toward its citizens. Apparently all that freedom and democracy only go as far as the door to the bar, after that you’re on your own. As for the Irish, I’m sure most of them are dying to get back to a country that embraces our weakness for alcohol without judgement. As unhealthy an attitude as that may be, it also happens to be the prevailing one among the Irish people. Now that’s democracy in action. Sláinte.

Fitch of a Situation

It has emerged this week that the US fashion chain Abercrombie & Fitch has offered a ‘substantial’ amount of money to perma-tanned fist-pumper Michael ‘The Situation’ Sorrentino, of reality show Jersey Shore fame, on the condition that he immediately stop wearing their clothes. The show’s producers and other cast members have also reportedly been offered payment to ensure that the brand no longer features on the hit MTV show.

Anyone even vaguely familiar with this menagerie of obscenely tasteless individuals that passes for an entertainment programme will know that the self-styled guidos and guidettes that feature are rarely fully clothed anyway. You would have to be pretty quick to catch a logo on one of Situation’s T-shirts given that he spends most of his time pulling them up to reveal his day-glo abs, hence blinding the surrounding young ladies for long enough to confuse them into sleeping with him. When their sight returns hours later, they just assume that they somehow travelled back in time and had sex with a young, less articulate Sylvester Stallone.

The bigwigs at A&F, however, are concerned that even the most fleeting association of their wholesome brand with the show’s cast is bad for their image. Which in turn is bad for business. It’s funny, because I would have thought that a better example of bad business would be adopting discriminatory hiring practises and aiming advertisements at an extremely narrow demographic so that every single one of your staff and clientele looks like an extra from an American high school football movie. That is, a high school football movie set in the deep South before the schools integrated. Denzel can shop in Gap down the street, he doesn’t really suit our image.

The reality is that the company, having emblazoned all of their very ordinary and over-priced clothing with massive slogans, are now unhappy with any free advertisement that comes their way from the wrong kind of people. They don’t want little Lorenzo saving up his pennies so he can come in and buy that T-shirt that The Situation had on during that situation on last week’s show. That’s not a good situation. They’d prefer little Tyler to drag in his Botoxed mother from her Range Rover long enough to blow the best part of a grand in the place so that Tyler doesn’t look out of place at the beach party, where everyone meets up to whisper about surfing and unrequited love, like on The O.C.

Lorenzo and Tyler, apart from being wholly fictional, are also disgracefully simplistic stereotypes that I’ve created to make my point, but the fact is that A&F, like many other companies, have built an exclusivity into their branding. This strategy not only exploits existing societal and racial differences, but exacerbates them. Prohibitively expensive clothes aimed at rich idiots who pay extra for a brand name are not rare, but the difference here is the singular approach taken in the marketing of the products, which is deliberately and unapologetically aimed at young, affluent white people.

The fact that these brazen Abercrombie & Fitches are bold enough to publicly offer money to some cheap riff-raff that dared to sample some of its wares in front of an audience of millions of potential customers, shows just how comfortable they are with their own exclusionist policies. The Situation is a lucky man. To get paid to appear on a TV show documenting your alcohol-fuelled sexual exploits is fortuitous enough. But it is an exceptional piece of luck to then get offered a cash bonus to not look like a dickhead who has to pay a hundred quid for a shirt because he wants to look like a cast member from American Pie: The Mom’s Credit Card Years.

I do hope, however, that the show refuses to take the cash and censor the fashion choices of its stars. The best thing to do in response to such an arrogant request would be to deck out the entire cast from head to toe in their products from this point on. Mike could even get the logo tattooed on his six-pack so that it’s always visible.

Maybe after a while the company would come to realise that exposure outside of their niche is a good thing, and they might even get the secretary to take down that calendar from the 1950’s that they have hung up in the office. Either that or their image would become so tainted with their preferred customers that they would be forced out of business. And I have to admit, these are both very acceptable situations. Fist pump, brah.

The Kids Aren’t Alright

After nearly a week of wanton destruction and violence, the riots that spread across England have come to a close. At this stage the young criminals who’ve been vandalising their own communities have probably run out of glass to smash, or trainers to steal, or perhaps just run out of energy considering most of them probably exist solely on fast food. They’ll still kick in a McDonalds window if they get the chance though. If you’re wondering what that smell is, it’s the concept of irony being set alight and kicked to death by a group of thugs from Birmingham. Only after they stole his trainers though.

Aside from piles of rubble and hilarious photoshopped scenes from the riots, the one thing we have an excess of in the wake of the past week’s events is questions. What made thousands of kids angry enough to set fire to everything in sight? Why was David Cameron on holiday when his crystal ball had told him there’d be riots when he was away? Where can I get that slick grey hoody that guy with the handful of iPods was wearing?

Over the last number of days there has been much written in the media in an attempt to answer the question of why this happened. Russell Brand wrote an interesting article in The Guardian which criticised the portrayal of the rioters and looters as animals and monsters, and he makes a good point. It is natural for people to distance humanity from terrible acts but if societal problems are ever going to be tackled successfully, they must first be understood.

The youths committing these acts have the same capacity for violence, greed and stupidity as the rest of us. They also share our capacity for kindness, empathy and all the other traits that were displayed by those who rallied together to clean up their communities after they had been devastated. Which of these qualities come to the fore in a young person is dependent on millions of variables, and it is their development and growth and the experiences they have that will ultimately shape them. Calling them monsters is a cowardly way of avoiding the fact that massive sections of western civilised society are breeding grounds for young men, in particular, full of hate and malice.

Kevin Myers wrote an article this week in which he noted that the vast majority of the rioters were Afro-Caribbean. He went on to cite the lack of father figures in the lives of these young men as a contributing factor, given the massive amount of single mothers in the areas affected. He also recognised that it was a failed immigration policy that resulted in the breakdown of community in these areas, and led to disenfranchisement of massive groups of young people.

There are many other relevant factors that affect these groups of people and cause violent tendencies, such as poverty, peer pressure, lack of education, boredom, alienation from society, early exposure to criminality, to name but a few. Myers is absolutely correct, however, in his assertions that a lack of parental control and the unbelievably poorly conceived immigration policies of successive governments have greatly contributed to the situation. This is true not just in Britain, but across the world.

Of course, because Mr. Myers has a history of making somewhat incendiary and controversial comments, and because we live in a society so laden with sanctimony masquerading as political correctness, these comments have been branded by many as racist and offensive. Apparently just noticing that the rioting crowd was predominantly ethnic, something that is demonstrably true, is now in itself a racist act. What a pathetic world we live in where adults cannot even discuss issues with clarity, never mind attempt to solve our society’s ills, without having a label thrown at them to discredit their argument.

What we must not do, however, when asking why this happened, is confuse explanation for justification. Nobody needs a father figure to tell them it is wrong to steal from a kid lying at the side of the road with a broken jaw. No amount of government money spent on playgrounds and youth centres will stop a certain element in society from taking any excuse to get out in the streets, burn down people’s homes and livelihoods, and throw rocks at the police. And no policy changes from the Tories, who everyone seems to be singularly blaming for this crisis despite the fact that Labour were in power as these young people grew up, will change the fact that some people do not want to be educated, or informed, or bettered in any way. They are quite happy to simply remain as they are and continue to blame everyone but themselves.

The only thing more depressing than watching the horrific scenes of the riots on television, and seeing the fear on the faces of the innocent people affected, is listening to the debate that is ongoing in their aftermath. Because it is abundantly clear to anyone listening that nothing is going to change. If there is one universal truth about our species, it is that we do not learn from history. This is the society we’ve made for ourselves, and it’s one we’re going to have to live with for a very long time.

You Sunk My (Alien) Battleship

Over the last number of years, American film producers appear to have collectively dismissed the idea of an original concept for a film. Amid brash, cameo-infested re-imaginings of classic 80’s movies, films based on comic books boasting scripts that make porn dialogue sound like Patrick Stewart reciting Hamlet, and endless strings of unnecessary blockbuster sequels to equally unnecessary original films, it had seemed as though Hollywood had finally slipped to the bottom rung of the greasy ladder of derivativeness and banality.

But wait, there’s more. May of next year sees the release of Battleship, a movie based on the popular classic board game of the same name. What’s that sound I hear? Why it can only be Hollywood’s producers falling off the aforementioned ladder, then rolling into a giant pit of unoriginality and absurdity that someone carelessly left unguarded. Probably Michael Bay, he doesn’t give a damn about rules. Only explosions. I’ll let you know when I hear them hit the bottom.

As ludicrous as this idea sounds, the trailer actually makes it look like it could be a bit of fun. Mindless fun, but fun nonetheless. And it does have Liam Neeson in it so you just know that at some stage someone is going to get an inspiring speech, followed by a beatdown, followed by some sage advice from the wise old Ballymena man. Which will promptly be followed by another beatdown.

The most puzzling aspect of the trailer for those acquainted with the rather simple board game, is that it seems to take quite a few liberties with the original premise. There’s a bit of a leap from ‘Guess a number and I may or may not have to remove one of the tiny pegs from my board, edging you ever closer to a famous naval victory’, to ‘Oh shit, this routine mission has somehow deviated into a pitched battle against an enormous aquatic alien vessel which seems capable of flight. What do we do Liam Neeson?’.

That’s like basing a movie on Scrabble in which sentient vowels invade Consonant Land, raping and pillaging in gangs of seven and rounding up all the Zs and Qs so they can ransom them for the most points. Or a film based on Operation in which a clearly conscious man is horrifically butchered by amateur surgeons who want to harvest his organs. Actually, that’s not too far away from the game at all…

Although in fairness, they have already made a successful film of Monopoly, where a greasy, unscrupulous tycoon uses insider trading to gain power and influence and rise to the top of the business world, only to be caught in the end and have to go to jail. I’m just glad they took out the scene of Michael Douglas and Charlie Sheen passing Go and collecting 200 quid, it really didn’t sit with the rest of the film.

It may seem farcical to have a movie so loosely based on an existing concept, but the fact is that a recognisable brand is far easier to market. Original films have to be sold on their merits alone, which requires good acting, a great script, and many other features that most producers are too lazy to shell out for just so that the film can make a few bob at the local cinema while Saw 11: Let’s Get Gristlier is raking in the dough down at the 3D Cineplex.

Of course there have always been blockbusters, and they are by and large quite enjoyable distractions. There will also never be a shortage of cheaply made independent films. You know the type, seven hour long Ukrainian features about the grim reality of working in a smelting factory in wartime Kiev, set to a soundtrack of mechanical gears and the wailings of orphaned children. The kind of films that win all sorts of prestigious awards and critical acclaim at film festivals the world over, but will only ever be seen by that weird girl you know who’s into making her own jumpers.

The danger is that the films that make up the middle ground between the two extremes will become commercially unviable. People are going to the cinema less and less, and you can be assured that a big-name action blockbuster will draw the crowds, so why bother making anything else? Hopefully Hollywood will continue to produce great directors and screenwriters whose films contain some semblance of plot, feeling and intelligence. And hopefully producers will keep giving them a chance.

As for the future of the blockbuster, one of these days all the books, comics and board games will be used up, and nothing will remain to inspire our summer’s viewing. Although by that stage we could probably just get away with remaking them all again and nobody will know the difference.

Hang on a minute, I hear something. It’s coming from the bottom of the pit. It sounds like they’ve found a barrel down there and they’re scraping the bottom of it. I can even hear them whispering about how they could definitely get away with at least three more Pirates of the Caribbean films before anyone notices that nothing happens in them. God help us. God help us all.