The premise behind D.B.C Pierre’s Vernon God Little is that life “is like watching TV-trailers; a shade of this movie, a bite of that show” and unfortunately the narrator, Vernon, has “got stuck with ‘America’s Dumbest Assholes’ or something. ‘Ally McBowel’”.
This 2003 winner of the Man Booker Prize is embedded in the 21st century’s obsession with television and celebrities. Without giving too much of the plot away, Vernon relates how his life spiralled into a media frenzy after a tragic shooting at his school. Much like George Orwell’s 1984 the narrator finds his every move watched by cameras and reporters. Yet, Big Brother isn’t simply out to get the innocent Vernon; but to also make entertainment from his capture. Consequently, Vernon ends up on a reality TV version of death-row, in which media moguls “pick a shortlist of prisoners, advertise them well, then open the voting lines and see who performs”. The winner gets to stay alive, the loser gets the needle.
The Moral Dilemma of Media
…the media rampage is an unwanted distraction from his greater concerns…
As a 15-year-old boy Vernon only loosely grasps the gravity of his situation, simply entitling the first chapter ‘Shit Happened’. To Vernon, the media rampage is an unwanted distraction from his greater concerns such as schoolmate Taylor Figueroa (being ‘so fucken in love with her I can’t even picture her panties’) and his mum continuously mentioning the bathroom ‘inconvenience’ he has. Such teenage humour from the narrator ensures that the darker elements of the plot do not grind the novel to an emotional halt. Vernon’s brushing over of the moral implications of the death-row show, creates a massive concern in the reader.
Whilst initially the reality TV scenario seems humorously ridiculous, its similarity with modern programmes makes it increasingly difficult to dismiss as fantasy. Voyeuristic programmes that see individuals compete for popularity with viewers summarises some of the decades most watched television. In 2003 Big Brother was at its height, and although it has now been thankfully dropped by Channel Four, Pierre’s novel does not seem out-of-date. The immense viewing figures for programmes such as The X Factor and The Only Way is Essex demonstrates that reality TV is still as dominant as ever. And with this popularity comes a sense that TV directors will continue to capture more ‘real-life’ events for our entertainment. After all the BBC has just run a series about Kids Behind Bars, the only thing missing was a good voting system.
Pierre’s Inspires Paranoia
…you cannot help but feel media’s dominance is making the world bonkers.
On reading Vernon God Little you cannot help but feel media’s dominance is making the world bonkers. The light relief offered by The Apprentice or Strictly Come Dancing suddenly becomes something quite sinister. It is a novel that really makes you think about what you accept as normal in everyday life and question the truth of what you see and hear on the telly. Pierre’s message seems to be that such shows must be treated with extreme caution if you wish to avoid becoming a participant in ‘Britain’s Dumbest Assholes’.
Image courtesy of DBC Pierre