Tag Archives: The Sun

Pet project

13 Nov

Of all the Daily Star’s front pages I’ve seen, the one that startles me the most is not KILLER SPIDER MADE MY LEG EXPLODE, or TESTICLE EATING KILLER FISH ON WAY TO UK, but this:

Even for a newspaper that reports ghost stories as news stories and routinely leads on reality TV (sometimes both at the same time), it’s remarkable. The facts: a hamster in Wales has escaped inside a woman’s car and is eating the upholstery. Why is that the splash? Obviously not because of the importance of the news, but because of the opportunity it presents for the headline. What the page is meant to echo, of course, is this:

Tabloid front pages claim a special niche in the public memory: people remember GOTCHA, HEADLESS BODY IN TOPLESS BAR, and SWEDES 2, TURNIPS 1 even if they don’t recall all the details of the stories.* Redtop back benches are well aware of the place they hold in the common imagination, and will often run variations on their most celebrated jokes in follow-up stories.**

But those stories are nearly always big stories (by tabloid measures), and the running gags are always their own. Here, the Star is emulating not itself, but the Sun: it is running a story with no front-page value simply so that it can echo a 30-year-old headline published in its closest rival. This would be weak splash even if they were repeating their own joke; it’s quite disconcerting that they’re repeating someone else’s. It seems almost deferential. And if you were a millennial tabloid reader who’d never heard of Freddie Starr, what on earth would you make of it?

* Indeed, this is what happened here: the car’s owner, Amanda Johnson, recalled the Sun’s famous story and retrospectively named the car Freddie because it was being eaten by a hamster.

** For example, after England’s dismal 2-1 loss to the Swedes turned the press against the national team’s manager, Graham Taylor, his departure the following year was heralded with the headline THAT’S YER ALLOTMENT.

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