“The message hits you like a lead bus” – Charlie Booker on the pseudo-subversiveness of Banksy, 2006

I didn’t realise that this piece is from as far back as 2006. Twelve years ago! Charlie Booker’s persona can grate after a fairly little while, but on Banksy he was right on the nose:

Banksy first became famous for his stencilled subversions of pop-culture images; one showed John Travolta and Samuel L Jackson in a famous pose from Pulp Fiction, with their guns replaced by bananas. What did it mean? Something to do with the glamourisation of violence, yeah? Never mind. It looked cool. Most importantly, it was accompanied by the name “BANKSY” in huge letters, so everyone knew who’d done it. This, of course, is the real message behind all of Banksy’s work, despite any appearances to the contrary.

Booker’s only getting warmed up:

Take his political stuff. One featured that Vietnamese girl who had her clothes napalmed off. Ho-hum, a familiar image, you think. I’ll just be on my way to my 9 to 5 desk job, mindless drone that I am. Then, with an astonished lurch, you notice sly, subversive genius Banksy has stencilled Mickey Mouse and Ronald McDonald either side of her.

Wham! The message hits you like a lead bus: America … um … war … er … Disney … and stuff. Wow. In an instant, your worldview changes forever. Your eyes are opened. Staggering away, mind blown, you flick v-signs at a Burger King on the way home. Nice one Banksy! You’ve shown us the truth, yeah?

That’s the spirit! The rest of the piece is on the same lines, and even in the short space of a few more paragraphs Booker’s rhetorical approach is close to outstaying its welcome – but he has already skewered Banksy’s pretensions perfectly.

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