His flowing locks and mesmerising oratorical musings have bewitched and bemused observers in equal measure, but is Russell Brand a vessel for peace or a hypocrite with a thinly veiled plan to extend his time in the public gaze? Dom Kureen gives his two pennies worth.
Big Brother’s Big Mouth in the early 2000’s was the first time that Russell Brand entered my consciousness. Equal parts scruffy mane, over zealous mascara and ad-libbed colloquy, the erstwhile MTV presenter came across as superficially engaging, absurd and subversively humorous.
Admitting subsequently that he still regularly partook of a cocktail of illicit drugs, notably heroin, during that period, Brand was a bundle of impatient, childlike vitality and a suitable fit for the reality show spin-off.
A stint in rehab (he’s abstained from alcohol and recreational drugs since 2003) and procession of movie roles followed, Brand usually portraying characters closely resembling various stages of his own life.
Despite sporadically excelling on the big screen , such as during 2010 box office smash ‘Get Him To The Greek’, where he took the role of troubled rock star Aldous Snow, he has since admitted that he didn’t feel entirely fulfilled, niggled that there was likely a more poignant purpose for his existence.
This leads on to the current incarnation we see strewn all over television, tabloids and t’internet; a campaigner for justice and peace who has embraced Transcendental Meditation (TM) and ostensibly craves equality in lieu of needles, lines of powder or magic pills.
In his recently released tome, ‘Revolution’, Brand extols the virtues of peaceful disobedience, eschewing the current political system in favour of a fresh approach.
These proposals mainly revolve around notions of transparency from those making affective adjudications from the comfort of green leather bound sofas and analyses the practicality of a fairer distribution of wealth.
Brand’s detractors fixate frequently on what they perceive as hypocrisy from a bloke with allegedly more than £20m in the bank, who campaigns against capitalism from a mansion, adorned in outlandish clothing and replete with impeccably prim barnet, as if this vast affluence somehow prohibits him from representing those less fortunate.
He is also routinely subjected to attempts at discrediting his germinating legacy, with ‘The Sun’ newspaper and ‘Fox News’ particularly fervent about a lack of credibility therein; the former’s attempts growing progressively asinine, with front page headlines gleefully divulging that more than 60% of the tabloid’s readership don’t find Brand funny.
On a more personal level, the campaigning comedian’s cockney cadence became the object of ridicule for a large section of critics, with the term ‘Parklife’ regularly visible in comment sections below his videos, a reference to Phil Daniels’ estuary narration of Blur’s 1994 hit of the same name.
Brand was able to nip this in the bud with an amended rendition of the track appearing on his YouTube channel as a waggish slice of self-amusement from a figure now nonchalant about the inevitable derision widespread notoriety incurs.
An opportunity to edit the ‘New Statesman’ magazine was duly accepted and executed with relish in early 2014, the man who tweets under the tag of Rustyrockets receiving a slew of plaudits after appropriately electing to zero in on the topic of revolution.
More recently appearances among a variety of political heavyweights on ‘Question Time’ and ‘Newsnight’ have highlighted the fact that, while Brand has plenty of articulate and admirably intentioned objectives, there remains a tendency to drift into digressive rambling when he is placed under severe scrutiny on subjects where his grasp is cursory.
To identify these traits as contentions against recognising the transition of a highly intelligent, progressive soul from funny man to activist for revolution is to ignore the validity of his crusade.
Russell Brand never claimed to have all of the solutions, what he is sharing is a glimpse into knowledge and spiritualism gained over the course of a troubled childhood, drug addled youth and metaphysical transformation as he approaches his 40th birthday.
The bulk, if not all, of his idealisms are borrowed from philosophers, gurus and science, something he regularly acknowledges. His goal is not to claim credit for the ideals he espouses, rather to use the power of celebrity to spread awareness and allow those who have been overly sheltered, by design or fear, a glimpse into another realm.
There seems little reason to doubt the authenticity of Brand, other than to mock for the satiation of ego;
The soothsayers will concentrate on his lack of acumen within the political minefield that he voluntarily ambles across clad in shiny Chelsea boots, his advocates will believe that his purpose is to act as catalyst to a long overdue global uprising.
What is certainly irrefutable is that Brand will remain entertainingly forthright for the foreseeable future, and if people are bold enough to look beyond the spectre of celebrity and prior misdemeanor, his message is indisputably a virtuous one.