The Guardian does it again

I generally like The Guardian. It’s my paper of choice. But for some reason, a good proportion of its film coverage is written by people who don’t know or care anything about films. The assumption would seem to be that the readers don’t know or care about films either, but if that were true, why would they be reading?

Check this out, if you feel like getting cross. Feel free to weigh in with comments. My own favourite moment is right at the start:  “There are lots of reasons to love Hitchcock, of course: the style, the guile, the pace, the pitch – I realised that afresh when watching a box set of all his films, in preparation for a talk at the Southbank Centre on Sunday.” Of course, there is no box set of Hitchcock’s 52 surviving feature films, because that would be a very large box set indeed. So the author apparently doesn’t know how many films the director actually made… which is not particularly hard information to uncover, in this day of space tubes and computerized brain cups.

The fact that the author, Bidisha, (yes) is going to be taking part in a discussion about Hitchcock on the stage at the Southbank Centre is just terrifying.

44 Responses to “The Guardian does it again”

  1. Thanks! Fixed now.

  2. Tony Williams Says:

    This is really dreadful! As well as explaining why newspaper coverage of films is so bad today, it also explains why Julie Burchill is still taken seriously by editors of UK newspapers.

  3. Eurrrrrghhhhhhhuhh… Huhhh…. Superb photo, David.

  4. Christopher Says:

    oh by gosh by golly..feminism lives!..hitchcock is dumb..his women are dumb and blonde! ..dumb and dumber..

  5. Well, feminism isn’t the problem. Camille Paglia’s book on The Birds is excellent. Feminist theory can be an illuminating tool to examine Hitch with. But this is no-nothing nonsense: “Hitchcock’s women are all either stupid or… not stupid.” Great argument, Bidisha. If you’re going to question Hitchcock’s attitudes to women, and you really want to draw blood, you should probably see Frenzy. But as several commenters remark, without considering how Hitch portrays men, the article is worthless anyway.

  6. My favourite head slapping article from the Guardian blogs was the one back in 2007 that tried to suggest that Warhol’s Chelsea Girls stood for all non-Hollywood cinema, and was presented under the open minded title “Are all art movies long and boring?”

  7. I’ve always assumed feminism meant a kind of equality rather than superiority. Which I guess implies that women are now free to make dumb comments as much as men are.

    Bidisha used to be on Newsnight Review quite a lot, though I haven’t seen her on the show much since Kirsty Wark moved the show to her home country. I’ve always been a fan of Review/Newsnight Review/The Review Show since it is one of the few programmes left where people actually talk in some detail about interesting subjects, though I’m often left with the impression that many of the guests know a lot about a very narrow range of subject matter and are often left floundering when asked to give their opinion on an eclectic range of material.

    But then that’s something that could be applied to many areas of journalism once the name becomes too big for the niche they’re in.

  8. Well, I heard via Graham Linehan’s blog that guests on Late Review aren’t always given time to read the books, but the likes of Tom Paulin will wade in and criticise them anyway. It’s definitely good that there is such a show, despite such regrettable lapses.

    Everybody has the right to be equally dumb, they just shouldn’t get published by quality papers. I don’t even consider that piece to be feminist: to be that, it would have to contain some ideas.

  9. Judy Dean Says:

    I’m not a regular Guardian reader but I did buy a copy this week for a train journey and found it contained a supplement on ‘The Greatest Films of All Time, Volume Five: Arthouse’. The list contained few surprises but I was very annoyed by a dismissive centrepiece by Joe Queenan on ‘arthouse cliches’ whose basic message was ‘If you like this sort of thing, you’re a pretentious twat’.

  10. Thanks for pointing this article out. I don’t like to leave negative comments, but she has a definite agenda and is abusing the privilege of writing for The Guardian, so I did. If she’s so angry, why doesn’t focus on real misogynists like the monotheistic religions?

  11. The film section does seem to be particularly full of forehead-slapping material -as you say, half the time they seem to commission people who don’t specialise in film or who quickly reveal themselves to be ignorant of basic facts, nevermind basic theories. Sadly The Independent doesn’t seem to be much better -although their interviews are usually conducted by knowledgeable people, the smaller articles or opinion pieces have contained some howlers recently. Clearly both papers think that anyone can write about film :(

  12. Joe Queenan is an an abomination. One of his “arthouse cliches” is that the films are likely to be set somewhere unfamiliar and out-of-the-way. Apparently Iranian filmmakers should always shoot in Hollywood to avoid this “cliche”.

    I don’t even blame the writers, though. If I were a jobbing journalist and somebody offered me money to write about something I didn’t know much about, I’d probably do what Bidisha did — maybe less stupidly, but I’d attempt to bone up on the subject, and then shoehorn it into my frame of reference. The problem is the editor, and this assumption that you’ll get something of value by assigning projects at random.

  13. Tony Williams Says:

    Judy, This is the appalling type of commentary that has really ruined the UK for me now in this regard. However, I do remember a journalist friend telling me over 30 years ago that he was often asked by his editor to interview somebody at 30 minutes notice without allowing any time for research. However, this type of comment is appalling and sums up the anti-intellectualism of the Blair era where Lord Mandy described culture as being “a walk in the park.” Thankfully, we now have David C’s siie here and others on the internet as viable alternatives.

  14. Film is constantly dissed by snotty creeps who don’t know shit about it.

    Or anything else for that matter.

  15. david wingrove Says:

    In support of David E’s very vaild point…

    As far as I can make out, Bidisha knows nothing about anything, never mind Hitchcock. Her idiotic and incoherent ramblings are one reason I gave up watching the Late Review show.

    Added to which, presenter Kirsty Wark could not even pronounce the names of most of the artists under review. Tragic!

  16. Late Review and The Culture Show suffer from the fact that they’re too broad, so the presenters have to be either improbable polymaths or else flounder. It’s like asking a footballer to be commentator on a horse race. In other words, sport is treated with immeasurably more respect by television programmers and newspapers.

  17. I left a very harrumphing comment on their site after they ‘voted’ Chinatown best movie. No problem with the choice per se, I just object to the self-serving nature of the exercise, as, with one or two honourable exceptions on the writing team, they don’t seem to actually like films, and certainly don’t know how to write about them in a way which isn’t facile and condescending to their readers. (Joe Queenan’s reliably unfunny contributions are the apotheosis of this. Mr Queenan: please just sod off.)

    As for Bidisha, go and heckle. I’ll pass the hat round for your train fare to London.

  18. Tony Williams Says:

    Unfortunately, Helena, the hecklers have to be all female otherwise Bidisha will just burst into tears and say, “You’re only attacking me because I’m a woman. Boo Hoo, Wail!”

  19. Christopher Says:

    honestly tho…I’ve put myself in a womans shoes many times for film and life..the experience is quite horrifying..I’m not sure how they cope? :o(

  20. Tony Williams Says:

    Then, perhaps, we should treat Bidisha gently and make allowances for her?

  21. Fiona would back you up, Christopher. However, I’m not sure what excuse there can be for Bidisha’s aggressive stupidity. It’s the arrogance of weighing in on subjects she knows nothing about. Nothing to do with her being a woman, even if that’s the primary filter she applies to every subject. It’s not a bad filter for looking at Hitchcock, but you need to LOOK.

  22. Tony Williams Says:

    And LOOK meticulously and carefully at the intricate details. This was not the case in late 70s and early 80s feminist articles by others (with the exception of Tania Modleski) that took the same type of one-dimensional approach that seems to have re-emerged here.

  23. Christopher Says:

    A good woman’s perspective on Hitchcock would be refreshing,theres just something juvenile about the way Bidisha has reviewed her Hitch..I’ve seen teen bloggers do a better job..So many great insights on films thruout the Web by young and old,male and female..

  24. ‘there are some excelent books on Hitchcock by women The Women Who Knew too Much comes to mind – unfotuantly I sold my copy in a period of penury.

    now onto trashing Bidisha ( I’m a woman and a staunch feminist from the age of 7 and have ABSOLUTELY NO PROBLEMS IN DOING SO) . I’d LOVE to know her credentials but I’m afraid vaguely articulate does not freeze in front of camera, thin and looks a bit ethnic is probably the sum. She is I think a member of the Friends of Western Bhuddist Order hence the weird name they rename people. I’m pretty sure shes annoyed me in god slots either on Today programme or on radio 2 – she’s obviously managed to make the leap out of the religious ghetto. So give her her due she’s quite good at networking.

    This profile doesn’t explain her name http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/features/the-comeback-kid-whatever-happened-to-fiesty-monomonikered-teenage-author-bidisha-789126.html but does reveal she free loaded off a friend’s family
    Bring back GERMAINE GREER and I love hearing Tom Paulin whinge…

  25. anyway shes insipired me to refind my Grunidad commenting log in and direct people towards the Hitchcock year.

    BONNIE GREER ! why can’t we have more of her? mutters and goes back to her knitting

  26. Bonnie Greer is excellent, as witness her superb takedown of the fascist Nick Griffin on BBC’s Question Time.

    Germain is alas little more than a professional contrarian these days, although at least she’s articulate and has bags of personality.

  27. Yesterday afternoon, I had an email from the RFH stating that Douglas Gordon (the other speaker at the event) had dropped out due to unforeseen circumstances, and am wondering if he’s read Bidisha’s article and had second thoughts… !

  28. leave Germian alone !she was the only celeb I served when workingin the Edinburgh International Festival who was genuinely nice. I got her a box for Love for 3 Oranges – her assistant had managed to get her tickets cancelled. She asked if anyone in the office would like to share her box including a bunch of people who were waiting for returns. Its A HUGE regret of my life that I didn’t go to the opera with Germaine (I didn’t ask for a ticket because I wasn’t keen on opera as a callow woman)

  29. Well yes, but none of that has to do with her work as a critic, which is somewhat compromised these days. I’m glad to hear she’s nice, though.

    So is Bidisha going to go it alone, or will they quietly ditch the idea? Maybe that was the plan, once everybody read her article? “Sweet Jesus, how do we stop her?” Gordon must dislike confrontation, because for anybody who enjoys a good knock-down argument, the idea of debating Hitch with her would surely be irresistible.

  30. Jenny Eardley Says:

    This still says it’s on: http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/find/literature-spoken-word/tickets/hitchcock-and-me-54974

    Doesn’t say what time it’s happening but they aren’t selling anymore tickets online, whether that’s because it’s sold out or because it’s too close to the time I don’t know.

  31. They ought to be able to sell tickets right up until opening, surely? The customer collects them at the venue…

    Would love to hear a report from anybody who attends.

  32. a live tweet from it would be cool…..

  33. Oh yes… or even a recording.

  34. I went as planned, mostly out of curiosity (am still hoping that article was a joke) but due to diversions on my bus route, I was 15 minutes late and took that as divine intervention and exchanged my ticket for a credit note.

    I went to the event that followed (Psycho Poetica) and from what I could gather, it wasn’t as full as it should have been.

    And yes, if anyone did go then I too would love to know how it was.

    PS. I don’t now who linked this blog to the Guardian article/comments but I’d like to thank them enormously as I can’t wait to read your year of Hitchcock and the rest of this blog too! (Apologies for mini-hijack/going off topic)

  35. Jenny Eardley Says:

    Welcome to Shadowplay Carolyne! Hitchcock Year is a fantastic read and believe me, you’ve got a lot of entertainment ahead of you on this blog, perfect for cold Winter nights. Weigh in on the comments if you like, even if it’s an old entry.

  36. It was me Carolyne and I’m the mistress of the comment hijack so glad I’ve got company

  37. Hi Carolyne! Stick around, by all means! Hope you enjoy the Hitchcockery.

  38. Oh dear. I am back-reading and catching up with one of my most favoritest blogs, and having a ball with Ulmer’s pajamas and Douglas Fairbanks Jr and then wham, you hit me with this. Albeit politely, as is your wont.

    Good lord, can no one rid us of this damned “misogynist” cant? I’ve always been a feminist and I’ve always loved Hitchcock. Far from being misogynistic, Hitchcock’s best movies show a deep understanding of women and their most secret, locked-away fears about men and the love of men. Who is this woman? I guess Ms Bidisha hasn’t seen enough films from the period to appreciate how fully formed and autonomous Hitchcock’s women are. And it is also quite clear that she hasn’t seen enough Hitchcock. You know how I feel about Frenzy, and as you say above she doesn’t touch that one. There’s no mention of Shadow of a Doubt, my personal favorite, where the young girl is the moral anchor of the film. I’d make that argument about Notorious, too, and it’s all the more daring because Alicia is sexually wanton and still the most ethical person in the picture.

    Actually, the image of Hitchcock shown in the comments is a bit depressing too. I don’t think, as some are saying there, that you need to make excuses by talking about how Hitchcock treats men–“oh, he’s hard on them, too.” Scotty in Vertigo is a damaged and damaging person; Judy is troubled and deceptive, but she’s capable of loving an actual human man, not just a dream.

    I could go on (and on and on) but at this particular blog it’s coals to Newcastle. I suppose this Guardian piece is a salutary reminder that it isn’t just The Forgotten that need defending, sometimes.

  39. One could be dramatic and say that there are only two kinds of filmmakers, the forgotten and the misunderstood. Any director who has success must be kept alive by an active engagement by viewers, and “reputation” actually gets in the way of this. Hitchcock the misogynist, Kubrick the misanthrope, Renoir the humanist — these labels are really a barrier to approeciation, even if they each have little elements of truth.

  40. Sure, but there’s a little darkness in everyone, and Hitchcock was willing to embrace this more than most… In preparing for his talk at the Southbank, I just think it’s a joke that any professional film journalist has not seen the work of Hitchcock – you should live and breathe Hitchcock mate!

  41. Bidisha is a woman. Not that it matters, as some seem to think. Just that we shouldn’t call her “mate”.

    I’m not sure she’s a professional FILM journalist…

    And I guess if she confined herself to questioning Douglas Gordon she might just about have made her way through it, but the article is pitiful. I *might* be interested in somebody’s first serious encounter with Hitchcock if the somebody is somebody I care about, but why should I care about Bidisha, in preference to people like Patrick McGilligan or Camille Paglia who have actually spent some time thinking about the subject?

  42. Tony Williams Says:

    This is dumbing down with a vengeance and THE GUARDIAN clearly bears responsibility for this.

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