What got you talking this week? We bring you our top points from the week’s news. Mask fiascos, WFH limbo and why I May Destroy You was the series 2020 needed. By Sarah Bradbury.
Mask fiascos & WFH limbo
Wear a mask, don’t wear a mask. Do go back to work, but do try work from home. How is it we not only always seem so delayed in our reactions to this global pandemic but also make such a muddle of everything? While over 120 countries around the world have already made masks mandatory in public, we were still dithering this week over whether they should be worn in shops.
Johnson said one thing, Gove said another, and now they’re set to be made compulsory from 24th July. And even then, when the case should have been closed, a tidal wave of a backlash ensued, with some particularly disgruntled members of the public tearing up their Tory membership cards, likening masks to muzzles and one MP expressing his rage at the inconvenience in parliament.
The message on going back to work hasn’t been much better: while Boris Johnson has of late been urging people to head back into the office, his own chief scientific advisor, Sir Patrick Vallance, has contradictorily since said home working was still a “perfectly good option” and “there’s absolutely no reason I can see to change it.”
And although I do sympathise with the many businesses suffering from a lack of commuter trade – from sandwich and coffee shops to the public transport network itself – going back to work in a busy office seems to be a leap too far for many right now.
As one Twitter user put it, are we ready to go back to work and potentially risk our health, and that of those in our bubble, simply to save Pret A Manger? If that all weren’t bad enough, it then seemed like Matt Hancock was attempting to rewrite history and tell us all the lockdown began a week earlier than it did. Is it us that are all going slowly mad during this pandemic or our leaders? I’m honestly not sure anymore.
I May Destroy You was the series 2020 needed
If, like me, you’ve been impatiently waiting week on week for each double drop of I May Destroy You episodes on BBC iPlayer, you probably also watched the finale earlier this week. And, wow. Just, wow. I’d hate to let any spoilers slip but I’ve been thinking about those final episodes ever since. Plus following obsessively all the online chatter that’s come in their wake.
The series has given birth to a zillion think pieces and as many debates around its themes (see this hard-hitting Vogue piece on stealthing and this Independent piece on its handling of trauma). And I think it’s therein that lies the magic. Michaela Coel’s series – which she painstakingly wrote, rewrote, co-directed and starred in – has so much hit upon the Zeitgeist as to be close to prophetic.
A prominent series with an all-Black lead cast just as the Black Lives Matter movement ripples through every corner of culture and society; a close look at mental health and friendship as we all attempt to navigate a world turned upside down by a global pandemic; and an artfully nuanced exploration of consent where the lines of modern-day dating and intimacy are constantly blurred.
Bold, unsettling and provocative to the very last, everything from its tone to its rhythm felt fresh and original. Comparisons to Phoebe Waller-Bridge understandably have been criticised by some. But what does seem common is that in the same way Fleabag pushed the envelope in terms of TV female representation on screen, Coel has changed the game again with I May Destroy You.
Mourning the Guardian Weekend closure
It’s been another bad week for layoffs, as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on our economy and the media industry. The Guardian announced some particularly brutal cuts – 180 jobs, 70 of those from editorial. The hardest hit is their Weekend content, including supplement sections such as The Guide and the Review. Not only was this devastating news for the sector as a whole, but something I also felt on a personal level.
While during the week I’m very much a digital news consumer, hopping between social media channels and flicking through articles across a spectrum of websites, I have a weekend ritual to go and buy the Saturday Guardian and enjoy whiling away a few hours pouring over its content.
There’s something specific about soaking up the far more tangible act of reading from a physical paper and luxuriating in its carefully chosen imagery that you just don’t get from reading on a screen. Plus I’ve always loved the distinct tone and style of each of the supplements, the irreverent culture writing of the Guide in particular.
Such journalism inspired me to become a journalist and when I was a freelance culture writer, I always envisioned myself one day “making it” by seeing my byline on one of its pages. There’s a sense of loss I feel firstly that that opportunity itself is lost but also on a symbolic level that those bona fide journalist roles, already like gold dust, are fast disappearing.
It also feels counter-intuitive – we as a society are consuming more news and content than ever, a fact that has only been accelerated by the pandemic and lockdown, and the need for that content to be of high quality is arguably also evermore in need. Yes, the media needs to adapt to changing times. But let’s hope the baby doesn’t gets thrown out with the bath water and in our rush to transform the industry we lose what makes it great. If you would miss all physical media as much as I would if it were gone, then consider getting out there and buying a paper this weekend.
What else happened?
AROUND THE UK
- Beauty salons, spas, tattoo parlours and nail bars in England welcomed back customers for the first time in four months. We discussed whether the remaining ban on face treatments was sensible or sexist. We landed on sexist. You can also read what you can and can’t do around the UK now.
- Unemployment figures have soared over lockdown – 640,000 lost jobs between March and June – and forecasts suggest the situation is only set to get worse as the furlough scheme unwinds between now and October. Head to our advice pack on unemployment for some help and support and if you need it.
- We were reminded that Brexit is still marching on whether we like it or not, as the UK government announced another gloriously snappy campaign: “UK’s new start: let’s get going.” Further details of a new points-based immigration system were revealed which stoked further fears of staff shortages in areas such as care work.
- The UK government also did (another) U-Turn on Huawei who will no longer be able to form any part of our 5G network.
- A landmark court ruling confirmed that discriminating on the basis of housing benefit is unlawful.
- The spot where the Edward Colston slavery statue formerly stood IN Bristol was replaced with one of a BLM protester – but was just a quickly taken down.
- Marcus Rashford got an honorary doctorate off the back of his successful school meals campaign!
- Boohoo has come under fire once again for conditions in its Leicester-based garment factories. There are now allegations of modern-day slavery.
AROUND THE WORLD
- High profile Twitter accounts were hacked as part of a massive Bitcoin scam.
- Conservative President Andrzej Duda was re-elected in Poland in a narrow race that exposed the country’s deep division. It’s bad news for LGBT+ rights in the country: last month Duda called LGBT+ an “ideology” more destructive than communism.
- France awarded health workers a pay rise worth EUR8bn after a series of protests.
- Hong Kong’s Disneyland had to reclose less than a month after reopening as the city reimposed distancing rules.
- We took a look at how COVID-19 is impacting India. Many of its 1.3 billion citizens are struggling as the country faces over 23,000 deaths.
- Two million people in the north of the country planted 250 million trees while social distancing as part of a government drive to tackle climate change.
- We already have quite the reputation as “Brits abroad,” which hasn’t been done any favours post-pandemic: Magaluf had to close one of its strips after footage emerged of drunken British tourist flouting mask-wearing and social distancing rules. Oh the shame…🤦♀️.
- A vaccine is getting closer, as tests in the US and Russia reach their final stages.
- A Bangladesh hospital owner was arrested over accusations he issued 1000s of fake negative COVID-19 test results.
- There’s been more heartbreaking news for the music world as beloved venues Deaf Institute and Gorilla in Manchester and two others in Hull announced they wouldn’t be making it out of the other side of the pandemic. It comes despite gov announcing live music can recommence from 1st Aug. But is it all too short notice too late in the day to save our precious cultural scene? London’s South Bank Centre also said 400 roles could be at risk.
- Berlin clubs hopefully won’t see the same fate as they receive on average EUR80K. Now that’s dedication to techno.
- We asked if fictional good cops are actually bad cops, as Brooklyn 99 decides to scrap their new season…
- All the Tate galleries are reopening on 27th July! You can still catch the Tate Modern’s Andy Warhol exhibition which has now been extended.
- Edinburgh Fringe is finalising arrangements for an all-online festival for this year.
- I’ve also been binge-watching Mrs America on BBC iPlayer and Stateless on Netflix. Can very much recommend – reviews to follow next week. Check out some of my other recommendations here.
FROM AROUND THE WEB
- We loved this new NGO campaign from Communities for Development Money Makes Money – check out our piece on it here. Support their campaign here.
Admittedly this is super silly but gave me a good tickle…
Banksy made a return to the tube to create this pandemic-themed art piece entitled “If You Don’t Mask, You Don’t Get.” He ended with a twist on Chumbawumba: “I get lockdown, but I get up again.” Now that’s an anthem for our times…
We took a look at how fertility rates are falling. We thought this tweet provided a pretty decent reflection on why it might be the case…
We also loved this doctor in India teaching yoga to his patients in full PPE 🙏:
What got you talking this week? Have a fab weekend all!
First published on #ThisMuchIKnow on 17th July 2020.