Wednesday, 3 December 2014
Things That Aren't Funny: Sepp Blatter
There are scoundrels in the world we love to hate. Generally men, they tend to have big personalities which magnify their faults to a degree that they become walking lampoons of something larger. A perfect example of this is found in North Korea where Kim Jong-Un condenses so many bad traits into one ugly ungainly package that he might find a second career in films playing unbelievable totalitarian dictators. He can barely walk, it seems, because his addiction to cheese has weakened his ankles. If we thought his father was a living parody of what dictators look like, Kim Jong-Un is taking things to a level undreamed of by the writers of Team America: World Police.
Sometimes these 'larger than life' characters are generally passive. From Boris Johnson to Silvio Berlusconi, they are people who we (or at least some of us) enjoy as a form of light entertainment because the consequences of their actions are not immediately apparent. Most people would say that Alan Sugar is a bit of a tit, unless they had the misfortune of ever trying to get an Amstrad PC to work in the early 1990s. Even Kim Jong-Un has a comedic value because reporting in North Korea is so strict that we don't have a real or vivid sense of his evil. Would we laugh if we'd seen pictures of children starving in the North Korean gulags?
These comedy figures no longer seem quite as funny once you understand the consequences of their actions. It was less easy to take Gadhaffi as a farting buffoon given Lockerbie and the state-sanctioned murder of WPC Yvonne Fletcher. Sadam Hussain was never quite the comedy villain, though everything about him lent itself to mockery. His evils were simply too well known to be disguised by a funny moustache and silly beret. Even now, perhaps the greatest comedy villain of all time, Adolph Hitler, is still too toxic to be described in that way. Chaplin pulled it off in 'The Great Dictator' but that's a rarity, which only works because of Chaplin's greatness and because it was made in 1940, long before the scale of Hitler's evil had become apparent. It does not work because of the inherent comedy value of Hitler. When an ad for a teapot that looked like Hitler famously made the news a few years ago, it was funny not because of the inherent comedy value of Hitler but because of how inappropriate it was to be making a teapot that looked like Hitler. A fart can be funny but a fart in funeral service is inappropriately funny and there is a clear difference between the two.
Which brings me to one of my favourite pantomime villains of our day: Sepp Blatter. If you wanted to write a villain for the next James Bond movie and took a piece of Hugo Drax, a pinch of Auric Goldfinger, and just a dash of Ernst Stavro Blofeld, then you would probably come out with a villain who looks and sounds very much like Sepp Blatter. If you're not that bothered about International Football, it's very easy to look at him and laugh. He has a silly little voice and an arching cranium containing a void so large you imagine it echoes to nothing but the sound of 'me, me, me'. So much about him is worthy of a good belly laugh. It's the way he brushes those very fine strands of hair back as if to say: 'I'm not bald until these last threads of my youth are gone'. It's his ability to spin anything to his favour. The corrupt bidding for the Qatar World Cup is turned into an example of the corruption of the English FA, who were the only country dumb/naive/honest enough to hand over the documents of their bidding process. It's laughable and so very very funny but only really because I personally don't like International Football. I never liked the International break interrupting the exciting league season and I don't see the point of International Friendlies. If you really cared about football, you should probably not find Blatter so amusing.
Yet even my laughter comes to a stop once you realise that men like these really do make decisions that affect real people. Sepp Blatter has overseen the process that had led to the World Cup going to a country where poor immigrant labourers are risking death in order to earn 45p per hour. I need to remember that Sepp Blatter is one of life's scumbags and I shouldn't laugh at him too much. He doesn't deserve our laughter.