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Published on October 1st, 2011 | by Yellow Magpie

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Starsuckers Review: Plenty Of Bluster But No Substance

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Director: Chris Atkins.
Cast: Max Clifford and Richard Curtis.

Starsuckers provides an insight into the highly complicated, converging world of media and public relations. The documentary shows us the murky side of journalism and how the truth is often very far removed from what makes it into print.

The biggest success of Starsuckers is its investigation into the Red Tops, the sleazy miasma of tabloid media. The documentary shows just how easy it is to make up stories and have them published. It also reveals the toothless nature of the authorities regulating the industry.

‘A more astute documentary would not have gone for the tabloids and Yellow journalism but rather the mainstream press.’

None of this is shocking to anyone who has even a modicum of understanding of how the media operates. A more astute documentary would not have gone for the tabloids and Yellow journalism but rather the mainstream press. The inquiry into the phone hacking scandal in the United Kingdom has just begun. When it is over many newspapers, both tabloid and broadsheet, will emerge with smeared reputations.

Ryan is a sole product of the new celebrity landscape of the 21st century. Without any discernible talent, this six-year-old child is famous because of his parents’ efforts and the PR spin of his agent. It is fascinating to watch just how easily it is to mould people, to convince them that certain individuals possess value. It is even more fascinating to watch this somewhat arrogant and obnoxious child command the attention of people who really should know better.

‘It is okay for his unnamed actor client to engage in sexual activities with 17-year-old girls while watching films because…’

One of the most interesting interviews occurs with Max Clifford, the King of Spin. A highly slippery customer, Clifford tries to justify the-less-than-clean behaviours of his clients. It is okay for his unnamed actor client to engage in sexual activities with 17-year-old girls while watching films because Clifford claims the man contributes to charities.

Despite whether this is true or not, Clifford represents the worst aspects of media and there can be little doubt that characters like him wield considerable power.

This fact is crystallised right before our eyes by a public relations agent who wishes to expose the winner of the Miss UK to publicity. He does this by hiring the services of fake protesters. The net effect of his rather crude attempts is quite comical. Instead of appearing the part, these ‘ protesters’ look exactly like they are play-acting.

Starsuckers also sheds light on the lack of regulation in the media industry, a reality which allows newspapers to print what they like without impunity. The fact that so many journalists (albeit without the knowledge that they were being filmed) were willing to dismiss the powers of the United Kingdom’s Press Complaints Committee is an indication that the whole system is rotten.

‘The truth is very different. There is no group. There is no ‘them’.’

One blow to Starsucker’s credibility is the false narrative it imposes. The documentary portrays the media as being fashioned by architects. Puppet masters who govern like some calculating and controlling entity, a coherent body that is in charge of much of the world. The truth is very different. There is no group. There is no ‘them’. Instead there are self-serving individuals who profit from weaknesses in the media system.

The biggest mistake of the documentary is undoubtedly to cast key Live8 players, such as Bob Geldof and Richard Curtis, as simpletons who had no idea what they were doing. Geldof is a shrewd operator with vast experience in the publishing industry, humanitarian sector and with negotiations. He has a better grasp of how the media works than most politicians and their advisers so to cast him as some naive fool doing more harm than good does the film’s credibility no favours.

This entire section of the documentary does not ring true and neither does championing the cause of the obscure organisation, Make Poverty History, as most people have never heard of them.

Currently, members of the public are susceptible to populism and celebrity endorsement. Nonetheless, things never remain the same and it is inevitable that the public appetite for all things famous will start to wane. What will takes its place will make a great documentary.

With all its blemishes removed, Starsuckers would be an outstanding documentary but as it is it must be considered with a big pinch of salt. What is true though is that it makes arresting viewing.

Recommended Viewing

You can obtain Starsuckers here from Amazon.

Amazon.co.uk
For people living in Ireland or the United Kingdom, you can access: Starsuckers from here.

Amazon.de
For Germany: Starsuckers.

Amazon.fr
For France: Starsuckers .


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