Tuesday 12 December 2017

Triumph and tragedy of a goddess

With that image of a liberal, bohemian and gregarious woman, Nigella won the day, says Brendan O'Connor

Nigella Lawson arrives at Isleworth Crown Court in west London last week
Nigella Lawson arrives at Isleworth Crown Court in west London last week

ACCORDING to his ex-wife, Charles Saatchi regards litigation as a form of conversation. And the old advertising man knows precisely who that conversation is with. Nigella feigned a belief that Saatchi was talking to her in the Grillo court case, their "last connection" as she called it. But wily old Saatchi knew that the conversation was with the public. And understandably, this old advertising man thought he knew how to talk to the public better than she did.

An ad guy like Saatchi knows that these public conversations do not leave a lot of time for debate or to explain the nitty gritty. You have an instant to drive home your message, and it is done in images. Like Don Draper, with his Freudian meditations on our deepest desires, Saatchi knew that a public court case is not about detail, it's about conveying one archetype that goes beyond people's conscious minds and lodges in the powerful ancient part of the brain, the animal subconscious. Saatchi knew that he needed to summon a particular archetype, wrap it around himself, and that people would then write the story for themselves.

Anyone who has been through a libel trial will tell you that the first thing you need to know is that it is theatre. Even for the jury, barristers deal with detail yes, but mainly they look for the big moment, the stunt that packs emotional punch, that goes straight to people's gut and decides things for them.

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