In the Doherty

In the words of new director Roger Wright this year’s proms promise to “juxtapose the familiar and the unfamiliar”. Alongside Elgar’s gushing sentiment the eclectic sounds of Stockhausen, Dr Who and Vaughan Williams will be heard. Abandoning Nicholas Kenyon’s practice of adopting a theme for each programme Roger Wright has chosen to structure the season around the anniversaries of a series of significant composers.

The centenaries of Elliot Carter, Messiaen, and the late Stockhausen’s eightieth birthday are all celebrated and the fifty years since Vaughan Williams death is marked by an unprecedented free concert of folk songs. Besides showcasing established musicians plenty of space is made for new composers. The Torino Scale by Mark Anthony Turnage and the Dr Who theme tune will feature and the BBC has commissioned eleven new compositions (the Scottish composer Anna Meredith will have her work premiered on the last night.) Writing for The New Statesman last year Tory London Assembly member Brian Coleman confessed his dislike of such ‘ghastly modern’ music. His article went on to argue that the proms are responsible for cultivating ‘cultural apartheid’ in the land of hope and glory. This idea has had significant press in the last month following Margaret Hodge’s widely criticised call for diversity. Admittedly Stockhausen’s compositions are by no means easy listening. However, with the introduction this year of contextual pre-concert events at the Royal College of Music and concerts that cost as little as £2.20 accusations of elitism look set to be undermined.

British artist David Hockney made headlines this week when he donated his monumental painting "Bigger Trees near Wharton" to the Tate. Sprawling over fifty adjoining canvases the image clocks in at twelve metres long and five metres tall. It depicts a coppice near Bridlington in Yorkshire, and was completed for the Royal Academy exhibition last summer. Hockney’s generous gesture prompted Jonathan Jones (writing for the Guardian) to describe the artist as "a national treasure". The painter, however, explained his donation in terms of gratitude, saying: “I think it is the duty of the artist, once they have become successful, to give.” The Tate was one of the first institutions to buy Hockney’s work when he was an emerging talent in the sixties. His gift (which would cost millions on the open market) comes at a good time, as the value of paintings continues to rise. Last year, the NS commented on the unfortunate growth of private art collections in the UK – hopefully Hockney’s manoeuvre will help to keep more of our treasures national.

The Tate Modern also attracted interest this week. Following on the heels of Banksy’s recent book launch street art is once again in the public eye. Next month the gallery’s external wall will display graffiti from around the world, including artwork by Barcelona’s Sixeart and the Italian artist Blu. It is hoped that the high profile venue will help graffiti shed its association with antisocial vandalism, and the event is expected to prove very popular. The Tate Modern describes street art as an “important aspect of current art practise.” However, as we reported last year street art is continually evolving and graffiti is by no means its only form. Artists such as Slink have found new ways to surprise the unsuspecting pedestrian. Slink, who sees his work as a social experiment has commented that: “Adults pay no attention to their surrounding. We walk around as if we were blind.”

Other artists in the news this week include Damien Hirst and Pete Doherty - both managed to successfully upset uniformed officials. Hirst’s infamous sculpture ‘Mother and Child, divided’ ran into trouble at the Japanese customs. The artwork, which won the Turner Prize in 1995, consists of a dead cow and calf, sliced in half and preserved in formaldehyde. Due to be exhibited at the Mori Art museum in Japan the piece was stopped by customs as a result of the Japanese ban on British Beef. After the gallery confirmed that the cow was not for eating the curators managed to guide it safely to the exhibition. Doherty’s collision with authority was less benevolent: the Babyshambles singer and ex-boyfriend of Kate Moss has been jailed for fourteen weeks after breaching a probation order. It is rumoured that he will still perform at Glastonbury this summer.

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The top children’s TV show conspiracy theories

From randy Postman Pat to white supremacist Smurfs, we present to you your childhood in tatters.

We can probably all agree that, these days, nothing is sacred. If you can (as a few very insistent YouTube videos have told me) pay to watch live snuff films on the dark web, there’s probably someone out there – in the thronging nest of perversions that is the internet – ready to take something special from your childhood (say, a favourite TV programme) and make it unclean.

Which is exactly what happened when an internet-spawned theory found history’s least sexual fictional character, Postman Pat, to be a stop motion sex monster. The theory goes that he has fathered a lot of children in the village school, many of whom have ginger hair; Pat is the only red head in Greendale.


Because humans are incapable of not picking at every innocent thing until it goes gangrenous, here are some other childhood-ruining fan theories.

Babar is a colonial stooge


Babar lording it over the colonies. Photo: Flickr/Vanessa

Could everyone’s favourite anthropomorphic French elephant be an apologist for centuries of Western brutality and conquest? Well, yes, obviously. According to the “Holy Hell Is Babar Problematic” theory, the fact that the titular character was born in Africa, raised and “civilised” in Paris, then sent back to Elephant Land to be king and teach all the other elephants how to be French, makes Babar about as suitable for children as a Ladybird introduction to eugenics and a Playmobil King Leopold.

For further proof that this theory isn’t “political correctness gone mad”, but actually political correctness gone quite sensible, just look at some of the (deeply un-OK) illustrations from the 1949 book Babar’s Picnic.

The Smurfs are white supremacists


A horrifying vision of ethnic uniformity. Photo: Getty

Or maybe “blue supremacists” would be more accurate. Either way, they’re racist. Possibly. It’s been pointed out that the Smurfs all wear pointy white hats. Apart from their leader, Papa Smurf (the ultimate patriarch..?), who wears a red one. Meaning these tiny munchkin thingies are (maybe, just maybe) sartorially influenced by none other than the Ku Klux Klan.

This seems tenuous at best, until you look at a few other factors in this theory brought to light by French political scientist Antoine Buéno. Buéno suggests that the dictatorial political structure of Smurf Village paired with some actually quite convincing racism (when Smurfs turn black, for example, they become barbaric and lose the power of speech), equals Nazism.

What’s more, the Smurfs’ main antagonist – a wizard called Gargamel – is not unlike an antisemitic caricature from Nazi propaganda magazine Der Stürmer. He’s dark haired, hook-nosed and obsessed with gold. Oh, and he has a cat called Azrael, which is the Hebrew name for the Angel of Death.


 

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And, in case you’re not already far enough down the “Smurfs are racist” rabbit hole, just look at Smurfette and her long, blonde hair. Aryan much?

SpongeBob SquarePants is a post-nuclear mutant


Forever running from haunting memories of radioactive atrocity. Photo: Flickr/Kooroshication

According to one fan theory, this Nickelodeon classic may have more in common with The Hills Have Eyes than we think. SpongeBob, a talking sponge who lives in an underwater pineapple with a meowing snail, may well be the product of nuclear testing.

In the Forties, the US detonated two nukes in an area of the Pacific called Bikini Atoll. SpongeBob lives somewhere called Bikini Bottom. Coincidence, or an especially dark analogy for the dangers of radiation and man’s lust for destruction? Hm.

Tom and Jerry is Nazi propaganda


Skipping merrily through the Third Reich. Photo: Flickr/momokacma

Either we’re so obsessed with Nazism that we look for it (and find it…) in literally everything, or the antics of a classic cat and mouse duo really do contain coded messages about the futility of the Allies’ war with the Third Reich.

If we’re going for the latter, let’s start with the characters’ names. Tom (Tommies were British soldiers) and Jerry (Jerries were German ones). Now remember, Tom is the bad guy. In every episode, he tries to kill Jerry by any means possible, but is foiled every single time, getting blown up by sticks of dynamite and flattened by falling anvils along the way.

Tom and Jerry first aired in 1940 – the same year as the Battle of Britain. So, if the reference to slang for Brits and Germans was unintentional, it was more than a little bit unfortunate. And, according to some albeit sketchy-looking corners of the internet, this was no accident at all but a message (in that Jerry constantly outwits Tom) about superior German intelligence.

Although this may seem like the least compelling of all of these dark fan theories, it would explain why I always had a gut feeling the painfully smug Jerry was the actual baddie.

Eleanor Margolis is a freelance journalist, whose "Lez Miserable" column appears weekly on the New Statesman website.