Friday, October 18, 2013

Charlotte Church, 2013 John Peel Lecture

Presented (almost) without comment, the exceptional Charlotte Church’s 2013 John Peel lecture on women’s representation in the music industry…while I’m not sure I agree in terms of rating and censorship, I had read Annie Lennox’s input on her facebook page and did agree that it’s a vicious circle of performance versus expectation.  Basically, if the music industry continues to feed the public this type of performative femininity, the public will continue to demand it, and the artists will continue to be pushed by the music industry to deliver it.  The recent dominance of post-Feminism and ‘raunch culture’ continue to be relevant topics in this argument…and continue to allow the denigration of women to be dressed up in the suspenders and ‘tits-out’ of empowerment.

Transcript taken from Buzzfeed, so errors are quite possibly not Charlotte’s.
Thank you for coming to my lecture this evening.

I’d like you to imagine a world in which male musicians are routinely expected to act as submissive sex objects. Picture Beyonce’s husband, Jay Z, stripped down to a t-back bikini thong, sex kitten-ing his way through a boulevard of suited and booted women for their pleasure. Or Britney Spears’s ex, Justin Timberlake, in buttock-clenching, denim hot pants, riding on the bonnet of a pink chevy, explaining to his audience how he’d like to be their teenage dream.

Before we all become a little too hot beneath the gusset, of course, these scenarios are not likely to become a reality. Unless for comedy’s sake. The reason for this is that these are roles that the music industry has carved out specifically for women. It is a male dominated industry with a juvenile perspective on gender and sexuality.
From what I can see, there are three main roles women are allowed to fulfil in modern pop music, each of them restrictive for both artist and audience. They are mainly portrayed through the medium of the music video. You’ll find them very familiar. I call them: the “one-of-the-girls’-girls”; the “victim/torn singer”; and the “unattainable sexbot”.

The “one-of-the-girls’-girls” role is a painfully thin reduction of feminism that generally seems to point to a world where so long as you can hang out with girls, it’s possible to sort of waive the evils that men do. This denigrates men and women equally and yet is commonly lauded for being empowering.
The “victim/torn singer” can be divided into the sexy victim (i.e. Natalie Imbruglia in her Torn video) and the not-so-sexy victim.

One female artist who does not use her sexuality to sell records is Adele. However, lyrically her songs are, almost without exception, written from the perspective of the wronged woman, an archetype as old as time. Someone who has been let down by the men around her and is perpetually in a state of despair.

But to me, the “unattainable sexbot” is the most commonly employed and most damaging, a role that is also often claimed to be an empowering one. The irony behind this is that the women generally filling these roles are very young. They’re often previous child stars or Disney tweens who are simply interested in getting along in an industry glamourised to be the most desirable career for young women. They are encouraged to present themselves as hyper-sexualised, unrealistic, cartoonish objects, using female sexuality as a prize you can win.
When I was 19 or 20, I found myself in this position, being pressured into wearing more and more revealing outfits. And the lines I had spun at me again and again, generally by middle aged men, were: “You look great”; “You have a great body, why not show it off?” Or, “Don’t worry, it’ll look classy. It’ll look artistic.”

I felt deeply uncomfortable about the whole thing, but I was often reminded by record company executives just whose money was being spent. Whilst I can’t defer all blame away from myself, I was barely out of my teenage years and the consequence of this portrayal of me is that I am frequently abused on social media, being called “slut”, “whore”, and a catalogue of other indignities that I’m sure you’re also sadly very familiar with. Now I find it difficult to promote my music in the places where it would be best suited, because of my history.
The culture of demeaning women in pop music is so ingrained as to become routine. From the way we are dealt with by management and labels, to the way we are presented to the public. We can trace this back to Madonna, although it probably does go back further in time. She was a template setter. By changing her image regularly, putting her sexuality at the heart of her image, videos and live performances, the statement she was making was: “I’m in control of me and my sexuality.” This idea has had its corners rounded off over the years and has become: “Take your clothes off, show you’re an adult.”

Rihanna’s recent video for Pour it Up may have over 40 million hits on YouTube, but you only have to look at the online response to see that it is only a matter of time before the public turns on an artist for pushing it too far. But the single, like all of Rihanna’s other provocative hits, will make her male writers and producers and record label guys a ton of money. It is a multibillion dollar business that relies on short burst messaging to sell product. And there is no easier way to sell something than to get some chick to get her tits out, right?

When the male perspective is the dominant one, the end point is women being coerced into sexually demonstrative behaviour in order to hold onto their careers. This idea repeated over generations can’t but have a negative effect on women, whether they are in the industry or not.
I need not point out that these roles are interchangeable for artists and they are not prescriptive to all female musicians. For every chart topping star who fits neatly into one of these archetypes, there are 20 other artists who may not have the same earning potential but have carved out their own roles as human beings, not objects. One has only to look at Julia Holter, Haim or Poliça to see strong women, unrestricted in their art by their gender or sexuality.

Throughout the industry, wherever you find women, they are doing brilliant things. Trina Shoemaker is a three time Grammy award winning engineer. Mandy Parnell is a mastering engineer who has worked on some of the best received albums of the last 20 years. And Marie Allsopp this summer became the first ever female conductor of the last night of the Proms. She recently said, “There is no logical reason to stop women conducting. The baton isn’t heavy. It weighs about an ounce. No super human strength is required. Good musicianship is all that counts.”

As a society, we have a lack of comfort in seeing women in these authority roles. Out of 295 acts and artists in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 259 are entirely male, meaning that Tina Weymouth’s part in Talking Heads makes them one of the 36 female acts. The Association of Independent Music’s 2012 membership survey revealed that only 15% of label members are majority owned by women. PRS claims that only 13% of writers registered are female. The Music Producers’ Guild? Less than 4%.
Last year, I toured with an exceptionally talented sound engineer. And last week I launched a publishing company that unintentionally has all female staff. Honest, unintentional! But I am constantly disappointed to find out how few women are working in certain parts of the industry.

So, is it simply all down to sexism? Myths about women perpetuated by men? Nicki Minaj seems to think so. In what has now become known as her “pickle juice rant”, she talks about how she is derided for demanding a certain level of professionalism from the people she works with. She says: “When I am assertive, I’m a bitch. When a man is assertive, he’s a boss.” Minaj is one of the many top-flight female artists who use alter egos in their work. Her other personalities are often men who rap violently about women.
So, to what extent are these myths about women perpetuated by women themselves? In a very recent, very public, spat between the legendary Sinead O’Connor and the infamous Miley Cyrus, mother O’Connor wrote a concerned open letter directed at Miss Cyrus who herself responded by ridiculing O’Connor’s bipolar disorder on Twitter.

If women are going to become free agents of their gender’s destiny and music in a music world which is reliant upon shouting loudest over the clamour, it stands to reason that online pissing contests only serve to detract from the strong messages put forward by such artists as Janelle Monae and Erykah Badu. Their recent collaboration on Q.U.E.E.N. is an elegant and empassioned rally cry for what Monae identifies as, “everyone who has felt ostracised and marginalised”. And yet it is women that she addresses most specifically, ending with the line: “Electric ladies, will you sleep or will you preach?”
The recent flapping about Miley Cyrus’s blah blah blah has clearly struck a chord with people like O’Connor and opened up a worldwide debate on the use of female sexuality to sell product. Annie Lennox cut to the juggler when she talked about the age propriety of what she called “dark and pornographic” music videos. She has called for videos to be rated as films are, with extra ratings being applied to the most sexually explicit.

It is interesting to note that anyone of any age has been able to watch Christina Aguilera’s simulated masturbation in herDirrty video since the website began, yet you must sign into the site to prove your age if you wanted to watch Bjork’s stunning video for Pagan Poetry. Whilst I would argue that neither videos are acceptable viewing for young eyes, I know which one I would rather explain to my young child.

Whilst channels like YouTube and Vimeo have a responsibility for dealing with these issues, radios shouldn’t think they are beyond criticism. As Tony Hall, the BBC’s Director General, announces the new iPlayer channel for BBC1, the question must be asked: should programmers take into consideration the image of an artist when deciding whether to play and promote their music?
There are countless examples from the last few years of songs that have been in high rotation that have little to no artistic worth, but are just plain rude. I’ve been asked to give some examples, but I don’t want to give the Daily Mail an excuse to ignore the rest of this lecture.

BBC radio is notorious for misreading sexual metaphor and innuendo as innocent, most famously with Lou Reed’s Walk on the Wild Side. But, more recently, there doesn’t seem to be decently barrier at all, unless you’re dealing with words like: “fuck”; or “shit”; or “hippopotamus cock”. If there is no sanction put upon music that is written so zealously about genitalia or uses soft porn in its promotion online, what will stop artists feeling that making their videos and live performances more sexy will undoubtedly drive up their online views and subsequently encourage more radio play?
And so, to Blurred Lines, which many in this room have no doubt added to their playlists. The Blurred Lines video, which had the biggest part in jettisoning a song by a mediocre artist into the biggest track of the year, was on YouTube for just over a week before it was taken down and remains on Vimeo without any age restrictions. The indefensible Robin Thicke stated in an interview with GQ that his intention was to do everything that is completely derogatory towards women because he respects them so much.

He continued saying, “People say, ‘Hey, do you think this is degrading to women?’ I’m like, ‘Of course it is. What a pleasure it is to degrade a woman.’”

It is highly disappointing to know that the director of this video is a woman, Diane Martel, who also directed Miley Cyrus’s twerking for the first time in the video, We Can’t Stop and is responsible for an objectionable little number by Leyla Label called, of all things, Lolita.

What is possibly more disappointing than this is the appearance of the exceptionally talented Pharrell Williams at 2013’s round table of chauvinism. In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Cyrus quoted a message to her from Williams, who said of her VMAs blah blah blah, “The VMAs was nothing more than God and the universe showing how powerful anything you do is. It’s like uranium. It has the power to take over lives or power entire countries. Now that you have seen your power, master it. You are not a train wreck. You are the train pulling everyone else along.”

With this kind of encouragement it is no surprise whatsoever that young women feel it necessary to be more and more shocking in their bid to be the most forward looking.
Canadian electronic artist Grimes, whose third record Visions was met with universal acclaim says, “I don’t want to be infantalised because I refuse to be sexualised.”
To my mind, what this industry seems to want of its women increasingly is sex objects that appear childlike. Look at the teddy bears everywhere. The Britney Spears Rolling Stone cover with the Teletubby from 1999. I state again: Lolita.

The terrifying thing is, the target demographic for this type of music is getting younger and younger. Jennifer Lopez seemingly trying to engulf the camera with her vagina on Britain’s Got Talet earlier this year is a mild example of how frequently carnal images creep into the realm of what is deemed OK for kids.

But ultimately it does not need to be like this. Sex can be art. Look at Bjork’s The Patene, a highly sexual and sensual record by a woman entirely in charge of her career and sex. The same can be said about almost every Prince record, and should be. Both are artists, adults and human beings, intelligently addressing a human subject, not exclusively a male one.
I support Annie Lennox’s plea for ratings on videos.
If Rihanna had not grown up watching the videos of the ’90s, then it might not be quite so essential for her to portray her sexuality so luridly, so constantly and so influentially on the next generation. If the power was taken away from sex in pop by making it harder for younger viewers to access it, then maybe the focus would shift to making works of artistic beauty and conscience. And fundamentally that would actually be putting the power back in sex for a future world where women are able to portray their sexuality as it is for them.


Thursday, October 03, 2013

Sinead O'Connor - Open Letter to Miley Cyrus UPDATED

Sinéad might be a little off the wall by times, but even a stopped clock tells the right time twice a day...

This is the letter, as published on Sinéad O'Connor's website yesterday, in response to Miley Cyrus citing Sinéad as something of a role-model (or certainly that the video for 'Nothing Compares 2 U' was an influence on her own video for 'Wrecking Ball') in a recent interview with Rolling Stone magazine.  The website is currently down, but the good folk of the internet have preserved the letter for posterity - read it in full (and as typed) below.


"Dear Miley,

I wasn’t going to write this letter, but today i’ve been dodging phone calls from various newspapers who wished me to remark upon your having said in Rolling Stone your Wrecking Ball video was designed to be similar to the one for Nothing Compares… So this is what I need to say… And it is said in the spirit of motherliness and with love.

I am extremely concerned for you that those around you have led you to believe, or encouraged you in your own belief, that it is in any way ‘cool’ to be naked and licking sledgehammers in your videos. It is in fact the case that you will obscure your talent by allowing yourself to be pimped, whether its the music business or yourself doing the pimping.

Nothing but harm will come in the long run, from allowing yourself to be exploited, and it is absolutely NOT in ANY way an empowerment of yourself or any other young women, for you to send across the message that you are to be valued (even by you) more for your sexual appeal than your obvious talent.
I am happy to hear I am somewhat of a role model for you and I hope that because of that you will pay close attention to what I am telling you.

The music business doesn’t give a sh*t about you, or any of us. They will prostitute you for all you are worth, and cleverly make you think its what YOU wanted.. and when you end up in rehab as a result of being prostituted, ‘they’ will be sunning themselves on their yachts in Antigua, which they bought by selling your body and you will find yourself very alone.

None of the men oggling you give a sh*t about you either, do not be fooled. Many’s the woman mistook lust for love. If they want you sexually that doesn’t mean they give a f*ck about you. All the more true when you unwittingly give the impression you don’t give much of a f*ck about yourself. And when you employ people who give the impression they don’t give much of a f*ck about you either. No one who cares about you could support your being pimped.. and that includes you yourself.

Yes, I’m suggesting you don’t care for yourself. That has to change. You ought be protected as a precious young lady by anyone in your employ and anyone around you, including you. This is a dangerous world. We don’t encourage our daughters to walk around naked in it because it makes them pray for animals and less than animals (a distressing majority of whom work in the music industry and the associated media).
You are worth more than your body or your sexual appeal. The world of showbiz doesn’t see things that way, they like things to be seen the other way, whether they are magazines who want you on their cover, or whatever.. Don’t be under any illusions.. ALL of them want you because they’re making money off your youth and your beauty.. which they could not do except for the fact your youth makes you blind to the evils of show business. If you have an innocent heart you can’t recognise those who do not.

I repeat, you have enough talent that you don’t need to let the music business make a prostitute of you. You shouldn’t let them make a fool of you either. Don’t think for a moment that any of them give a flying f*ck about you. They’re there for the money.. we’re there for the music. It has always been that way and it will always be that way. The sooner a young lady gets to know that, the sooner she can be REALLY in control.
You also said in Rolling Stone that your look is based on mine. The look I chose, I chose on purpose at a time when my record company were encouraging me to do what you have done. I felt I would rather be judged on my talent and not my looks. I am happy that I made that choice, not least because I do not find myself on the proverbial rag heap now that I am almost 47 yrs of age.. which unfortunately many female artists who have based their image around their sexuality, end up on when they reach middle age.

Real empowerment of yourself as a woman would be to in future refuse to exploit your body or your sexuality in order for men to make money from you. I needn’t even ask the question.. I’ve been in the business long enough to know that men are making more money than you are from you getting naked. Its really not at all cool. And its sending dangerous signals to other young women. Please in future say no when you are asked to prostitute yourself. Your body is for you and your boyfriend. It isn’t for every spunk-spewing dirtbag on the net, or every greedy record company executive to buy his mistresses diamonds with.
As for the shedding of the Hannah Montana image.. whoever is telling you getting naked is the way to do that does absolutely NOT respect your talent, or you as a young lady. Your records are good enough for you not to need any shedding of Hannah Montana. She’s waaaaaaay gone by now.. Not because you got naked but because you make great records.

Whether we like it or not, us females in the industry are role models and as such we have to be extremely careful what messages we send to other women. The message you keep sending is that its somehow cool to be prostituted.. its so not cool Miley.. its dangerous. Women are to be valued for so much more than their sexuality. we aren’t merely objects of desire. I would be encouraging you to send healthier messages to your peers.. that they and you are worth more than what is currently going on in your career. Kindly fire any motherf*cker who hasn’t expressed alarm, because they don’t care about you."


I certainly agree with Sinéad's premise - that the music industry truly does not care about young women in its employ...or the women who consume their products.  I have written about this previously in a speech on feminism back in 2007, which hasn't aged particularly well but some parts bear some repeating: "...a feminist should be [...] an agent of social change. We must change the culture of acceptance around sexism and discrimination"; and my big closer, "Mary Wollstonecraft said that she did not wish women to have power over men, but over themselves."

Miley would certainly do well to remember Mary Wollstonecraft, and to listen to some of Sinéad's words.


UPDATE:  Miley has responded, and Sinéad has fought back...this could get ugly!

Miley did not take any of Sinéad's well-meant, though probably unnecessary, advice, and has instead attacked Sinéad's mental health issues.  Bad move, Miley!  The tweet avalanche that Miley unleashed on Sinéad - from comparing her to Amanda Bynes (mockingly) to re-tweeting old tweets of Sinéad's in which she had a breakdown online, asking for help - is shown below.

Before Amanda Bynes.... There was....

Sinéad has responded as below (in three separate letters) - which I have to say, I do (at least partially) agree with.  Miley has shown herself to be absolutely her age, with all of its foolishness, without the maturity that I had thought I had glimpsed in her candid Rolling Stone interview, where she discussed the double standard under which women in the music industry operate in terms of sexual expression.  In this world where online communication seems to be the mode of address, can we blame Sinéad for her initial open letter?  Miley had cited Sinéad as an influence, hence she had brought Sinéad into the conversation - Sinéad had every right to respond.  And was her letter really that bad?  I know that slut-shaming is an argument brought up in regards to Sinéad's words, and certainly I don't completely agree with everything she had said, but I think her bottom line is that the music industry does not care about you, and wants you to do as much as possible to get on the front page of every paper...without caring about your mental well-being.  Miley would do well to listen to someone who she has admired, and who has had her own struggles with mental health, and who has certainly had her fair share of dealings with the industry herself.

Sinéad's first response is understandably vitriolic, and I doubt very much whether this is the end of the conversation between Sinéad and Miley.  But in this instance, I think I'm planting myself in the 'Team Sinéad' corner.  Perhaps it's national pride, or perhaps it's just that I grew up listening to Sinéad's haunting tones, or even that Sinéad's head-shaving had a huge influence on my idea of femininity and how you can separate it from the presented ideal, or her openness in dealing with mental health issues...or perhaps it's just that, in this instance, I believe that Miley's response was absolutely wrong.


Miley… Really? Who the fuck is advising you? Because taking me on is even more fuckin’ stupid than behaving like a prostitute and calling it feminism. You have posted today tweets of mine which are two years old, which were posted by me when I was unwell and seeking help so as to make them look like they are recent. In doing so you mock myself and Amanda Bynes for having suffered with mental health issues and for having sought help.

I mean really really… who advises you? have you any idea how stupid and dangerous it is to mock people for suffering illness? You will yourself one day suffer such illness, that is without doubt. The course you have set yourself upon can only end in that, trust me.

I am staggered that any 20 yr old woman of the 21st century could behave in such a dangerous and irresponsible manner as to not only send the signal to young women that its ok to act like prostitutes but also to the signal that those who have suffered or do suffer mental health problems are to be mocked and have their opinions invalidated. Have you no sense of danger at all? or responsibility? Remove your tweets immediately or you will hear from my lawyers. I am certain you will be hearing from all manner of mental health advocacy groups also. It is not acceptable to mock any person for having suffered.
It is most unbecoming of you to respond in such a fashion to someone who expressed care for you. And worse that you are such an anti-female tool of the anti-female music industry. I hope that you will apologise to Amanda Bynes and to any person who has been wounded by your mockery of those who have suffered. And I hope that you will wake up and understand that you in fact are a danger to women.

Furthermore you posted a photo of me tearing the pope’s photo .. as if to imply insanity.. by doing so all you have achieved is to expose your staggering ignorance. I suggest you read The Philadelphia Report, The Boston Report, all the reports which will illuminate for you why that action of mine remains sane and valid. By mocking it you mock every child who suffered sexual abuse at the hands of priests and had it covered by the Vatican. You could really do with educating yourself, that is if you’re not too busy getting your tits out to read.


I have no interest whatsoever in meeting you. You had plenty of time yesterday to abuse Amanda Bynes .. an entirely innocent party.. and myself.. who also did nothing to deserve your abuse.. along with every other sufferer of mental health problems and every person who suffered abuse at the hands of priests.
You can take five minutes today between g- string fuckin' changes to publicly apologise and remove your abusive tweets. If you do not then you don't give a shit who you mock and what damage you do by being so ignorant.

When you publicly apologise to Amanda and myself and all mental health sufferers as well as all who were abused by priests that will end the matter as far as I am concerned.
What you did yesterday was designed to damage me and my career and has caused me enormous distress and harrassment and has potential to damage my career. If you do not apologise I will have no choice but to bring legal proceedings against you.

I have no interest in or desire to cause you trouble but if you do not apologise for having deliberately tried to cause me hurt and trouble personally and professionally I will have to bring pressure upon you.
When you end up in the psych ward or rehab I'll be happy to visit you.. and would not lower myself to mock you.

Be a proper woman and make the public apologies I have listed above. Your hosting SNL is a bullshit reason for not taking five minutes to do the right thing and your behaviour yesterday will rebound upon you very badly.

You have no business abusing Amanda Bynes or anyone else. How do you think you made her feel yesterday? How do you feel when your friend Britney Spears is mocked and humiliated for having had mental health problems? I know I personally want to bash those who treat her that way. If she is your friend and more importantly if you are a true friend to her.. you ought apologise for joining those who mock and humiliate women who have been too nice frankly, to manage the music business without sensibly losing their minds.

Cease behaving in an anti-female capacity. You will become the victim of it shortly. Soon it will be you the media 'crazy' .. and you will not enjoy it.. and you will appreciate people (like myself) standing up for you. Which I will be happy to do.. if you earn my respect today by apologising publicly.

Ms Cyrus has today posted tweets of mine which are two years old and which were sent when I was ill and seeking medical help. She has done this in an attempt to deliberately cause me harm and hurt. I wish to confirm that I am quite well and kindly request people cease e mailing me in the mistaken belief these are recent tweets.

Ms Cyrus' lawyers will be contacted by mine regarding this matter.

I confirm also that I do not at all support or condone the abuse or mockery of those who have been brave enough to openly discuss mental health issues. Mockery causes deaths. Period. It is an unacceptable form of bullying, no matter who it is doing the bullying.


I think her 'tits' sign-off could do with work, as I don't believe attacking Miley's choices was the point of the initial missive, but I can certainly understand her anger.  This will play and play, and will be cited as still further proof that women don't support women.  I'm sorry that it has descended into name-calling and anger, but the initial thought did seem to be one of support and help - it's just that Miley didn't accept it as that.  Sinéad has every right to respond to Miley's anger, and I most definitely support the idea that mocking mental health issues damages everyone.  Your move, Miley.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Movie Review - White House Down

Hollywood movie ideas and buses: we wait for ages for a certain one to come along, and then we get a fleet.  Barely had Olympus Has Fallen faded from my burning retinas when once again the White House is under attack from…someone…who wants to get the codes for…something…for some reason that’s more personal than political.  In White House Down it’s taken one step further by adding in every possible cliché known to script-writing man.  In fact, so laden with hackney is the narrative that it becomes difficult at times to tell if the movie is really, really bad, or so bad that it might be good.

Much like that last White House disaster situation, this movie has attracted a calibre of actor that is completely at odds with the premise.  While James Woods and Channing Tatum raise few eyebrows (what else are either of them doing?), what Jamie Foxx, Jason Clarke and Maggie Gyllenhaal are doing here is not so clear.  Again we are faced with a situation where the life of the American president is in the hands of a man who ‘shouldn’t even be here today’, and where the entire air-force, marine and police contingent of Washington DC seem incapable of stopping a band of twenty men from taking over the most protected building in the country.  This is not the only plot hole in a very woolly invasion plan, and the constant swerving from its own internal reality means much of my time was spent shouting instructions at the screen.  Case in point, goofy reporters and youtube uploaders (how modern!) seem to have a clearer view of what’s going on inside the building than the intelligence centre of the CIA and Secret Service.

From start to finish this overly-long action slapstick draws on every possible cliché and trope of the genre – down to the white vest and the ‘get the hell off my lawn’ White House defence.  The passable chemistry between Foxx’s American president and Tatum’s John McClane – I mean, John Cale (totally different character, I don’t know how I mixed them up!) – can’t disguise the too-frequent lulls in action.  The CGI is fairly solid, and the sequences when it’s allowed to shine certainly thrill the senses, but they don’t quite make up for a lack of real direction in the story.  Sure, John Cale just wants to save his plucky back-talking daughter while protecting the president of the USA, but at 2 hours 11 minutes it really starts to drag out relationship issues while snipers are gunning down helicopters with land to air missiles.  Jason Clarke is absolutely wasted as the main mercenary – the man is lethal, and fills the screen with the sort of violence you want from your hired goon, but this movie doesn’t deserve his smouldering aggression. 

All in all, White House Down just can’t quite thrill the way it should – ticking all of the boxes on the to-do list of disaster flicks doesn’t mean you’ve created a real action movie, and this one will deservedly fade from cinema to late-night TV.  Failing in the attempted take-itself-seriously-but-not-really category, it’s neither funny nor adrenalin-packed enough to feature on a true action movie ranking.  Put simply, on a scale of Segal to McLane, this comes in at a very mediocre Van Damme.

Sarah Griffin