Sunday 17 December 2017

Richard Curtis has a lot to answer for

Kirsty at large

Shelley Duvall in The Shining
Shelley Duvall in The Shining
Stirring up trouble: George Hook
Velvet high heels
Kirsty Blake Knox

Kirsty Blake Knox

There's a fine line between hopeless romantic and low-grade creep.

And British musician Luke Howard hovered on that precipice last Friday when he pledged to win back his ex girlfriend by playing a piano on Bristol's College Green non-stop.

"Come rain or shine, day or night," he said.

The 34-year-old and his ex, who he had been dating for a period of four months, had ended things because "life got in the way".

Luke said he hoped his former girlfriend, who he referred to as Rapunzel (red flag right there), would hear the plinkity-plonkity notes and come running back.

He told his story to local papers who praised him for his devotion, but online people took a very different view; chastising him for publicly harassing a woman.

Undeterred, Luke managed to play lovelorn melodies in the park for 72 hours - but his piano playing came to an abrupt end at 4am on Tuesday morning, when someone walked across the lawn and punched him in the head.

It's unclear if that was done to further the feminist cause, or because someone really wanted to get some kip.

A downtrodden Luke told The Sun newspaper: "I was punched in the head while, as it would now appear, turning myself into the largest fool in the West Country."

I feel Luke is being a little hard on himself there. Yes there are many great and wise people from the West Country - such as The Wurzels - but it's also where Katie Hopkins lives. So y'know, swings and roundabouts. Personally, I don't think Luke's actions were malicious: just symptomatic of a certain type of man raised to believe rom-coms written by Richard Curtis should be the blueprint of their romantic lives.

In the box-office version of his life, Luke definitely would've won back Andie MacDowell or Julia Roberts.

A couple of years ago, I briefly dated your typical Curtis-esque romantic underdog.

Towards the end of what was to be our second and final date, I held out my hand for the 'Let's Never Do This Again/ Enjoy the Rest of Your Life' handshake.

"Well, great seeing you," I said.

He glanced at my palm and then in a stop-start manner said: "Em, actually, I was wondering if you would mind terribly if, perhaps, I kissed you?"

The skin retracted on my scalp. So this is what hell is like, I thought.

The delivery was akin to a Credit Union deputy manager talking through a mortgage plan, or Hugh Grant in any rom-com - ever.

"Yeah, I don't think that's a great idea," I said.

"Can I ask why?" he replied rather haughtily. I explained the tone had been too formal, and perhaps it was better to "just read the room" before making a move.

"You mean," he said as he grabbed the corner of my coat and pulled me towards himself.

"Like this?"

"No!" I said. "That's worse! That's definitely worse." I tried to make a swift exit and hailed a cab, but he followed suit and jumped inside the car. In the backseat, he asked me why I didn't want to kiss him. In front of the taxi driver.

"You never know, you might like it," he told me stroking the knuckles on my right hand.

It's hard to convey the decibel level my internal screaming had reached, but think Janet Leigh in Psycho meets Shelley Duvall in The Shining.

I left him home and we never spoke again. But in the movie of his life I would have been bowled over by his naïve charm.

Basically, I am blaming Richard Curtis for one of the worst dates of my life, and I think Luke's 'Rapunzel' should do the same.

Hanging it all on Hook? This is a bigger issue

2017-09-12_lif_34516574_I2.JPG
Stirring up trouble: George Hook

Twitter is a pulpit, a soapbox, and a stream of consciousness all at once.

We use it to tell everyone how much we hate The Late Late Show while watching The Late Late Show, upload GIFs of Reality TV 'Kween' Gemma Collins, while also taking the moral high ground.

This week it has been whirling along a mile a minute over George Hook and those incomprehensible comments he made about rape. Hook's remarks were just awful and his attitudes towards women and sex are often embarrassingly outdated. Not totally surprising given the guy is pushing 80.

Initially, his words were met with rightful indignation, but over the past week this has been replaced by something rather less pleasant. Passionate and enlightening conversation - where rape victims explained why his comments were offensive - began to be overshadowed by the sense of a lynch mob gathering outside the local jail.

There was a degree of relish in some of those who appeared to delight in Hook's fall. And he was blamed for a litany of other, wider failings.

Such as Newstalk's lack of female voices, and the bumping of women around in the schedule.

Yes, George typifies a brash and, at times, overbearing rugger-bugger masculinity. But typifying something, doesn't automatically make you responsible for all of its faults. This has become deeply personal and that is doing no one any favours.

Rape Crisis Centre CEO Noeline Blackwell has stressed that instead of focusing on Hook alone, we should examine the media guidelines surrounding the discussion of rape culture.

"People in the media need to be told how to report on this subject and air their opinions about it in a responsible way," she said. Put simply, this is bigger than Hook. And by making one person the fall guy, it allows all of us to shirk off a collective responsibility.

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