Since the world economy had a bit of a turn in 2008 there have been few things more miserable than the relentlessly apocalyptic economic coverage.
One of those few things was Javier Bardem’s film Biutiful, which if you have not seen it yet is quite simply one of the most transcendentally grim movies ever made. So many miserable things happen to the protagonist (Bardem as Uxbal) that it had the absolutely fascinating effect of causing me fits of giggles from about 45 minutes in.
Following is a gem of a plot spoiler edited from IMDB:
“In the dirty periphery of Barcelona, Uxbal survives operating as middleman selling illegal immigrant workers in the Chinese community as slave labour. Uxbal has also the ability to communicate with the dead and is the loving single father of the ten year-old Ana and the little boy Mateo. Their mother Marambra is a bipolar alcoholic prostitute with an unstable and self-destructive behaviour. When Uxbal learns that he is terminal with an advanced prostate cancer and metastasis and has only a couple of months, he saves all the possible money and seeks out a person to raise Ana and Mateo. Uxbal buys the cheapest heaters to use in the warehouse where the Chinese workers sleep and the equipment leaks gas killing the twenty-five illegal immigrants. “
I think you get the sense of it.
Obviously you are largely supposed to empathise with a protagonist, pray for a nice resolution or some good news, but this one was different. I wanted more misery. I excitedly asked my partner half way through, wide-eyed and gibbering “babes what else can go wrong! It’s MISERY BINGO!!!” somehow electrified by the incessant waves of depressing news, the experience became thrilling, addictive!
OK. Now switch subject to economic journalism and its own version of misery bingo.
Prior to 2008, economic journalists were wheeled out for the budget, crunched out a few growth stories and watched inflation. (Things going well economically is not a story people need to read every day – who cares when you have a few quid in your pocket! – though Hugh Pym at the BBC has a go with this item featuring Newgate client TissueRegenix http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-21794508)
Suddenly the crash happens – mounting fear, apocalypse, collapse of nations – you are moved from the back of the paper to the front, almost every day for five years there is a front page (or website) waiting for your foreboding, knowledgeable commentary . The miserable news arrives wave after wave, and it becomes thrilling. When will it stop? What can go wrong next? Every time Robert Peston appeared on the TV we knew something terrible has happened! THE MISERY WILL LAST FOREVER!!!!
But then it kind of stopped.
Greece didn’t melt. The Triple-Dip dog hasn’t barked.
The “giggle in the cinema” moment for me was newspaper websites moving to daily “live” coverage of big/bog economic events (PORTUGAL PRIME MINISTER MAKES SMALL BUDGET CUT LIVE!!!! / UK TRIPLE DIP FEARS EXPRESSED BY BULGARIAN MP LIVE!!!!)
That’s all folks, no more big stuff. Just a slow crawl to recovery.
Ah shame it is more or less over. It was a horrible, heart stopping, relentless game of misery bingo.
(Meanwhile – if you need a quick game, you can always watch Billy Bob Thornton’s Sling Blade…)