• How to tell the baddies

    Photo by Ivan Diaz

    While watching The Lion King with my young son, he asked, “What’s that pink thing across Scar’s eye, Dad?” Well, it’s a scar, of course. Just the same as the scar on Count Rochefort’s face in the remake of the immortal Dogtanian.

    Why do they have scars?

    ‘Cos they’re baddies, of course. And then kids’ TV gets you thinking, and you realise that baddies having scars and mutilations is just par for the course throughout the history of entertainment.

    Think of the countless James Bond villains, think of Captain Hook, think of Darth Vader. And these villains with terrible physical injuries are always set against a goodie – 007, Peter Pan or Luke Skywalker – who is fit, fresh-faced and utterly free of injury.

    Frankenstein’s monster

    Such discussion always leads back to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the classic that pinned this obsession with deformity equating evil and skewered the uncomfortable mob mindset lurking within humanity.

    Sure, we want our goodies to be fit and healthy. We don’t want harm to befall them. But then how quickly does a child begin to associate any such misfortune with the dark side?

    It’ll start to make you ponder every story since the dawn of storytelling. If you go out in the woods today, beware…

    Prefer the goodies? Watch out for the Ninjago pandemic

  • You live in the right place, right?

    Red double-decker London bus toy with an advert on the side
    No mincing of words

    France has the best wine in the world. Sweden has the best childcare in the world. Britain has the best television in the world. Brazil has the best football in the world. 

    We love to tell ourselves stories. I’ve been living in a new country now for two months, and it makes you realise just how much we’re encouraged to buy-in to the stories of a nation. 

    God’s own country

    All countries like to think they’re best – some more than others, perhaps. I do come from Great Britain, after all. Not just good, but Great. But wherever you are, a lot of effort is expended in making you sure you’re where you should be. 

    ‘British Meat’s got the lot!’

    That’s what it says on the side of a toy bus I’ve had since childhood. Now my son drives it around the carpet. It’s just one tiny, innocuous example of the recurring mantra that you’re in the right place. 

    That’s probably a good thing. The last thing we need is millions more dissatisfied subjects, clammering to cross borders. But for anyone who has placed a foot in another country, this refrain becomes a little exposed. 

    Is it really better here?

    Nationalist blasphemy, of course. Everything and everyone around you encourages you towards contentment with the way things are where you live. 

    Of course Britain has the best political system, the best drivers, the best beer – until, that is, you arrive somewhere where everyone tells you they have the best political system, the best drivers and the best beer. What then?

    A place called Sweden

    As a new arrival, Swedes have been keen to unveil their envied social system to me. They pay a lot of tax. They’re happy to, because they have the best social care in the world. That’s how it is. 

    But scratch a bit and their social care isn’t that different to British social care, yet you pay a lot more for it. But hush, don’t tell the Swedes. They’re content with living in the right place. 

    As for the British, they have the best political system in the world. But hush, don’t… oh. 

    If you want to cross a border, Is It Your Right To Migrate?