Belfast Telegraph

They had Liz. Now we’ve got Gwyneth. It’s the phoneys’ age

By Julie Burchill

There's been quite a bit of chatter about who should play Elizabeth Taylor in the proposed biopic and it got me thinking about how very phoney modern actors are compared with the old breed.

You'd think when they abandoned the studio system, the Phoney Quotient would have gone down — now people weren't being forced to change their names and hide their sexual preferences, surely a new sincerity would sweep the bazaars of Thespus?

But instead, phoniness has flourished in La-La Land.

It's hard to imagine a modern actress saying what Taylor did to a gossip columnist when asked if she was having an affair with a married man after being widowed: “What am I supposed to do — sleep alone?”

When Richard Burton would drunkenly recite Shakespearean poetry in company, and then accuse her of having no education, Taylor would often reputedly recite the following rhyme: “‘What'll you have?’ the waiter said, as he stood there picking his nose. ‘Hard-boiled eggs, you sonofabitch! You can't put your fingers in those...”'

Somehow, you just can't imagine Gwyneth Paltrow sending herself up in the same way; she'd be too busy instructing you how to crochet your own karma on her totally phoney website.

The Phoney Quotient among MPs has sky-rocketed also, when you'd think it would have gone down considering the increased election of those who are considered the enemies of phoniness — the young, the female, the gay, the ethnic.

But all that's happened is that everyone gets their snout in the trough — like the end of Animal Farm, when the previously-oppressed pigs start strutting about like humans.

This does lead to the interesting question: what's the difference between a hypocrite and a phoney? Of course there's plenty of crossover, but generally an old-school hypocrite knows what he is doing is wrong and seeks to do the dirty on the sly. A phoney, on the other hand, will often completely deny that they are up to anything, even to themselves.

But then, when surprised by the facts, the phoney either concocts a ridiculous excuse (the Lib Dem MP David Laws, who claimed he fiddled his expenses because he didn't want people to know he was gay — yeah, right) or fall over themselves admitting to being a phoney (Diane Abbott and her son at public school) as if this last-minute embracing of frankness makes up for all the double-think.

A hypocrite caught with his trousers down will stay with his wife and two veg, as Tories always do; a phoney will choose his mistress, as Robin Cook and Chris Huhne did, and then expect a round of applause.

But surely the real mark of a phoney is that he/she often offers up would-be endearing little critiques of themselves which are in fact soundbites for The Wonder Of Me.

‘I'm a perfectionist’ is one (usually means that they're a nit-picking procrastinator); ‘I'm not a team player’ (means that they're really rubbish at the most simple

of tasks and terrified of everyone else finding out); ‘I don't suffer fools gladly’ (permanent hangover and/or PMT); ‘I expect too much from people’ (see Fools Gladly, Not Suffering).

“Maybe I should have a little more fear,” swanked Angelina Jolie the other day.

In which case she must be welcoming the publication of Andrew Morton's book with open arms, rather than armed lawyers.

As the least phoney person I've ever met, it stands to reason that I am glad to stand up and be counted as a corner-cutting, project-abandoning, team-playing, fool-suffering, impatient coward.

And also as someone who returned their iPad after a week as I didn't care for it one little bit.

For iPad users, a recent survey claims, are wealthy, educated and selfish, valuing power and achievement and scoring low on kindness and altruism.

In short, phoneys. And don't get me started on the iPhone, where the clue even comes in the name...

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