Brands don’t live on shelves or in showrooms. They don’t even live on TV screens, although you could easily make that mistake. Brands live in our hearts and in our heads, and that’s where they die too, when their time is up.
‘I’m A Celebrity – Get Me Out Of Here!’ is back, peddling its peculiar mix of voyeurism and overacting, cast this time from a selection of apparently quite normal people, a couple of whom have no faint claim to any kind of ‘celebrity’ whatsoever, but I suppose they’ll be hellish famous by the end of the week. Others, Vic Reeves, Paul Burrell, Janet Street-Porter, Huggy Bear and even Joe Pasquale have something of the Real McCoy about them, at least having enjoyed some proximity to celebrity in their past lives.
Past lives? Yes, it’s all pagan in origin. The show is the 21st century media version of an example in ‘The Golden Bough’, Sir George Frazer’s mystical tome on religion and magic which Marlon Brando’s Colonel Kurtz character took with him up-river in Apocalypse Now and which I subsequently devoured too. In it is the story of the Princes of Malabar who delegated to one of their subjects despotic rule over them. “This institution was styled Thalavettiparothiam or authority obtained by decapitation…It was an office tenable for five years during which its bearer was invested with supreme despotic powers within his jurisdiction. On the expiry of the five years the man’s head was cut off and thrown up in the air amongst a large concourse of villagers, each of whom vied with the other in trying to catch it in its course down. He who succeeded was nominated to the post for the next five years.”
It’s exactly what we do with celebrities, and nowhere more than on this show. We love them, we have them to live in our houses via ‘reality TV’, and when their behaviour fails to live up to our expectations, wallop! Off with their heads. Some of the batch, I suggest, very clearly those I’ve named above, are extremely well-versed in the true nature of their exploits. You can see them holding back a bit, exercising a touch of uncharacteristic restraint; pacing themselves.
Well, they might survive longer than some of the others, but they won’t win that way. I said at the top that brands live in our hearts: they have to earn a place in those hearts first, and phonies and fakers and would-be manipulators get found out fast. The celebs have to relax their guards and let us in. Of course, having giant prawns biting your genitalia or a noseful of maggots is guaranteed to loosen your tongue, but it’s more to do with how they relate to each other off duty. Each time one gets voted off from now on, think of it as an execution, a crucifixion even.
If they don’t get into our hearts they might as well fry, but nothing need have a sell-by date if we continue to cherish it.