Welcome to Day 14 of our pop culture advent calendar. Every day we’re handing out a little treat in the shape of a mini-blog on something or someone we’ve admired or thought worth noting in 2012. Here’s an introduction to this whole advent calendar idea. Yesterday we celebrated a shining light from vast, dark world of the internet, @brainpicker. Today we are recognising one of the most baffling trends in public life – the Golden Handshake, when failure is recognised like never before.
The Golden Handshake used to be a peculiar little hypocrisy restricted to bankers and football managers, but in 2012 it went mainstream. The principle works something like this. An extremely important person is paid an extremely large sum of money to steer an organisation toward success and away from failure. When success arrives, a bonus follows. When failure descends, a pay off – often larger than any bonus – is paid out. The thin line between success and failure for rich people is lined with feathered pillows and satin sheets. For the rest of us, it’s shits and giggles and Wonga loans.
2012 has seen the Golden Handshake stretch beyond football and high finance’s wide boys. It also now takes in girls and Fleet Street editors. Rebekah Brooks has been paid off just shy off of £11m for overseeing the reputational collapse of the previously imperious News International suite of media outlets. She has been arrested and charged, publicly humiliated and is seen by many as being directly responsible for the closure of the News of the World, once the biggest selling newspaper in the UK.
Her pay-off is a source of anger and bewilderment. Brooks didn’t just fail at her job, but failed an entire industry in the process. Whatever punishment in due course may be delivered by the justice system, it can never feasibly match the compensation she has received for being utterly shite at her job.
However, this is Pop Lifer. And there is no possible way that the allegedly corrupt and corruptible Queen of the Chipping Norton Set was ever to going to get an award from us. No, there is a far funnier example of a Golden Handshake that 2012 threw up. The award is named after the man who uses the Golden Handshake as an occupational hazard for his low boredom threshold rather than a last resort – Roman Abramovich, the trigger happy owner of football’s dark side, Chelsea FC.
The Roman Abramovich Award for 2012’s Best Golden Handshake goes to…..
In December George Lucas got handed a fat cheque to get the hell away from the very Empire he created. How did we get here?
Star Wars IV, V & VI were a little uneven, slightly hammy, occasionally preposterous but hugely enjoyable trilogy. They were a paradigm and merchandise shifting phenomena. The films were held with obsessive regard not just by the usual convention-attending suspects, but an entire generation. You know – the generation that choose Pepsi and Life.
By the time this generation had moved on to coffee and actual lives, the prequels arrived and were quickly dismissed as a shit mountain shaped betrayal. Rather than adding depth to the back story of IV, V & 6, the prequels undermined them and shone a light on the clunkier elements of Lucas’ work. Maybe – in fact probably – Star Wars had been a fluke after all.
The prequels were bogged down by tedious politics, concrete block heavy dialogue, scenes led by the nose by special effects and Jar Jar Binks. Ewan McGregor was sucked of all his usual likeability and charisma and looked for all the world that he was responding to no-one in a blue room – which in actual fact he was. It was insipid, awful to the point of amusing, and crushingly cynical. The Hobbit’s tagline poster quote so far seems to be ‘Ok, but at least its not as bad as the Star Wars Prequels’.
Despite this blow, the franchise refused to die. The Clone Wars cartoon series continued to keep the merch sales and the brand bubbling and even though they had been critically panned, the prequels also turned a healthy profit. Artistically, Star Wars was a spent force. Commercially, it was an under tapped source of revenue.
Disney Pixar’s purchase of the franchise was one of those surprises that within hours of its announcement settled into inevitable, obvious fact. It made sense. As part of the announcement, it was revealed that a new trilogy, following where Episode VI left off, was to be made for 2015.
Rumours cast a wide net on potential cast, crew, writers and directors. Would Hammil, Ford and Fisher return to the cast? Was Joss Weddon, Buffy writer, Pop Lifer hero, and Avenger funny guy also in the frame? Spielberg, Abrams, Cuaron were all linked.
We await confirmation on a director but Michael Arndt, the Academy Award-winning screenwriter for Little Miss Sunshine and Toy Story 3, has been chosen to write the screenplay
One name was absent from any future listing. George Lucas. The billions paid were for merchandise and intellectual property rights. Essentially, priced into the final figure was Lucas stay-away money plus a polite promise to read his proposed storyline for episode 7. The same promise many a fledging screenwriter receives in a letter that finishes with a printed signature. Lucas’ polite knock back came with a press release, a photo shoot and a googlegasm of chat room speculation. The rejection also came with a cheque for $4bn – the most expensive thanks but not thanks ever made.