IF I COULD choose the proverb which I try hardest to pay mind to in my everyday jibes and judgements, it’s: “Don’t hate the player. Hate the game”.
Okay, so it’s not strictly a proverb. It’s an Ice-T lyric. And okay, so it’s a bit of a cop out when it’s coming out of the mouth of a puffed-up rapper justifying how flamboyant his home decor is, but the sentiment is fairly sound. A lot of the most obnoxious acts ever committed by petulant rotters have to be examined in a social or historical context. Was the prophet Muhammad wrong for taking a child bride, when that was the custom of his people? Was Virginia Woolf a snob for thinking her servants buffoons, when her contemporaries would have fainted at any contradictory suggestion? Is Daily Mail columnist Samantha Brick really such a troll, when her publication has enjoyed wild success for its elevating trolling to the status of High Art?
Because that’s what Samantha Brick is. A troll.
Of course, I mean troll in the online sense, someone who is deliberately provocative without suffering the implied emotional attachment to whatever opinion they’re baiting the normals with. Samantha Brick is the perfect example. She is very, very good at trolling.
By now, you probably know the particular piece I’m referring to; it was all over the internet, all week. Brick took on the guise of a deluded airhead only just held together by an inflated sense of her own worth, and authored a piece about how difficult it was for her to be so damn beautiful, because it meant men couldn’t stop throwing presents at her and other women couldn’t stop throwing eggs and rocks and terrible shapes.
“The whole effect was incredibly silly”
Compounding this was a series of purposefully provoking photographs of the distinctly average-looking Brick and her exuberantly-moustachioed husband, who, of course, demands she stay so damn beautiful or else catch the breeze from his swiftly-retreating buttocks. The whole effect was incredibly silly.
Brick listed various examples of how jealous hags snubbed and ridiculed her because she was too gorgeous for them to cope with. It’s difficult to pick the stupidest line from the article. Perhaps it’s the photo caption that mournfully reads “[Brick] laments that not one of her girlfriends has ever asked her to be a bridesmaid – perhaps from fear of being overshadowed by her looks”. The whole thing read like a Right Said Fred mad-lib. Had it been published a couple of days earlier, it would have been enjoyed as an April Fool’s joke.
Naturally, everyone was appalled. Faced with an insufferable self-trumpeter who reckoned her lack of female friends was more to do with her luminescence than her toxic personality, readers howled in unison to the kind of rabid crescendo more suited to a lycanthropic orgy than a shallow lifestyle piece. Many sought to demean Brick as being too old, or flabby, or ugly to validly flaunt such an attitude. Others pointed out that vanity wasn’t endearing, so it was no wonder Brick had no friends.
More thoughtful readers believed that the Mail had tricked this plain Jane into writing a self-congratulatory elegy, rather like the hopeless nobodies encouraged to make idiots of themselves in TV talent shows. They felt sorry for her. And after all, tabloids are rarely congratulated for their portrayal of women; females are either too fat or too thin, too ambitious or too freeloading, too stupid or too humourless. Brick was just another victim, and her naive belief that her beauty was practically godlike was exploited instead of medically treated. Don’t hate the player. Hate the game.
But hey, Samantha Brick is very much wide to the game.
“She would have to be a supreme ass to believe what she was writing”
There’s no way on Earth any functioning person, let alone a working journalist, could believe what Brick claimed to believe about her physical beauty. Even if she was utterly gorgeous, she would have to be a supreme ass to believe what she was writing. If her hypothesis about the perils of beauty was correct, pretty women would be ostracised, doomed to live their lives free from career advancement, group photographs, or any human interaction that wasn’t motivated solely by the rowdy hormones of straight men. No one believes that, least of all Samantha Brick.
What was much more objectionable about Brick’s piece was her perpetuating that tired old porky that women detest other women. That women are hateful harpies who will tear each other to shreds for male attention. The vast majority of women don’t believe this – because it’s just not true – but it’s a vicious trope used again and again, the misogynist’s weapon of choice. Now, of course a beautiful girl could find it hard to make friends, but probably because she’s either a raging loser or surrounded by raging losers (if you are one of these girls, check yourself. If you’re clear, find nicer people to hang out with).
Brick’s article wasn’t about how difficult it is to be a beautiful person; it was about how difficult it is to be a beautiful woman when you’re surrounded by less beautiful women. In her world, all men are charming and generous, and all women insecure bitches. No woman compliments her. No man leers at her. The only nasty people are female.
Brick’s world view directly contradicts the flow of public ire her article unleashed, where many of the nastiest comments thrown at her were from men just as keen to tear her down as the fictional women she claimed were the bane of her life. Pitting women against other women is a nasty game, but it is a game, and Samantha Brick is playing it. Hard. And the reason she’s so very, very good at trolling is that she’s had plenty of practise. Samantha Brick is a professional player.
“Madeline Albright said: ‘There’s a special place in Hell for women who don’t help other women’.”
That’s not to say that she may not, at some stage, regret writing this article for money that dwindled a lot quicker than the mob’s rage. Lucrative and all as it is to sell yourself as a deranged villainess for the purposes of your employer’s script, surely it can’t be much fun when your readers fall for it? Soap actors who’ve played baddies often have stories about how they got verbal abuse from strangers over the wrongdoings of their alter egos. In Brick’s case, the line between hyperbolic persona and career columnist is even less distinct. Trolling without the benefit of a bridge to hide under? That’s not wise.
The whole thing makes me think of another quote, this one from Madeline Albright: “There’s a special place in Hell for women who don’t help other women.” I doubt the assassination of Samantha Brick’s reputation is what she had in mind, but let’s face it, you’d have to be in a very generous mood to apply Ice-T’s lyric on this one.