Off the artistic role call
She was born with a pedigree for writing, but screenwriter Marieke Hardy - awaiting the start of her new TV series - likes to do it her way.
Although she prefers to keep her online identity a secret, Marieke Hardy, the 29-year-old Melbourne screenwriter who wrote and produced Seven's 22-part drama, Last Man Standing, drops some fairly strong clues about it in her own publicity material for the show.
Along with her impressive professional credentials in the program notes for the 20-something series are the lines: "Marieke Hardy has a radio show, a political fashion label, a go-go dancing career, a regular DJ gig and a secret contentious life on the internet.
It appears that Marieke Hardy/Ms Fits of Reasons You Will Hate Me fame has cracked it for a three page profile in the metro (yep, capital letters are on a ration at Spencer Street due to budget cuts) section of The Age on Monday. The profile, by entertainment writer Wendy Tuohy, is remarkably positive about Hardy, her writing, her personality, her love for Bob Ellis, even the presense of a flower behind her ear. It seems that Ms Fits can do no wrong. Of course, during the profile she gives the obligatory plug to her new TV series which hit the airwaves last night.
It certainly is some sensational personal publicity for Hardy. A little odd though, that the day the new program launches, when the network publicity machine is going into overdrive, that it's not the stars who feature prominantly - as would be expected - but the scriptwriter.
Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that Hardy has been in the pocket of The Age. Hardy has been appearing in their ultra-lame "a subscriber because..." adverts, which feature minor Melbourne luminaries telling the world why they subscribe to the paper. Surely something like this - that Hardy has a commercial relationship with the newspaper - was worthy of a mention at the end of the profile. Alas not.
Looks like that's the deal, folks. You praise them, and they'll praise you. How cosy.
I'm a big fan of The Age, and a modest fan of Ms Fits (Hardy's alter-ego) but the whistle needs to be blown on shonky little arrangements like this. Firstly, The Age shouldn't stoop to tacky 'celebrity endorsements' to sell a quality broadsheet. Secondly, if they are going to do it, then they've got to disclose it should it be relevant to a story. Sounds pretty straight-forward.
The last word on this one ought to go to that great philosopher of our age, the very wise, and now very dead, Bill Hicks:
"If you do a commercial, you're off the artistic role call. Every word you say is suspect and is like a turd falling out of your mouth and into my drink."
That'd be you, Marieke.
UPDATE, 7/6, 11:41pm: How depressing. After pouring my heart and soul into fascinating insights into the human condition in places as diverse as Burma, North Korea and a stinky Thai prison, the record for hits and comments on this blog is set when I hang shit on a former writer from All Together Now. Ah well, thanks to everyone who stopped by, had the time to abuse the hell out of me and fart in my general direction. As I said in the post, I'm a fan of both Hardy and The Age and don't want to drag either through the mud, I just believe that we need to all be vigilant when it comes to conflicts of interest. Oh yeah, and I wanted an excuse to get out my old Hicks CDs.
UPDATE 11/6, 11:20pm: Various netizens in the Ozblogosphere having been chipping in their two cents on this particular storm in a tea cup, and up until now I've decided to keep my nose out of it. Given that plenty of misinformation has been floating around, I thought I might take a chance to separate fact from fiction:
1. I have no agenda. I've never met Marieke Hardy, and the little I know is derived from the article, and from being aware of her involvement in the Pandagate kerfuffle last year. I don't have some desperate craving to undermine her credibility. Indeed, as the writer of a new Australian comedy/drama, I wish her all the best and hope that anything which pushes the merry-go-round of crass reality shows off its axis is a good thing. I missed the first ep of Last Men Standing, but I will tune in next week to catch it.
2. There is no reason to think that the only reason the original Age profile was run with her connection with the paper. That is absolutely absurd and at no time did I claim that. Instead, the point of my post was to suggest that The Age owed its readers some basic disclosure about Marieke's role spruiking the paper via the ads. Without this disclosure, it was fair for readers to wonder what was really going on. The article could quite happily have been published as it was, but a two sentence disclosure at the bottom would have let readers be fully informed.
3. It is wrong to draw a parallel between Hardy featuring in an advertisement and then recieving positive press with a media outlet/restaurant/film publishing a paid ad and then recieving positive press. The crucial difference is that Hardy's appearance was spruiking the paper, not simply spruiking her own product.
4. It's also wrong to say that we can read nothing more into "a subscriber because..." ad other than Marieke is a subscriber. Instead it tells us that not only is she a subscriber, but that she has chosen to become a public advocate for the newspaper, and been paid (presumably she was paid, otherwise she's a dill, and she aint) for doing so. She is not merely 'a subscriber' but a paid spruiker.
5. I did indeed screw up the spelling in the title: it is a ROLL CALL, not a ROLE CALL. Much as I'd love to change it now and burn the evidence, that would breach an unwritten blogging rule, as well as destroying links that have been made to this post. Apologies to the English teachers who taught me to spell over the years... and conducted a roll call at the start of class.
6. I've copped plenty of rather personal criticism for all this. For posterity's sake, here are some of the juicer ones:
La Nadine asks: who the fuck are you?
Jess reckons I'm: smarmy and self-congratulatory
Kranki chipped in with: The only person in America who knows you exist thinks that you are a sad, bitter and misguided fecal nugget, who isn't funny enough to earn the right to even quote Bill Hicks. (Hey, at least I have a big following in Sweden. -A.)
thomasr addresses me as: you fucking shit stick
Over at Virulent Memes I am: some reactionary tard (A still can't quite work out what a 'tard' is - a misspelling of turd? a late Frenchman? a Doctor Who fan with a missing syllable? -A.)
tiny tirant wonders: young chubby Ari (what the f*ck is going on with that pic?)
Flashman agrees with Jess (earlier) that I'd slipped into: 'smarmy git' mode
It seems like it's Tourettes week in Blogsville.