This morning my path crossed with that of Graham Norton; me with Baby-Bel in tow; him with two dogs (one big, one small) in tow and a miserable scowl etched on his (actually quite ageing off-screen) features – amazing what makeup, a camera crew and a baying sycophantic audience can do for one’s demeanour. It’s not that unusual to see Mr Norton doing his Starbucks run at ‘daytime TV’ time of day – as far as I’m aware, he doesn’t start his shift until the evening.
The thought that occurred to me though as he swept past was that in times like these, when all the media seems to harp on about is the issue of crucifying overpaid bankers and corresponding tactics for tackling bonus payouts (thereby putting paid to the free market mechanism in one foul sweep – back to feudalism then perhaps?), why there is not a similar angst targeted at other allegedly overpaid pockets of society, namely, TV personalities (and ‘celebrities’ of the loosest interpretation of the word), footballers (and any other sports people come to think of it), or (super)models being paid to pout.
At serious risk of sparking a backlash from WAGs of all calibres and sports genres, can there really be a justifiable argument for paying their better halves the equivalent of the GDP of a small nation for effectively kicking a ball about a large turf of grass? The majority of bonuses for a run-of-the-mill City-worker pale in comparison to the $20m a film star can command for donning the mask of a pretend persona. As for the modern day ‘celebrity’, drawing a regular and sometimes sizable salary courtesy of Hello! and Ok! for doing and being nothing notable, other than being notably more fame-starved than the average civilian and therefore willing to go that extra mile to air their not-always-clean laundry, don’t get me started.
Could it be that we side and sympathise with the other vastly overpaid, arguably underworked professions because their roles are simple to understand and, by definition, pose less of a threat? At the end of the day, how complicated is the process of kicking a ball; not that for a moment I’m suggesting that anyone could do it – I, for one, have the foot-eye coordination of a one-legged man in a kicking competition. Conversely, how many Average Joes understand the valuation of Credit Default Swaps (again, I, for one, don’t)? I suspect a certain amount of fearing the unfathomable is partly at play.
And is there an element of the aspirational when faced with financially successful people who, on the face of it, seem to be ‘just like us’ yet also like demi-gods, walking the earth with their mythical brilliance in their chosen field of expertise (or just their brilliant ordinariness)? After all, if someone as talentless and plain as celeb X can find fame and fortune, then it gives hope to the masses. Perhaps we too could be the lucky recipient of such prosperity.
I’m as guilty as the next gossip girl for indulging in a secret bout of Hello!-reading while at the hairdressers (I draw the line at buying my own copy). But in these contemporary times of celebrity worship, can we seriously condemn avarice in one social sect and condone equal, if not bigger, bucks for another at the opposite end of the professional spectrum?
My view on City bonuses is consistent with my view on the pay-packets of every other vocation the world over and it didn’t take an A level in Economics to deduct the basic concept of Demand and Supply – meddle with market forces at your peril.