What does Spinal Tap have in common with David Brent?

March 9, 2017

I know that Ricky Gervais is not everyone's (or sometimes, anyone's) cup of tea. Something to do with the very fine line he runs between empathising and exploiting people with disabilities, most likely. But I loved the UK series of The Office (not so much the US version). What's more, I believe that it will reach cult status in years to come - people will gather in groups to play out scenes from Wernham Hogg Paper Company in Slough, line by excruciating line.

 

Why? Because despite David Brent's pomposity, his grandiosity and his tin ear, he's not a malevolent character. In fact, his delusions are our delusions, likewise his paranoia and his narcissism. He's just trying to survive in a world that seem determined to ground him down. Sound familiar?

 

Revisit scene from towards the end of season 2 in which David is being made redundant by the company big wigs. He begs for his job as his world falls apart around him. His dreams, once again, are torn to shreds. His pleas fall on deaf ears and he is, for all intents, sacked. Devastated, he leaves his office to announce his redundancy to the rest of the staff. Dressed in a comic ostrich outfit, he is pathetic, laughable, impotent and ridiculous. In short, he is human.

 

 

Which is why I think The Office will be a cult hit.

 

The same is true of This is Spinal Tap, the first film being screened for Smokescreen's Cult Season. The members of Spinal Tap (a heavy metal band now on the wrong side of fame) are ridiculous - vain, needy, tiresome and arguably lacking talent, they too are human.

 

This humanity supports the entire film. Although the set pieces detailing the band's decline are delightful, we never take delight in them. We laugh at what happens, but not at its impact. We have no real reason to want the band to succeed (just the opposite in fact), but nonetheless, we do. Their dreams are ludicrous, but it is their ludicrousness that makes them more important than ever. Because if Spinal Tap can succeed in reaching their laughable goals, maybe we can reach our more modest ones.    

 

 

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