From the perspective of an arts scholar, I’ve long considered Back For Good to be one of the most hugely overrated songs in Take That’s back catalogue. There is one line in particular which I hold responsible: “Got your lipstick mark still on your coffee cup”. You hear it for the first time and think ooh, that’s poignant. It‘s those little things that remind him of what he’s lost. If, however, you listen to it enough times, you’ll come to the same conclusion I have. Lipcote was available in the mid-1990s. Failing that she could have just wiped it off with her finger, as any normal person would. Gary Barlow’s ex was just inconsiderate.
One thing I hadn’t considered before, though (until my partner pointed it out to me), was just how rubbish the song is by way of an apology:
Whatever I said, whatever I did, I didn’t mean it
I just want you back for good
(want you back, want you back)
See I want you back for good
Now as far as I understand it, a prerequisite for being sorry is knowing what you’ve done wrong in the first place. “Whatever I said, whatever I did”? What does that even mean? Is it “sleeping with a best mate” sorry, or just “not taking the rubbish out” sorry? These things actually matter. If you think you can just offer a blanket “sorry” (while making your self-serving motivations clear enough in the very next line), well, that’s not good enough. After all, if, potentially, you didn’t mean anything you said or did, does anything you say or do now mean anything also? What about the bit about wanting your ex back for good? Or even the bit about not meaning the bits before? It’s not quite the Cretan Liar Paradox, but we’re getting there. Crikey, the more I think about it, the more I’d be tempted to leave Max Factor on the crockery and get the hell out of there, too.
Before we leave it at that, though, I’ve found an apology that’s even more of an apology for an apology than that previous apology was. This time it’s not from Gary and the boys. It’s from ex-editor of Loaded Martin Daubney. This time it’s so bad it’s not even laughable. In fact, it’s made me really rather cross.
Daubney was the longest-serving editor of shit magazine Loaded, before he stepped down due to the magazine being sold, sorry, for moral reasons, back in July 2010. Since then he’s come to regret his involvement in peddling soft-porn misogyny and has given all of his ill-gotten gains to charity. Oh, hang on, he hasn’t done that. He’s sold his story to the Daily Mail (click on the link for the article, plus some tit-tastic Loaded covers included for illustrative purposes only i.e. wanking over them just wouldn’t be in the spirit of things). Anyhow, while what Daubney’s written for the Mail is an apology, turns out it’s not one for being a misogynist bastard. It’s an apology for sexual objectification, hardcore porn and rape. And since it’s in the Daily Mail and not in Loaded, it’s far more damaging this time because there are still people actually reading it.
Daubney’s “Loaded is shit” epiphany came, he claims, when his son was born (the magazine having dwindling sales is just a coincidence). Clearly, one needs to be a parent to have any empathy at all. Obviously, I was a right bitch, too, until the arrival of Eldest (if you’re reading this and you’re not a parent, well, I’m sorry; you can’t have any morals yet). Anyhow, prior to the arrival of Sonny, Daubney was a horrible person. I guess you have to be to edit Loaded. It’s not just the content and its crass objectification of women. It’s the editorial view of the clients:
The average Loaded reader — largely white, working class, 20-something blokes — had a simple palate, so we gave them what they wanted.
Ha ha! “Sitting around a boardroom table with six other university-educated men”, Daubney treated women like shit to produce shit to sell to men he viewed as shit. Wow. There’s an awful lot of shit there. But, not being a parent yet, he didn’t notice.
It’s not that no one tried to point this out to him:
Pretty soon, we were accused of being pornographic, and there wasn’t a month when a minor Lib Dem MP or feminist lobby group didn’t try to make a name for themselves by demanding we were placed on the top shelf, or banned altogether.
This is rather marvelous, isn’t it? Anyone who said Loaded was sexist at the time was clearly motivated by nothing more than nasty self-interest. This, remember, is being suggested in Daubney’s retraction of his former ways. How could he have known the damage he was doing when the only people who made a fuss had ulterior motives? You know how it is; the number of perks and bonuses that come with being a high-profile feminist, it all gets confusing. Just ask Andrea Dworkin (oh no, she’s dead. Was it the life of unremitting luxury that got to her?).
So how would having a child change all this for Daubney? Well, it enabled him to stop seeing women as mere objects; now he could see them as possessions and/or the objects of their own children’s gaze!
I started seeing the women in my magazine not as sexual objects, but as somebody’s daughter. Some of Loaded’s models had children themselves, and I’d think ‘what’s your kid going to think of you when they’re old enough to understand Mummy used to get her boobs out for a living?’
To think that the girls who posed for our magazine had once had their nappies changed, had once been taught to take their first steps and had once been full of childlike hope . . . it was almost heartbreaking.
To be honest, I find the whole “had their nappies changed” bit getting towards a whole new level of perviness, but I’d rather not get into it here. The basic point is, Daubney’s “transformation” has fuck all to do with starting to see women as people. As an anti-objectification message, it was already summed up in 1982, when The J. Geils Band released My Angel is the Centrefold (‘my blood runs cold, my memory has just been sold’ – I’ve actually posted about this song before, what with it being one of the worst in human history). This, pretty much, captures the whole of the Daily Mail anti-objectification message. It’s not because women deserve respect; it’s because these tits need saving for their rightful male owners.
And yet, this isn’t the worst of what Daubney is saying. Not by a long shot. Not only does he underplay the sheer nastiness of his magazine, he also overplays its influence, dreaming up a post-Loaded society in which hardcore porn is the norm and women are abused because hey, the poor men can’t help it. The real victims of Loaded are not, apparently, women, but the helpless boys who will grow up to assault them:
How will these tainted children be able to interact with real women later in life if the first ones they ‘meet’ are on-screen mannequins? By allowing children free access to pornographic images, the next generation of young men are becoming so desensitised, I genuinely fear we’re storing up an emotional time-bomb.
Porn objectifies women, demeans and cheapens them, because it sells a fantasy where men are always in control and get what they want.
But real life isn’t like that. In porn, women cry, ‘yes, yes, yes!’ but in real life, they often say, ‘no’. Not all men have the intelligence or moral fortitude to understand they cannot take what they want.
Fuck off, you useless, hateful man! Abusive, misogynistic porn is not all around us. Where we find it, feminists call it out (and not, you’d be surprised to know, to get some kind of status boost, or even the payment you’d get for your average Daily Mail article. Just because it’s, y’know, wrong). Not one of us shrugs our shoulders and says “crikey, since it’s this bad, looks like rape’s an inevitability and it won’t now be the perpetrator’s fault”. Not one of us talks about “an emotional time-bomb”, not least because many of us, like you, are parents of little boys. We don’t think of them as “tainted children”. We think of them as people and teach them that women are people, too.
How dare Martin Daubney overplay the power he had and misused. Sales of magazines such as the one he used to edit are falling rapidly. Hence we also see Terri White, former editor of Nuts, providing her own crappy (but less damaging) mea culpa in the Guardian. Why don’t they all piss off? There’s plenty of intelligent and committed people prepared to take on misogynistic porn for the right reasons. We don’t need Daubney, White and their two-faced apologies (although perhaps they do need the money now they’re no longer the top porn peddlers in town).
Gah! I am actually pretty fucking furious about this. Need to calm down a bit. Will think of Take That.
[5 mins “quiet time”]
Ah, yes, anyhow, another rubbish line in Back For Good is that one about how “we will never be uncommon again”. Has anyone, ever, used that phrase in real life? I also don’t like the bit about “in the twist of separation, you excelled at being free” as it makes me think of the eHarmony ads.
And you? Which bits of Back For Good irritate you most? On a scale of Shine to vaguely listenable, how bad is it really? And, most importantly, how much would you just want to explode if you ever came face to face with Martin Daubney?
PS And another thing: Gary Barlow doesn’t sing the song properly because I’ve now had two comments correcting my rendering of the first offending lyric (amendments duly made). Barlow needs to enunciate properly!