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Jane Bussmann

Jane Bussmann

Posted: April 27, 2010 12:50 PM

When Did 'Ordinary' Become Praise?

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As I hurled my breakfast at the TV screen this morning, a new truth was visible between the slowly-descending cornflakes. Our candidates are judged not for their policies - God knows life is too short - but for an attribute that has become synonymous with leadership quality: ordinariness.

At the forefront of the Cult of Ordinary is Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg. After just a couple of weeks' campaigning, Clegg is now so ordinary he could appear in a 2010 sitcom, most likely as the creepy co-worker who gives Jenna Elfman an unexpectedly fizzy can of Diet Coke in the elevator. 'Elevator' is not Scientology for 'front bum'.

Of course it matters what you look like. But I can't even hear what David Cameron is saying any more because he looks like a pig in a blanket (chipolata sausage wrapped in bacon); Cameron's ordinariness requires him to look permanently surprised, a simple working boy shocked at life's injustices. Meanwhile, the loser in the race to be ordinary is Gordon Brown, whom you'd think had a natural advantage - in the old days, a man with curly black hair commanding a leaky ship full of thieves wouldn't have played down a missing eye.

Some of the greatest leaders in history were different. Winston Churchill was camp as Christmas, stomping around World War II like Mammy from Gone With The Wind, shaking his fist at Hitler. To mix it up, he'd give speeches while so drunk he hiccuped. 'Ordinary' never ends well. You think we'd have learned our lesson watching ordinary George Bush divide his time between clearing bush and war crimes.

It's not just politics. "People want characters just like themselves..." How much did networks pay an ideas firm to be told this crap? People don't want relatable, they want entertaining. Charlie Sheen is the only identifiable character in a sea of Average Employed Males and Females Aged 25-30 Talking About That Feeling When Your Life Hasn't Quite Worked Out But You Still Have Supportive Casual Acquaintances Who Don't Care If You Haven't Achieved What You Set Out To Do When You Were 21. If Cheers had been made today it would be called Life... Without the Manual. Any day now the Cult of Ordinary will spread to sport, and athletes will be praised for their undistinguished form, lack of ambition and really average play.

Then as I turned off my TV in a fit of blind apathy, I caught one ray of hope - the British government accidentally leaked some civil servants' joke suggestions for things his Holiness Pope Benedict might want to do on his British tour, say, promote his own brand of condoms. Not a problem, says the Vatican. So long as the civil servants can testify that while writing these suggestions with one hand, they were molesting some boys with the other, the Pope will forgive them.