“The quality of democracy and the quality of journalism are deeply entwined”

– Bill Moyers – 

Russell Brand, known for his persona as a famed comedian, has not had your typical road to stardom; typical in the sense of say, stardom born out of the culture of 1930’s Hollywood.

Instead it has been a fairly rocky road. Born in 1975, in Grays, Brand’s infectious, outlandish and at times lewd, yet consistently charming, likeable attributes saw him land various media jobs before his appearances on Big Brother’s big mouth. This momentum wouldn’t slow there, and later his elaborate burst into the stand-up world cemented this wonderfully innovative comedian within the 21st century pantheon of controversialists.

Brand is enigmatic, both in his personality and what his path represents. This short contextualisation is only preliminary in explaining how he has reached such widespread regard. Studying how this ‘star’ (in the traditional sense cited in celebrity theory) has developed such ubiquity in his harmonious cultural communication through his commentary is complex, compelling and rare.

Indeed as a commentator and observer from the industry here at MOVE, the theorisation of this phenomenon is deeply interesting for two reasons.

Firstly it prompts and re-defines previous, well-established theories of the ‘celebrity’ and the eminent public-private dynamic the ‘people’ in this industry embody. And secondly, it is an instance of a citizen journalist powerfully utilising the new media avenues that are available, with one aim – the dissemination of information.

His program ‘The Trews’, posted daily (Mon-Fri), purports to communicate ‘true news’; re-appropriating a multitude of popular British tabloids’ use of fonts to create a parody of the news we all know.  Some cultural studies scholars have called this ‘star’ out as having done something truly momentous, and other commentators have reaffirmed this view. For example, Markus of Tech Gen Mag said:

      “Russel Brand Re-Defines Hollywood With The Trews”Kristian Markus, Tech Gen Mag

So how does somebody achieve such an eminent position?

Brand has always eluded critics by carrying his distinctively British – yet heavily unconventional, controversial and now deeply political persona – with a discourse of the every-day, of the working class male.

Brand’s ability to achieve this dynamically complex rapport lies in his capability in articulating complex and often politically controversial topics with a sort of advanced consciousness – that to retain this reach is to ensure the odd ‘mate’ and ‘ya kno what I mean’ is stuck in there to normalise his ‘loquacious’, often flagrant chat.

For all Brand’s abilities, however, like every social commentator his subjectivities come with their own bundle of shortcomings – often seen when his anti-establishment rhetoric borders on incoherent.

This is not due to incomprehension, order of argument or his delivery, but because his criticism sees no boundaries as he does everything to lambast anyone in a position of power – simply for being part of the current political system.

And unfortunately at times his argument can be lost amongst his eccentricities, including wild parodies and hypothetical colloquialisms, leaving even the most astute and fast-paced interviewer or viewer in a muddle. The criticism aimed at Brand out there in the world of media is extensive; in an article published by The Guardian it is noted that:

The relentless stream of condescension directed towards Russell Brand, including Hadley Freeman’s latest contribution (Don’t put all your faith in Russell Brand’s revolution, 25 October), give the impression that if one is not a native speaker of the opaque language of insider politics, one is almost certainly a clownish impostor.– The Guardian, Monday 27 October 2014

Nevertheless Brand’s tones are evidently oddly comforting. And he has some very articulate and well-directed commentary and points to make about the way we dwell, negotiate and govern the world we all are in together.

His working-class tone, coupled with well-directed and articulate commentary, situates this comedian with a legitimate political voice – and a very powerful far-reaching one at that.

For someone who – in a previous life – suffered from repeated and persistent drug use, depression and sex addiction amongst other difficulties he is a highlighted, controversial, enigmatic persona who dispels the ideologies laid out by the current political ‘democracy’.

And that’s what gives him so much power. He can relate to the everyday, make fun of the mundane and parody just about any person amidst the all too familiar rising tension of a political debate. But just as the faces redden and the atmosphere changes Brand effortlessly and swiftly humanises the situation once more – cooling the barometer – in a way never seen by mainstream politicians or comedians.

One thing is for sure – Brand is not only including huge swathes of the usually apathetic groups of the population in political debate; but also sparking new interest, questions and controversy around politics.

Politics ultimately is the way we govern, control and affect our lives; at least it’s supposed to serve that function in a democracy.  Brand’s commentary, through digital channels such as The Trews, is bringing UK politics to account. The Trews has attracted influential people from every echelon of society to exciting, refreshing new debates and stances on politics and how we govern our lives.

People can lambast, criticise and disregard Brand’s approach and content as un-methodical, without direction, hypocritical and wildly eccentric. But it’s important to realise that irrespective of this he has achieved a remarkable reach and catapulted some real issues into the limelight of politics amongst normal working people.

At MOVE we find this technique fascinating and we advocate the effective and innovative use of media channels to achieve what Brand already has.

– By Joe Harvey