February 13, 2007

barbie1.jpgMonica Sells is an anchorwoman for a plastic-and-neon television news show in an anonymous network of glossy lips and Formica smiles. She reads her lines with a pretty face and immaculate cheekbones laughing gaily when appropriate and showing deep, passionate concern where required. Often within the same 3 seconds.

Miss Sells hadn’t always been like this. Monica had started out thinking of the news as something that mattered. Miss Sells saw it as an important part of a stable democracy. Miss Sells had wanted to do real investigative journalism. Uncover evils and wrongs and help protect the world from the crimes never reported, never uncovered by any normal system of justice.

Two years, just two, working for a newspaper had taught her different. She had been born in the wrong country, the wrong city or, as she had increasingly come to suspect, in the wrong decade. Journalistic ethics were gone, if they had ever existed, and a journo’s job had been reduced to ‘advanced copywriter’. You were owned by corporate and had to drag the line of whatever political stance was thought, this week, would increase either sales, boost advertising revenue or help the chairman of the board acquire yet another country club membership. Stories were buried because advertising would be pulled. Or because they would offend religious readers. Or because corporate had just bought shares in the company being reported on and didn’t what them to tank. Or because they got a lawyer’s letter and suddenly dicks had shriveled at the thought of lower bonuses for letting revenue be soaked up in a lengthy court-case. Or because you had laughed at your editor’s suggestion of a weekend away when he was off to a conference because you really thought that the fat, balding, sweaty, married forty year old was kidding around.

The only chance to get a real story published was to make sure that it quoted someone on the record. And the quote had to be clearly documented: recorded, transcribed, signed, validated, cleared by legal, cleared by the editor, cleared by marketing, cleared by corporate and cleared by Jeff the janitor, his dog, his aunty and some guy the editor met in the pub last Tuesday- before being left in a desk drawer to rot for half a year. This might allow the paper to pass on the liability in court to the poor schlub who tried to do the right thing and everyone would get their bonuses while said poor schlub lived out the rest of his life under a motorway bridge cleaning car windows for loose change and regretting like hell that he had given enough of a flying fuck to go on record in the first place.

It was one such occasion that had led to her dignified exit from the newspaper. An altercation with her boss and his superior who she nicknamed “Mr. Bland.” In the company car park. At a very public time of day, as everyone was arriving, in which she questioned their manhood and suggested more dick could be found at a feminist lesbian conference than in a meeting of the company’s entire board of directors.

Her observations, although accurate, were met with a similar lack of enthusiasm to which her story had faced. There were rumours that the story was squashed, despite her source going on the record, because corporate had used the information therein to secure a lucrative 10-year advertising contract for the paper as well as shares in the offending company for each of the directors. Her five minute angry tirade drew a fair crowd from the paper and neighboring offices who were privileged to witness it’s sparkling conclusion when she hiked up her skirt and pissed on Mr. Bland’s brand new Mercedes convertible.

There are things in this world more disturbing than having a pretty girl much smarter than yourself piss on your car in front of your employees but if you had asked Mr. Bland what they were at the time he would have been hard pressed to tell you. It might have been okay if she hadn’t been absolutely correct in her rage. It might have been okay if he believed they did a good job and that she did not understand the true ramifications of what she had wanted to publish. But he knew he was just another idiot with a meaningless (well paid) job protecting the money of people far more powerful than him.

When confronted with the passion of a human being that actually thought you should fight for the good of the world or at least for something bigger than your own needs and was willing to put her career and future on the line for it he felt emasculated. After his very public run in he found his self-loathing that he had kept at bay by a combination of hard work and a sense of corporate achievement rise to the surface.

Mr. Bland found himself unable to make love to his stable, pretty wife in his dull, pretty house in his safe, pretty neighborhood. He found himself listless and distracted at work, unable to enjoy the endless round of acquisitions, cost-cuttings and sell-offs.

When the memory of the day refused to fade, Mr. Bland traded in his car for a different make and model. He bought something more sporty. More red. More obviously masculine. He started working out. He started drinking more, staying out late with colleagues from work. Sometimes they would party through the night, with him renting a hotel suite and laying on the champagne for everyone to continue their revelry long after the clubs had closed. Him, Mr. Bland, with everyone looking up to him for spending such ludicrous amounts of money in such a cool, dynamic way. He bought sharper clothes, went on a diet and got a more aggressive haircut.

Mrs. Bland, though pretty and stable, was not stupid. She recognized the signs. The sharper dress sense, the working out, the new car, the late nights and the fact that they hadn’t made love in forever. Not even a quickie. Within months she had called a lawyer and sued him for divorce on the basis that he was seeing another woman. A cruel irony for a man who hadn’t had an erection for over a year.

She left Mr. Bland taking his house, new sports car and dog in the process. It would be a further two years before he got his next erection. The day when, while overseeing the audit of a new acquisition, one of the television companies that their growing corporation now owned, they interviewed a certain Monica Sells for anchorwoman. It was the day a lip-glossed Monica Sells sold her soul to the world of plastic.

He made sure she got the position. He wanted to see for himself that her passion had died. That he had been right. It was like having a trophy on the wall. Mr. Bland had his dick back.


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