“Say You’ll Be There” – Phone Hacking, Spice World, and a Double-Decker Bus

I love the Spice Girls. I have done since my childhood, and shall do until the day I die. The band’s cultural significance sings on today, with record sales of  80 million; they are the best-selling female band of all time. During their short-lived reunion tour the girls sold out venues across the world and they are even rumoured/confirmed to be playing the London 2012 Olympics closing ceremony (SQUEEL)!  However, one may easily laugh off their significance under the guise of “pop culture phenomenon”, rather, it is the pre-emptive message hidden within Spice World, the seminal classic movie, that brought their importance to my attention.

On the surface, Spice World may seem like a crass cash tie-in, surfing on the wave of unprecedented success, and after all is said and done, that is what it is. The film follows the lead up to the girls’ (played by the band themselves) first live gig at the Royal Albert Hall. Interspersed with montages (a very memorable photo shoot scene) and musical numbers (Mel B. in a space suit singing “Say You’ll Be There” [!] featuring Jools Holland), the film appears to be nothing but wooden dialogue in a plot-less hour and thirty minutes. I shall, however, try to justify why Spice World was a warning to our future selves.

Mel B in a space suit!

The (semi)plot that drives the movie forward, as it were, is the attempt of the evil Australian newspaper owner, Kevin McMaxford (Barry Humphries), attempt to disband and destroy the Spice Girls. Taking extreme lengths to sell papers, McMaxford hires a reporter, Damien (Richard O’Brian), to gain unadulterated access to the band. It becomes clear that Damien is no ordinary paparazzo, but acts more like a personal investigator, overstepping the boundaries with almost devastating consequences.

Damien eavesdroping on the girls

Within the film, Damien invades the band’s privacy by eavesdropping on their conversations, and following them to create headlines. Such lengths include climbing out of toilets, and scuba diving in the Thames. These reports nearly destroy the girls until they realise, after a non-car chase through London on a double-decker bus, that they must perform as a group. Girl Power!

Fast-forward to April 8th 2011, News International admits liability in the privacy cases brought against News of the World. It is, I think, not hard to find the similarities between the two. On the one side we have Kevin McMaxford, evil Australian newspaper owner, and on the other we have Rupert Murdoch, evil Australian newspaper owner. Extreme lengths to get a story and phone hacking…Do you see where I am going? It is easy to see the analogies, if slightly farfetched.

McMaxford or Murdoch?

Were the Spice Girls, or rather Kim Fuller and Jamie Curtis (the writers of the film), trying to warn the unsuspecting girls, a metaphor for celebrity, of the questionable morals of the press? Would it have been better if we had taken a comical satire in a band-tie-in movie seriously? Indeed Lord Justice Leveson would not be inquiring into media ethics and journalism practices. It is hard to believe that in 1997, the year of the films conception, phone hacking was not occurring. Similarly a media mogul like Simon Fuller (the Spice Girls manager) would probably have been aware of such practices.

So, make this a lesson to you all. The next time five girls with the power of spice try to tell you something, make sure you listen.

 All Images are Copyright and owned by The Spice Girls, Columbia Pictures, and 19 Entertainment

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