No-frills bullfighting November 14, 2007Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
Tags: bull-fighting, no-frills
…or, rather, no-cape. Darlings, I’m so indignant I’ve had to switch on the lap-top.
Do excuse this barrel-scraping and blogging about what’s on’t telly but, you know, sometimes there’s no choice. And I’m quite a believer in telly, in a way, even though I don’t watch much a) because I think it makes me a more solid member of the intellectual bourgeoisie the less I watch and b) because we don’t leave the bastard on standby for ecology/tightness reasons which means actually having to move to turn the thing on. And just as well, because the moment I do resolve to set out on a quest for the remotes, I’m normally gripped.
Darlings, remember I told you, because it’s important that we don’t have secrets from each other, that the Russian bought a new box so we could, we hoped, pick up Anglo-channels for my mother’s visit? Well, it’s been quite an acquisition. I’ve already mentioned (no secrets, remember…) the 800 new Arabic channels – we’ve got both Al-Jazeeras – and that the new soft porn is very soft indeed. Also very depressing. And I do think that if the girls taking your phone calls live and feigning interest in each other’s bits were given a crowbar, they’d liberate themselves out of slavery. As luck would have it, we did get all those BBCs and CNNs and Fox Newses. We got a Cuban channel. A Turkish channel or two. A very, very low-budget Hungarian channel. A Polish one which seems to talk about nothing but god. A Bible channel. And then a good sprinkling of stuff from France, Italy, Portugal and Spain.
So I’m live-blogging Spanish TV for you. Not all of it. Just one, regional, satellite channel. Televisió Valenciana Internacional, one of whose aims is promoting the social structure (and other things) (like no-frills bullfighting) of the Land of Valencia in Spain and the rest of the world. I’m not sure I think TV is the right medium for social-structure promotion but the bullfight’s got me gripped.
But, darlings, they’ve cut such corners it’s all a bit of a scandal. I know nothing about bullfights but can tell this is only Vauxhall Conference level, a poor copy of the real thing. I’ve never been to a bullfight on any of my trips to Spain in case I instantly turned into Hemingway but I do remember the man of the house (or the man of one of the houses) I stayed at on my first trip to Madrid a hundred years ago – I arrived wearing a polo-neck in August because of being so mal élevé – watched them on video and we even saw one matado(r) get gored, which his daughter pointed out to me was autodefensa. I was 16 and didn’t dare express an opinion, though secretly I was chuffed for the bull.
Anyway, that was over 20 years ago. It’s November, not August. And I’m very much not in Spain. Nor did I become Hemingway. But seeing the Spanish sun and the sand in the arena has got me (semi-)gripped. I don’t know if this is November sun. You never can tell with those Spaniards. But if this is what bullfighting has come to, I shall have to write a letter in the strongest terms to Su Majestad Rey Juan Carlos de Castilla, Ceuta y Melilla y Jefe de las Corridas to alert him to this distressing and blatant example of dumbing-down.
I don’t particularly like animals, especially ones that can kill us, but this no-frills bullfighting is majorly taking the piss out of the bulls. The Russian says I mustn’t worry, (“Take a tablet.” OK, he doesn’t say that really) and the bulls know what they’re doing and are playing along. Like the wrestling. I think I’m watching bull no. 3 – once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ’em all, frankly – and I, in stark contrast to my beloved, don’t think any of them had been prepped about what they were getting into. They make their way through a sort of bull-flap into the arena and you can tell they don’t know it’s about to be ritual humiliation. Initially, they are on the sand alone to bask unbothered in the jeers of a full-house. No sign of a matador. Or atormentador. For their no-frills tormentors don’t even have the common decency to kill the poor beasts once they’ve driven them to distraction. Instead, the boys, all with modern haircuts, hide themselves behind a little fence where the bull can see them but hasn’t got a hope in hell of getting a bit of blood for his efforts and then our hapless hero is ultimately ushered back through his flap none the wiser what he’s been paraded around like a common criminal in the Valencian sun for.
No tradition is respected. The bulls, at least, have the common decency to hoof the sand every now and again. Someone’s got some manners. But you’ve got to conclude, and I don’t know if this is because they’re no-frills bulls, though they look the real deal – black, horns, quite handsome – that bulls aren’t very good at what they do. I must have been watching for a good week now and no bull has struck gold. Not once. Either they are slow to learn or have very poor analytical skills. If they could just once, even by accident, not go for the perfect straight-line form of attack, they might get a nice bit of revenge and slake their thirst for blood.
But it’s the matadors who are the real disgrace. Perhaps because they’re no-frills. Maybe they’re apprentices. But not one of them is dressed up to the nines in the correct garb and the only headwear I’ve seen is a baseball cap. Indeed, the non-murderous matadors seem to be wearing baseball outfits. Elasticated waists. Numbers on their t-shirts.
And not a cape in sight. Their main move is best described as a wiggle. They do come-on-then, you-want-some signs to the bull, let it charge, and then wiggle deftly out of its way at the last minute. Some have replaced the cape with a stick and are pole-vaulting the poor beasts, which is adding insult to injury. And some, in my least favourite move, simply run away.
I’m wondering if no-frills bullfighting is a bit like WWF wrestling for Spaniards. You know, a cheapo day out (though WWF wrestling probably costs more than a trip to the moon, doesn’t it?) for all the family. Or like going to see the Harlem Globetrotters at Wembley Arena. (Don’t laugh. Mad Lizzie was doing the warm-up.) Easily watchable but not overly taxing, especially as I can’t even be bothered to force myself to compare man and beast when the beasts have given such a poor account of themselves.
Still, Spain is obviously in a deep philosophical crisis covering identity, the limitations of regional autonomy and its place in the modern world. I just saw someone wave a plastic bag at the bull.