NOTow that students in English universities are on average in debt of more than £45,000 each – I still remember, with horror, the news that a student had borrowed £189,700, the equivalent of turning on the heating for a few weeks this winter – I wonder if they might start expecting more celebrity speakers at graduation ceremonies. You can see thousands of bands at Glastonbury for £280. It can’t be that expensive to book presenters for loose womensay, do 30 minutes of life advice.
In the United States, there is a long tradition of famous people giving commencement speeches, from authors to politicians to tech bosses. My favorite is director John Waters, who you can always count on for the good stuff. “Parents, now is the time to talk to you. God, those kids can be brats, can’t they? Entitled little bastards,” he told a crowd of students, in 2015; in 2020, he told virtual graduates to “journey beyond the valley of humor and above sexual anarchy to a coup of crackpot capitalism.”
Interestingly, Taylor Swift used the exact same line when she gave the commencement speech at New York University last week. I’m kidding. Of course she didn’t. But the approaches of the personalities faced with this strange task, that of giving a speech combining support, congratulations, personal anecdotes and advice for living well (spoiler alert: being rich really helps) are varied and fascinating.
Swift, who earned an honorary doctorate, opted for “life hacks” over advice, all with a dash of self-deprecating humor. “I’m 90% sure the main reason I’m here is because I have a song called 22,” she told the class of 22. She told the students not to feeling ashamed to try, a sentiment that I found oddly touching and very Swift-esque in its unapologetic sincerity. “I’m a big advocate for not hiding your enthusiasm for things,” she said. She argued that there’s “a false stigma around eagerness in our culture of ‘reckless ambivalence'”, which makes it seem like she’s striving to make this honorary doctorate a real one. . “Carefree, Gothic ambivalence of the 19th century”, etc.
To continue Swift’s spirit of seriousness, it’s a lovely feeling, and rare now, in a culture that’s becoming increasingly archaic and distant, filtering its emotions only through humor and gags. But nonchalance is boring and serves no purpose. If this is the start of the great return of enthusiasm, then rightly so, I’m all for it.
Lessons with Lisa McGee’s Derry Girls were a delight
I watched the last two episodes of Derry Girls twice, once before they aired, because I reviewed them, and then once again when they were on TV, because sometimes great TV moments like this are better in a crowd. I cried both times. It was a near perfect ending to what has been a wonderful series, and has been rightly credited with educating viewers about the Good Friday Agreement, and doing so with jokes to spare. It was brilliant and very moving.
Its creator, Lisa McGee, said at a press screening that one of its most powerful storylines, in which Erin and Michelle have a falling out because of Michelle’s family history, was not a part of it at all. the original episode. When filming was delayed by Covid – which is why there were so many scenes where Clare was in a different place than everyone else, as Nicola Coughlan was also filming Bridgerton – McGee had time to think and floated the idea of the conflict between friends taking place in the context of the referendum. “Let’s just bring the political and the personal together, because that’s the only time we’ll have the opportunity to do that,” she said.
The BBC published an article last week asking where all the new classic sitcoms were, pointing out that a A show BBC’s Most Loved Series poll had seen 10 viewer-nominated sitcoms, but none of them have been made in the last 15 years. Naturally Derry Girls wouldn’t count, as a resident of Channel 4, but this latest episode tipped it into the classic new sitcom category for me, and I suspect it will be revisited for years to come.
Star man Sam Ryder makes second place a virtue
There’s an old movie, from 2009, called Whip it, a sweet little film directed by Drew Barrymore, about the sport of roller derby. I get some brief, fairly inconsequential bit of dialogue stuck in my head the whole time. When the team we’re supposed to support loses a game, they happily start chanting “We’re number two!” We are number two! “. The joke being that there are two teams in a roller derby game.
This year Eurovision Song Contest has been quite a journey, for a number of reasons, including a victory for Ukraine that came on the wave of a definitive and encouraging public vote. But for the first time in many years, the UK was a contender. Sam Ryder’s Space Man got a second chance last week, with Ryder happily campaigning for it to be the first UK Eurovision entry to hit number one since Gina G’s Ooh Aah… Just a Little Bit, in 1996. Alas, Harry Styles, in what might be the only unpopular move of his career, propelled Ryder to the position with As It Was. But if Ryder has learned anything in the past seven days, it’s how to be graceful in defeat. It’s number two! It’s number two!