It’s brought a new meaning to the phrase ‘getting the horn’ for football players, it’s taking up more column inches than Pamela Anderson did on that boat that time, and, right now, it encapsulates perfectly everything that’s wrong with our media, our country and us.
Newspapers and TV shows are going bonkers to crowbar vuvuzela ‘coverage’ into their products. There are stories about the slender plastic noisemaker spreading cold and flu viruses, concerns that it will cause tinnitus or make fans’ ears drop off or something – it can’t be long now before someone inks out a spurious link between vuvuzelas and heart attacks or cancer…
In the past week, you couldn’t make up some of the ‘zela’-related hoo-ha. Seriously, here is a quick list of some of the things I’ve read and seen:
• 14 different vuvuzela iPhone applications
• A man playing a vuvuzela on NEWSNIGHT
• Ostensibly serious studio debates about the ‘hazards’ the instrument poses
• A massive space on today’s guardian.co.uk front page containing an ‘idiot’s guide to the vuvuzela’.
OK, so some of those things could be considered fun reporting of current events, to be filed in the ‘and finally’ category. But enough’s enough; it was funny to start with, now the endless time and space being dedicated to the so-called ‘controversial’ instrument just smacks of the same old media desperation. And they accuse the vuvuzela of droning on.
Much worse than all that, however, is the news that the BBC is considering offering ‘vuvuzela-free’ coverage of games via the red button. Er, you what now?
There’s surely some sort of lingering imperial arrogance happening here. Something you don’t like or understand happening at a sporting event in Africa? It’s OK, we’ll just edit it out and pretend it’s not happening. After all, it wouldn’t be the first time in our relationship with the continent that we’ve done that…
As Shaun from Shaun of the Dead neatly observed on Twitter: “Complaining about the vuvzelas [sic] is embarrassing. It’s part of their game and we are their guests. Suck it up and stop whinging. Hooooooooonk!”
He then went on to make this equally trenchant observation: “Of course if an enormous swarm of mutant, weaponized bees were to attack, now would be the time.” Something to bear in mind, I suppose.
Now if, for some reason, you live in a cave – actually, it would be especially annoying in a cave – and haven’t heard a vuvuzela yet, it sounds a bit like Amy Winehouse gargling Listerine while doing laps of your local one-way system on a 25cc scooter. So I’m not about to pretend it isn’t grating.
But, while we might view the vuvuzela as either a quirky idiosyncrasy or an evil pipe that channels the sounds of hell directly on to the earth and into our ears, it is a fundamental part of supporters’ enjoyment of the game in South Africa. What’s more, aside from the football, obviously, it will characterise this tournament.
Much of Britain still, it seems, needs to realise that we can’t just erase stuff we don’t like or understand. Please leave the noise in the games, BBC. It wouldn’t be the same without it.