The World According To Fred is my blog, although no, my name is not Fred - but don't worry, that's a common misconception... My posts are a compilation of all the things that pass through my mind - a running commentary of my view of the world. Please feel free to comment and please say if there are any subjects you would like Fred to take a view on - I really do want to know!!!! In the meanwhile enjoy:
The World According To Fred

Thursday, 18 August 2011

I Predict A Riot

I’m sure that most, if not everyone, of you reading this are aware by some degree of the ‘August Riots’ that are happening up and down the country. A few years early perhaps, but the Kaiser Chiefs were certainly right when they predicted a riot.

A compilation of violence and thefts, these raids are concreting into the minds of the general public the image of teens and youths. Now it seems that all teenagers are to be regarded as yobs and hooligans. When a country chooses a foreign ambassador, it chooses the best of the best – someone who epitomises all the quality that that nation has to offer. Yet the teenagers’ representatives are nothing more than the worst that our age group can offer; looters and those that wear their ASBOs like crowns. And yet when one of our youth Olympic Ambassadors is charged with two counts of burglary, violent disorder and attacking a police car, we have to question whether this actually is the best we can offer – or whether people believe fame can buy them a get out of jail free card. Either way, now everyone of the same age can be assured that they will be tarnished with the same brush that was used to smash shop windows and take goods. Sure – why not browse the clothes section before grabbing the t-shirt in your favourite colour and running. It astounds me that people think that this is in any way acceptable. I don’t know whether it’s the parents, the schools or what they see on TV but somewhere along the lines these teens missed a vital lesson in what’s right, wrong and against the law. And I’m sorry but who the hell do they think they are? Apart from the exceptionally rich, everyone is struggling at the moment. But they deal with it maturely and respectfully, rather than as if they are above the law and better than anyone else. These people seem to be unaware of the consequences of their actions: they say that there are not enough jobs for them – so in order to make this right, they burn the businesses that may have given them jobs, and then ask why no-one will offer them a job. I wonder… could it possibly be that they are law-breakers and do not deserve the positions? No, of course not. They ask for respect – well maybe it’s time that they earned it.

However, the situation wasn’t exactly perfect before this whole debacle kicked off. Any teen wearing a hoodie was assumed to be hiding a knife, despite the fact it was just generally cold out. We were already being treated like a contagious disease – I’d hold doors open for strangers, and they’d look at me as if I was something nasty they’d stepped in. So in a way, it’s no wonder the youth populous acts the way they do – they say that if you treat a man like a criminal, before long he will begin to act like one; and that’s exactly the case here. Stuck in an endless, unbreakable circle, with no offered opportunity to change the stereotype. Needless to say however, this in no way makes the behaviour of the last week acceptable. It just condemns the use of assumption. “To assume is to make an ass out of you and me,” I was told once when I was younger, to help me learn the word’s spelling – but that’s exactly what it does. I’ve already written about the use of stereotypes, and we have arrived right back at it again. I just hope that in this case it doesn’t lead to the creation of an entire generation that is out of control. Those of us that don’t spend out spare time destroying our home towns are sick of being treated as if we do.  I don’t think a little differentiation is a lot to ask for.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

The Only Way Is America

As I’m watching yet another re-run of the same episode of Scrubs on Comedy Central whilst eating my lunch, I contemplate again the utter rubbish that plagues our TV screens. Normally, I’ll say “I realised” or “I began to understand” but in this case, this does not fit: bad TV is an existential dilemma.

Now I know that I am about to open an enormous can of worms, especially considering the fact that it is a topic surrounded by greatly diverse opinions. Then again, most of the topics I write about are like that and this is, after all, The World According To Fred. So.

I will openly admit that I’m a teleholic. I follow nine TV shows, and that’s without mentioning those that I just watch every now and then, like Scrubs, F.R.I.E.N.D.S. and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. And apart from Dr. Who, Torchwood and Outcasts all the programmes I watch are American. We as the British people seem to have resigned to the fact that everything America produces is flashier and cooler than what we can do (except for cars and biscuits. The Mini and the custard cream outstrip anything the USA has. Oh, and Harry Potter of course). And yet when it comes to television, we aren’t even putting up a fight. Our answers to the hit shows Glee, One Tree Hill and Desperate Housewives are The Only Way Is Essex, Made in Chelsea and Geordie Shore. I mean seriously? If I wanted to watch a load of narcissistic, untalented morons prance around then I would watch the auditions for the X Factor. The programmes seem to be a cross between a reality TV show and a scripted drama, which creates more of a train crash than anything else. I mean, if it’s a reality TV show, where is my option to have them all shipped off and hidden from society? Please, enlighten me on how these all work, because I have never been more confused to see an ignorant bunch of egotists on my TV screen. I haven’t watched the shows, no, but the trailers that interrupt my viewing of better programmes tell me everything I need to know. What qualities do these excuses for entertainment actually bring to the table? For example, Ugly Betty teaches that the beauty on the inside is more important than the out; and Glee teaches that you have to love yourself whoever you are – because of your faults, rather than in spite of them. The Only Way Is Essex? Ah, that takes loving yourself to a whole new, but entirely superficial level. The Only Way Is Essex teaches you that the real you is not someone worth being, but with a religious appliance of oompa loompa make-up, you can be someone worth knowing. Yes, this is exactly the kind of lesson we want to be putting out to the nation. The funny thing is, when I was at the Harry Potter premier in London, Ollie from Made In Chelsea befouled the red carpet by turning up. And then he had the audacity to reach for and try to sign my Harry Potter book. No! I am sorry (well actually, no I’m not) but these pages were reserved for my childhood idols, not some washed up idiot who got lucky by wondering in front of a camera without having ever cut or washed his hair. Not only now have we made these cretins famous, but now they believe that they are as important as the real actors that have slaved away for years to portray a message worth repeating, rather than which hair product is best for slimy egomaniacs.

Now for a TV show that gets the heart pounding in an entirely different way: as in, not from anger and frustration, but from excitement. The Vampire Diaries. For those of you who I know who are reading this, yes I can hear your sigh of exasperation. But why not! The show is amazing, gaining better lines, better plot points and more fans by every episode. It epitomises what modern TV should be about – love triangles and cliffhangers and characters so lovable that you fly the highs and scrape through the lows with them. Of course, the bountiful plenty of hot shirtless guys doesn’t hurt, but what I’m saying is that it’s about much more than a spray of fake tan and a false smile. I am one of those people that openly weeps at films, but it takes a true masterpiece to do that, and The Vampire Diaries managed that. I highly doubt that Made In Chelsea could pull that off, except for those that are mourning for the bygone era of decent TV. And for some unfathomable reason, despite the fact that it revolves around vampires, witches and werewolves (not to mention the mortal relationship issues that are sometimes just as perilous) TVD is somehow more believable than a group of people prancing around like ignoramuses. People love to watch what we all once or maybe still aspire to be – and I can guarantee that people will rather be the heroine in a fairy tale than a faker in real life. Which is why something made in Mystic Falls will always be more realistic and more enjoyable than anything Made In Chelsea.

Monday, 1 August 2011

So This Is What The Barrier Feels Like

Since the very day I started this blog, it has been a guarantee that I would write something on Harry Potter. I’m not talking about a mention or even a paragraph that happens to tie in with other subjects: prepare for a full on Harry Potter fest. Any of you who follow my musings regularly (and, seeing as I am doing this entirely differently, I’d like to take the opportunity to say thank you to those who do – it is very much appreciated!) will know that my blogs are my (mainly critical) comments on the world. I decided that I was never going to write anything that accounted to a day in my life – I figured that would be boring for anyone reading and entirely unproductive in my reach for a future in journalism: the closest I have come to it was my review of the Glee Live! Tour. However, I am (over-dramatically) about to make a rather large exception.

Thursday 7th July 2011, and I was right behind the barrier at the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 World Premiere. Yes indeed, my friend and I were some of the screaming mad people right at the front of the crowd, albeit we were in Leicester Square instead of Trafalgar and we had arrived in fact on Thursday morning rather than the Monday before hand. I shall spare you the long-winded version. It’s likely that many people reading this have already caught my monologue in person and are tired of hearing it already. However, by the time we got to Trafalgar Square at about eight that morning (with permission from school; we weren’t truanting) the place was already packed. After a mistaken attempt at trying to get into the square itself (genuinely, we had no idea we couldn’t get in) we were informed that without a “red wristband” we could not get in, and that these had all been given out days before. To cut a very long story short, six security guards (we were inquiring, not in trouble) and countless “Go home. You have no chance without a red wristband”s later, we were a mere step away from leaving. But I wasn’t quite finished. I walked up to who we think was the head of security and begged him. Was there no-where we could go?
“Leicester Square.” he said.
“We were there half an hour ago,” I replied “The place is dead and the people we met told us that we were better off watching the premiere on TV.”
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Part Two
“Leicester Square,” he repeated, “They’re letting 800 people in before shutting the whole place down. Get there quickly, and keep it to yourself. Run!”
Outside the biggest premier London
has ever seen
So that was it. We ran to Leicester Square as if we had just performed a whole bout of underage magic and the entire Ministry of Magic was hot on our heels. When we arrived we headed for the biggest cinema out of the three there (which were all showing the film, there were that many people). After asking a woman what exactly was going on here, and gaining the response “This is the Harry Potter premiere” in a thick Scottish accent, we decided to stay put. We made our way to the front of a crowd of people and were effectively penned in. We had initially been scared that the barriers would be cage like and that, despite the fact we were at the border of the civilian collection, we would be unable to see the cast. Yet, amazingly, they put up the waist high barriers that you see in videos of the premiers. Prime position for autographs.

Having stared at this image for nearly nine
hours, I think it will be embedded in my
brain forever.
It is surprising to state that the next six hours went by quite quickly. You make friends in these situations; it’s impossible not to. Crammed into a tiny space and rain cascading down in torrents over our heads – you end up as if you have known each other all your life. Of course, leaving to find shelter was simply out of the question. Once out of the “pen” you’re not allowed back in, and even if we’d just moved backwards to get underneath the ledge of the cinema, we’d have never regained our phenomenal position. So there we remained, with the sound of building works echoing around and the only thing to look at being the enormous poster opposite us or each other (which realistically, got a bit creepy after a while. At one point I had to explain to someone behind me that I did not have a twin sister called Ola, nor was I Swedish). However, we were entertained by several TV crews, and I await to see myself appear on Polish, French and Spanish news channels. Plus, apparently we were on CBBC Newsround, though I’ve been unable to find it on the internet just yet.

The Red Carpet
By about six o’clock, the actors began to arrive. For the previous hour, a bunch of what can only be described as “nobody’s” had been prancing up and down the red carpet. Most had clearly had either bought their way in or were friends of the cast and crew , although some seemed to have won themselves tickets in (I dislike them thouroughly). However, a few clearly thought they were the stars themselves; they kept waltzing up and down like prize turkeys the day after thanksgiving. Fortunately the woman whos skirt was so short absolutely everyone was able to see her underwear (as well as some other things that should never be displayed to several hundred people in public) only walked past us once. It was funny – as people we didn’t know rounded the corner on to our portion of the red carpet, those closest began to scream in anticipation. The first twenty minutes were funny and even cute, especially with the children, but nearly an hour on when every time a slight scream went up about fifty people behind me would surge up and ram me and everyone else on the front line into the barrier; yeah, that’s when it started to get a bit tedious. It was like the film world’s equivalent of the front of the moshpit, with all the injuries that accompany it. I have bruises all along my arms, knees and stomach from where I was repeatedly and incessantly pounded into the barrier; at points I was almost doubled over the top of it. You musn’t think that I’m complaining though – I would do it a million times over if I could have that day again. Though I have to say that I am glad I was at the front: if I had been caught in the middle of everyone with my claustrophobia and having people pressing in from all sides; well, lets say I would’ve definitely made it onto the news then.

Bertie Gilbert, aka Scorpius Malfoy
Julie Walters, aka Molly Weasley
(in the golf buggy)
Anyway, at about six the cast began to arrive. I don’t think it’s harsh to say that they seemed to arrive in order of importance, with the exception of Ralph Fiennes, who turned up rather early in the evening. Nonetheless, the first to grace the scene were the children of the epilogue. For those of you who – for some strange reason – have not read the final instalment of JK Rowling’s predigious creation, then please be aware that there are some plot points about to be revealed (though I doubt it is anything that you would be unable to guess).  The first people we saw  were Ryan Turner (Hugo Weasley), Helena Barlow (Rose Weasley), Will Dunn (James Potter), Arthur Bowen (Albus Potter) and Bertie Gilbert (Scorpius Malfoy), the children from “Nineteen Years Later”. It was funny – they all looked astonished to be there, as if one good pinch and they would wake up in their beds entirely anonymous. After that followed nearly every member of the Harry Potter cast that you could possibly mention. Not all were signing – and even those that were couldn’t stop to autograph everyone’s – and some were cruising along in golf buggies, like Julie Walters (Molly Weasley). It’s actually probably a good time to mention that all the pictures included in this blog were taken with my own camera. I just realised that it’s probably strange to a reader that in a article on Harry Potter that there are no pictures of the boy wonder himself, nor his two best friends. However, I thought that it would be better to show you what I could see rather than just downloading something off of Google Images. It also gives me the opportunity to show really how close we were to everyone there: after all, not one of these pictures are zoomed in. I was mocked at school on Friday when I told people that but hey. When they are that close to their favourite celebrities, then they can judge. I did feel a bit bad though about the people I did photgraph up close, which in my defense does explain the lack of them. These poor people had to deal with physchotic fans screaming for their signature on a piece of paper like frustrated bank managers past their boiling point. Then suddenly BAM camera in the face and a photo filched before they have any chance to react. However, when Helena Bonham Carter arrived, I was unable to resist and thus my best picture taken. I think my only regret of the day is that there was not enough time for me to have my picture with any of my idols – but having been luckier than I could ever have imagined, I’m  not exactly grumbling. Anyhow, I gained nineteen autographs, a high five off of Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley) and conversations with the likes of Oliver Phelps (George Weasley), Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy), Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom), Miriam Margoyles (Prof. Pomona Sprout) and Darren Criss (Blaine from Glee. I know he’s not from Harry Potter but he did star as the Chosen One in Starkid’s A Very Potter Musical, so he had a perfectly valid reason to be there. I’ve also just realised that I wrote about seeing him in my last blog too, and would like to point out that I am not stalking him and his supermegafoxyawesomehotness. Much.). Despite the fact that neither Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) nor Emma Watson (Hermione Granger) got out of the car to greet the fans in Leicester Square, I left London happier than Hagrid surrounded by dragons.
Helena Bonham Carter, aka Bellatrix

It was an unforgettable day; an experience that mirrors the effect that the Harry Potter series has had not only on me, but across the world on so many people. As I write this I realise I’m already on 1,788 words and I haven’t actually begun to talk about the sensation itself. It’s bizarre. It took me until this morning for the truth to sink in: that it’s all nearly over. I’ve been convincing myself for weeks that it’ll never be over, that I will continue to re-read the books and re-watch the films and of course I will do (that for certain will never change) but as I listened to Glee’s cover of Landslide, it hit me that there is nothing more coming.
Well, I've been afraid of changing
'Cause I've built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Children get older, and I'm getting older too”
It fits perfectly. People my age have grown up alongside the cast of our beloved films, and it is a genuinely frightening thought to consider life without them. Harry Potter isn’t just a series of books: it’s a way of life. When I was upset I wouldn’t turn to music or TV like others might; I turned to my HP books. When I woke up in the middle of the night after a nightmare, I didn’t hug a teddy and hope the shadows disappeared; I flicked on a light and read until my head was filled with thoughts of Hogwarts. On a holiday in Cornwall one year, having read my other book, I spent the remainder of the break reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets on loop, and still laughed at every joke like it was the first time I had seen it. I’ve said before in a previous blog that a good book “should transport someone so drastically into another world that leaving it behind makes you feel homesick” and that’s exactly what the Harry Potter series does.

I shall put this bit as bluntly as possible: the films do not compare. Admittedly, they are amazing pieces of art (despite the fact that they grieviously messed up Half-Blood Prince), and they did an incredible job of creating sets like Hogsmeade and Weasley’s Wizards Wheezes; but nothing could ever cover the depth and intensity of the books. They create a whole world so extraordinary that it feels real; people may joke about receiving their Hogwart’s acceptance letter, but I genuinely thought it was coming. I am proud to be a Potterhead, and I want to thank JK Rowling for seven exceptional books and Warner Bros for ten unbelievable years. But after all - it will only truly be gone when none here are loyal to it.