Words I particularly hate number seventeen. Hokum.
Why do I hate it? Because it’s an Alison Graham word. It may seem a little unfair to single out one word, when every word she uses is an abhorrence to civilisation and humanity, but it’s particularly irritating because it’s used by her, and other critics, to dismiss anything with an ounce of imagination.
‘Escapist hokum’. The critic adopts a supercilious, condescending, sneering, couuld-do-better tone. This show is beneath them because it isn’t entirely devoid of humour, because it doesn’t try to be mundanely realistic, because it doesn’t have a Message. Because it only serves to entertain, to engage the imagination and to excite, amuse, to touch the emotions and widen the horizons. Never mind these things; at once point something happened which required suspension of disbelief so it is ‘hokum’.
‘Enjoyable hokum’. This is perhaps even worse. The idea that ‘it may be shit, but if one is willing to hold one’s nose and wade into the depths of mediocrity, some amusement may be gained ironically, or by feeling a sense of superiority towards those viewers who might take it all seriously’. The Footballer’s Wives defence, basically – it might be crass rubbish, but let’s call it a ‘guilty pleasure’ and pretend to enjoy it because ‘it’s so bad it’s good’.
I don’t think writers set out to write ‘hokum’. I don’t think a writer has ever gone through a script and thought, ‘No, this is too meaningful and thought-through, I should make it glib, fatuous and vapid.’ That’s the producer’s job, ater all.
Let’s face it, what ‘hokum’ really means. It means the reviewer thinks they could do better. That because it didn’t live up to their dull-witted prejudices of what constitutes drama, they’re going to treat it as a joke.