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Tuesday, April 11, 2006 

A certain romance.

Sometimes it's difficult to know what to write about. You could pretend to properly understand what's going on in France and Italy and write a load of crap which'll probably look like you vomited all over the page the next day, or you could just not bother. So instead, let's look at the phenomenon which is apparently the "chav bop".

Yesterday's Scum led with photos and story that Prince William had been to a party on leaving Sandhurst where they had all dressed up as "chavs". Apparently this isn't a minority pursuit. On reading the comments over at Comment is Free on John Harris's original article on the new snobbery, it seems that these parties are quite the in-thing at Oxbridge, and probably other universities. Obsolete hasn't had the privilege of attending one of these august institutions, so it can't possibly comment on what sort of thing goes through the heads of those who think it's hilarious to dress up in various gear (either as the upper class or lower class) that makes you look like a cunt for a party, but I think we can say that they think it's all a bit of fun while to the outsider it probably looks like the contempt of the privileged over those that err, aren't.

It isn't as easy to just class some television programmes and journals as being snobbish though. Harris mentions Harry Enfield and Wayne and Waynetta slob, yet the show also of course had Tim Nice But Dim and Tory Boy. Little Britain is worse, with its Vicky Pollard and Lou and Andy, but it still has the Prime Minister's adviser who is deeply in love with him. Linking Ali G in also doesn't really work; Sacha Baron Cohen has always interviewed politicians and made them look just as stupid as the character he's playing is, in that the politicians feel they have to condescend and not disagree with his outrageous statements. Tony Benn was about the only politician who didn't fall for it.

As for the journals which encourage such stereotyping, the tabloids are all in on the joke. The Sun, most likely to be read by those it calls yobs and chavs, demands endless crackdowns on "feral youths" and "anti-social behaviour". The Daily Mail, the original worrying paper about teenage white working class girls from council estates having kids just to get a house on the social is often even more condescending, as the often quoted article makes clear about women.

"pull their shoddily dyed hair back in that ultra-tight bun known as the 'council house facelift'"

The Mail is meant to be the woman's champion paper, its dedicated Femail section brings in the readers by the bucketload. Yet at the same time it is dismissive of women who have and work, "juggling" as it is often contemptly referred to. Its views are still rooted back in the age of the woman in the kitchen. Maybe this feeds into the collective self-esteem problems some women face, that they are trying to have it all their own way; witness the "yummy mummy" craze, linking that ever popular means of filling newspapers, yabbering about children, while making sure that you look fantastic and glamorous while doing it. That these "yummy mummies" seem to be doing it to mask their own fears about the future and worries is cast aside.

Living in an area which straddles wealth and relative poverty, the mingling of the two leads to the parting of the ways and different social groupings. The simple misalignment of the chav, which has come to mean the working class as a whole to some people, is completely wrong. While there are those who meet the chav way of dressing, they are the same people who are intelligent, but are at the same time fighting to gain a living wage. When they do, they tend to go and spend their gains down the pub. It's easy to sneer at such a mentality, but is it not our culture which leads to this that means they have no other release but to drown their sorrows at the weekend and try to forget that for many of them, they are in effect wage slaves for their families?

The rise of these chav bops then seems to be the typical student response in an attempt to be counter-culture. It all seems very clever to dress up as either the poor or the rich, having a good time while mocking the part of society which you dislike, while of course ignoring the larger issues. The irony is that those at university who attend such parties are likely those who are going to be thousands of pounds in debt at the end of their courses, while those they are mocking might be poor, but they're unlikely to be in as much debt, and of course the rich can pay off such debts instanteously thanks to mummy and daddy. Perhaps it's the Arctic Monkeys song which ruminates on this issue that says it best. While the rest of the album is relatively mediocre, the last song on the album almost saves it. Its ambivalence and realising that these people are humans, and to many of us former friends, if not current ones proves that there is a certain romance, whether some like it or not:

Well oh they might wear classic Reeboks
Or knackered Converse
Or tracky bottoms tucked in socks
But all of that's what the point is not
The point's that there ain't no romance around there

And there's the truth that they can't see
They'd probably like to throw a punch at me
And if you could only see them, then you would agree
Agree that there ain't no romance around there

You know, oh it's a funny thing you know
We'll tell 'em if you like
We'll tell 'em all tonight
They'll never listen
Cause their minds are made up
And course it's all okay to carry on that way

And over there there's broken bones
There's only music, so that there's new ringtones
And it don't take no Sherlock Holmes
To see it's a little different around here

Don't get me wrong, oh there's boys in bands
And kids who like to scrap with pool cues in their hands
And just cause he's had a coupla cans
He thinks it's alright to act like a dickhead

Don't you know, oh it's a funny thing you know
We'll tell em if you like
We'll tell em all tonight
They'll never listen
Cause their minds are made up
And course it's all okay to carry on that way

I said no
Oh no!
Oh you won't get me to go!
Anywhere, said anywhere
I won't go
Oh no no !

Well over there there's friends of mine
What can I say, I've known 'em for a long long time
And yeah they might overstep the line
But I just cannot get angry in the same way
Not in the same way
Not in the same way
Oh no, oh no no

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