IS ‘VLOG’ STILL A WORD?

I can get curmudgeonly when I want to. Hard to believe I know. I also lack many of the basic skills of speaking social media. I am therefore doubly ill suited to read with equanimity the maunderings of Miranda Sawyer in the Observer about the response of the Radio 4 programme ‘The Archers’ to Covid-19.

I know one is supposed to either love or hate ‘The Archers’. It is supposed to be one of those litmus tests, a Marmite decider of social division. But it isn’t for me. I’ve listened off and on since I was about eleven I suppose, infected by contact with my parents listening habits and unable to shake the  virus. But it has been intermittent and I lose characters and plot lines without remorse and pick new ones up without commitment. I can in other words; take it or leave it.

So it was with no feelings of an axe to grind in either direction (note to self: does that work?) that I began to read ‘Ambridge in lockdown shock’ yesterday. I won’t bore you with the technical complaints about the deadness of the recording quality done alone in jury rigged, duvet blanketed home studios. The format of internal monologues is, I agree, weird when there is access to modern communication systems. Although I suspect someone thought it was a really cool idea to explore the inner workings of the characters minds after decades of surface viewing only.

No. What really tee’d me off was the smug assumption that life always works exactly the same for everyone as it does for people existing in the Metropolitan Twitterati class. Miranda launched the last section of her critique of how a sixty nine year old radio soap reacted to Coronavirus with: ‘The second episode had a couple of nods towards how people actually live, with Tracy making a “vlog”… (who uses that word, in 2020?)…’

Now I am sure in her world the answer is probably ‘nobody’ but does that mean someone in rural ‘Borsetshire’ (a mythical English county, imagined roughly somewhere around Gloucestershire way) wouldn’t? Because I can tell her that I know kids in rural Monmouthshire, just over the Welsh border, next door to Gloucestershire, most certainly do. My son is quite keen on his and, failing the production of yet another spiky neologism, settles for the no doubt appallingly passé term ‘vlog’ when alluding to his channel.

So what do hep cats in Ms Sawyer’s world call their video diaries and channels I wonder?

I don’t want to criticise all her criticism of the Archers. I was not in a listening phase when quarantine hit us, so I made an effort to tune in when I heard of the new format and was, I confess, singularly underwhelmed. Not because it wasn’t written in urban street slang, although that might be fun for an episode or two, but because I didn’t want to break a plane of understanding in this setting. Part of the rules of the game for a drama like the Archers is that you have to infer motive from actions and like life this is not a clear cut business.

Suddenly knowing from inside the thought processes of characters destroys something of the mystique of the narrative flow. It’s like asking John McClane from Die Hard to voice his internal monologue from the Nakatomi Headquarters. It seems an interesting concept until you realise it’s going to be a huge disappointment as most of the hour and a half is going to be blank tape.

Oh, yes Ambridge is weirder now. But don’t take the mickey out of people because their lives don’t have the ridiculously rapid, vapid and profligate turnover of language and ideas of the media circus. Some of them have real lives to live that don’t revolve around a fear of being two seconds out of date in media jargon, social or otherwise. Even in Radio soaps

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