The Therapy Diaries Chapter 5: The Competitions and Markets Authority

I’m struggling to know what to write this week. This is the problem I have when it comes to regular, scheduled writing: I grow either bored, frustrated, or I run out of things to say. So here’s a brain dump.

I can’t stop listening to The Walls Are Way Too Thin (the whole EP, not just the song) by Holly Humberstone. I’m also going through a little obsession with Olivia Rodrigo – her music that is. I’m also obsessed with Blank Space by Taylor Swift. I’m pretty far behind the times when it comes to music.

I went to the cinema this week to see Eternals. My review is this: I have now seen 24 Marvel films. I have now seen the same film 24 times. This review is biased because I hate Marvel. I’m not going to go off like Scorcese or whoever it is, railing that they’re not true cinema, because that’s bullshit. A film is a film; there are a billion different ways to make a film, and to tell a story through visual media, and every single one of them is valid. Just because I think Marvel films are cut and paste, bland, boring garbage, doesn’t mean they’re not films. I fucking hated 50 Shades of Grey and it’s one of the most popular books in history. Popularity ≠ quality ≠ my liking of something.

I’ve read the first two 50 Shades books, for my sins, and I’ll tell you why. You know how they came from nowhere? Like, one day we were all just pottering around, doing our thing, and the next, boom! all anyone can talk about is these books. And it turns out they’re sex books. OMG. I first heard of them through the twitter of the inimitable Bret Easton Ellis: for those of you unaware, he’s most famous for writing America Psycho, and also go read all his books you idiot. Except White. That’s…not good. Back in the day, Bret used to be a regular twitter user; some people may remember the infamous incident in which he tweeted what was meant to be a text to his dealer, asking for coke. Good times. He used to talk about books a great deal – others, not his own – and as an avid fan, I used to read what he talked about without even so much as doing any prior research. Sometimes, this led me to wonderful books I’d never have heard of otherwise, such as Skippy Dies, a hilarious tragi-comedy about an Irish boarding school. On the flip side, it leads me to thinks like 50 Shades. Now upon hearing about it I didn’t know it was a sex book; to me, it was a book recommended by BEE, so I had to read it. I ventured into my local book store (fuck Amazon) and searched for it to no avail. Upon asking the kind person behind the counter, they informed me they’d sold out. The book was sold out!!! Now if I hadn’t been keen to get my hands on a copy before learning this knowledge, I now became desperate. Leaving the book shop, I went to the local sells-fucking-everything shop (because you know, the free market, there’s only one chain of bookstores in this country. So if they don’t have it, basically good luck. Something like 50 Shades isn’t too hard to find in a sells-fucking-everything shop, but trying asking for Franzen, or AM Homes, or even Steinbeck: you might as well ask them to bend you over and fuck you, for the looks you’ll get.

So I go to the sells-fucking-everything shop, and lo and behold they have it! And not only do they have book 1, they have book 2, because it turns out it’s a trilogy! And not only do they have all three, but it’s buy-one-get-one-free! So I pick up books one and two, hand over my money, and leave feeling very smug. I have not one, but two books, in a series recommended by my favourite author. Seems like a win huh? Then I read them.

Yes, that’s right, them. After finishing 50 Shades of Grey, I proceeded to read 50 Shades Darker. God, it pains me that I can remember the name without Googling it (other search engines are available). I read both books. In the space of about 45 minutes. They were not good.

But they were popular, and that’s all that matters. In books terms, it’s quantity, not quality. Because of the so called free market, and late stage capitalism, even art hasn’t managed to avoid being co-opted for profit. Look at Marvel movies, for instance; they’ll keep being made, until the end of time, because people will keep seeing them. No matter how expensive they are to make, and how fucking garbage they are to watch, as long as they turn a profit, they’ll keep being churned out. It’s the same for books. Surely one Franzen book is worth a thousand Lee Childs? Steinbeck wrote to change the world, Dan Brown writes because no one seems inclined to stop him.

But, I should shut the fuck up here. All books as equally as valid. Sure, The Corrections is a masterpiece, and 50 Shades of Grey is fucking garbage, but they’re both of equal value. EL Grey will never win a National Book Award, but that doesn’t matter. She’s an author just as much as Jonathan Franzen is, just as much as Joan Didion is, just as much as John Steinbeck was. Just as much as I’m trying to be.

Fortnite is as valid as Bioshock. Banksy is as valid as Michelangelo. All art, no matter what guise it comes in, is valid. Some are good, some are bad, some may seem entirely pointless, but they all exist, on an equal plane, and that’s the way it should be. I really don’t need to put in this summing up paragraph, but it’s bring this entry to a close with some fluff words, or rant about art and the free market and capitalism, and I just can’t be fucking bothered.

I will ask this then; if we truly live in a free market, why does the Competitions and Markets Authority exist?

This question is to spark debate, but there also is an answer: because the free market is a lie.

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