I quite enjoyed When Boris Met Dave on More4 last week, a theatrical biopic talking heads ensemble that gave a wishy-washy but entertaining comparison between Boris Johnson and David Cameron as students. The program offered humorous reconstructed sketches of Boris and ‘Dave’ at Eton together and then as undergraduates at Oxford.
The political insight of the drama was limited, focusing instead on sensationalising and propelling Etonian myths while also indulging in the wild life of privileged students (in the controversial Bullingdon club) at Oxford University during the mid-80s.
Some of the talking heads, however, were quite interesting, notably Boris’ sister Rachel Johnson who soothed the audience’s envy and wealth fantasy with her insistence that the Bullers was uncool and that everyone there was superficial, desperate and insecure.
However, what really struck me about When Boris Met Dave, was filmmaker Toby Young’s portrayal of David Cameron and its striking resemblance to Bret Easton Ellis’ most famous literary invention (or cultural amalgamation) Patrick Bateman. Some of you will have read American Psycho, and many of you will have seen Christian Bale in the film adaptation. The similarity between Cameron and Bateman in these two films is uncanny.
First of all is David Cameron’s looks. Actor Jonny Sweet, who plays Cameron, is leagues ahead in looks than the young Cameron himself actually was. This is surely deliberate, since Boris (who is actually quite arresting and eye-catching in archive photographs) is portrayed by a lumpy and lacklustre actor. Jonny Sweet is good lucking enough to be a successful model, just like in American Psycho where Bateman is constantly asked if he models.
David Cameron’s Bateman-esque vanity has a strong presence in the program. Hardly five minutes pass without a perverse and slightly sexualised rendition of a young Cameron, dancing around his room in very high tennis shorts, singing to himself innocently like a Brad Pitt type-cast, or flicking his hair seductively towards the camera with a slightly evil and knowing smile.
Some of the program’s descriptions of Cameron have a very American Psycho ring to them – how his immaculate presentation prevents other boys from knowing him, how he is both an outsider and very popular with girls, how nobody can quite put a finger on why he is so successful, how he is very well connected, how he escapes punishment for his criminality, and most importantly – how his surface appearance ensures that his true personality is indistinguishable. Like Bret Easton Ellis's psychopathic killer, everybody knew Cameron and yet nobody knew him. Patrick Bateman, like David Cameron, adopts a quiet and calculated tortoise-hare approach to success, and yet both become paradoxically very successful at a young age.
And now for the really undeniable simulacrum: a passion for Phil Collins.
In American Psycho the sick(ly) narration of Bateman suddenly switches a third of the way through into an unprecedented and bizarre chapter about Phil Collins. Readers are given a concise yet thorough history of Phil Collins’ career with an in-depth look at his musical journey with Genesis. What is so odd about this chapter is its autistic detail and the mundanely mainstream nature of its subject. Easton Ellis uses Bateman’s fascination with Phil Collins to demonstrate his psychopathic tendencies to his readers.
Bateman’s clean and articulate connection with Phil Collins furthers the horror of his killings, his deep appreciation and affection for a bland pop group strengthens his inability to appreciate human life. Does David Cameron reside within a surface performance of irrelevant likes and dislikes that hides his inner thoughts and feelings? Does David Cameron project an image of himself that acts as a wall between his real personality and his peers?
Jonny Sweet’s portrayal of David Cameron is the same. We see him talking about Phil Collins in a psycho-analytical way (no pun intended), as he over analyses Genesis melodies and gives people mini lectures on the peculiarities of Phil Collins’ percussion. Surely this is too big a coincidence? American Psycho is too well established in contemporary literature and film criticism for Toby Young to be unaware of the artistic mirroring? Are we being warned subliminally that David Cameron is a dangerously unknown entity? Cameron was at Oxford obsessing over Phil Collins in exactly the same years that the emblem of ‘Patrick Bateman’ was lecturing girls on Phil Collins before savagely murdering, mutating and raping them.