Writing, publishing, geekdom, and errata.

Redeeming David Brent's Poetry: A Retelling of Excalibur

2 comments
I love the UK version of The Office.  There's a nasty, horrible, evil bent to it that simply isn't quite there in the US version, and you are never, ever allowed to lose sight of the fact that David Brent (the boss in the UK original) is a horrible evil man1.

Take, for example, Excalibur.  David Brent reads this poem to his secretary in perhaps the most spot-on satirical depiction of sexual harassment I've ever seen (naturally, trigger warning, clip at Hulu).  Let's focus on the poem itself, though:

Excalibur
by David Brent

i froze your tears and made a dagger
and stabbed it in my cock
forever
it stays there like excalibur
are you my Arthur?
say you are

take this cool dark steeled blade
steal it, sheath it
in your lake

i drown with you to be together
must you breathe?
‘coz I need heaven
Not quite as bad as Vogon poetry, a bit bit above Goth-O-Matic Poetry Generator quality, but not too far off, either.

And last April Fool's, I thought I'd take this bit of poetry in to my writing critique group and present it as my work as a gag.  I figured they'd recognize it, and we'd laugh...

...yeah, that was a dumb move.

Oh, it was funny as hell watching them struggle to come up with something vaguely positive to say (besides "It's typed well...").   And then they damn near beat the crap out of me when I revealed where it came from.

K.W. Taylor, aside from being one of the most pissed, also had the most brilliant idea.  "For next time," she said, "you have to rewrite this poem and make it your own.  And good."

 


So here's what I came up with.  It's not great - as the back cover of Bought Love is a Salaried Position points out, I don't write poetry.  But I think I met the challenge, and I present my version of Excalibur below for your enjoyment (or amusement).

But here's your challenge: Take a story or poem that you think was horrible.  Rework it until you make the story both your own and make it better.  

Excalibur
by Steven Saus

Acid rain drips from the gutters,
into gently steaming pocks in her leather jacket.
Her tears burn the flesh of my heart.

Into your ears I whisper my words,
promise loyalty and fidelity, offered like a knight's sword.
You shove my words away, through my chest.

Watery echoes and blurry vision,
I drown on my own promises, my own blood, my own heart's longing.
I do not breathe during our last embrace.

It is heaven.




1Something that I think has been lost with a lot of US satire, including Family Guy and American Dad.  They blur that line, so we're not always sure if we're laughing at Peter or laughing with him.  You can't make that mistake with David Brent.  You know he's not only a douchebag, but aspires to be a bigger douchebag.  (See:  Finchy)

2 comments :

Tom.A.Smith said...

I don't usually leave comments, but as I was looking for Brent's poem online I noticed your page and in reading it I couldn't help but notice that you've completely misinterpreted David Brent.

You say that "you are never, ever allowed to lose sight of the fact that David Brent (the boss in the UK original) is a horrible evil man." and in a post script to that point you say "Something that I think has been lost with a lot of US satire, including Family Guy and American Dad. They blur that line, so we're not always sure if we're laughing at Peter or laughing with him. You can't make that mistake with David Brent. You know he's not only a douchebag, but aspires to be a bigger douchebag. (See: Finchy)"

There are some parts of this I agree with, particularly the point that in US satire the line is blurred so sometimes you laugh with the person and sometimes at them.

However, while I agree with the fact that Brent is a douchebag (and this coupled with your comments on US satire would have be believe you're American) you miss the point when you say Brent is a horrible, evil man. Perhaps this misunderstanding is a cultural thing, but there's little chance that Brent would be considered a horrible, evil man by a Brit. Brent's biggest sin is that he wants to be popular and loved by his peers. For the most part, he's utterly harmless because the only person he's capable of doing harm to is himself. Probably the only nasty part of Brent's character is that Malcolm (Kojak) disappears between series 1 and series 2 and we're led to believe he was made redundant because David didn't like him/saw him as a threat. Everything else bad that David does is either gossip against those he sees as a threat (Neil) or try to make everyone love him by being a "cool" boss.

Beyond the Malcolm incident, Brent does little to embarrass or humiliate his subordinates. That would serve against his purposes. If you contrast that with Chris Finch on the other hand, who is absolutely a horrible evil man, he's friends with David purely for the purpose of humiliating him. The best example of this probably comes in the pub quiz episode but there's little that Finchy says to David in public that isn't designed to belittle him. We're led to assume that in private it would probably be a lot different and they'd share a joke or two, but Finchy knows Brent is a joke and he's willing to use that joke to suck up to those above him.

The genius of David Brent is that he exists in every workplace across the UK. I recall teachers who wanted to be popular and let you get away with anything. Sure, we liked them because we didn't have to work, but we never respected them. That is what David Brent is, he's somebody that wants to be liked without having to work hard for the respect that should come with being liked. He's lazy, needy and insecure and certainly not the type of chap you'd want as a friend, but he's not a horrible evil man.

I'm not even sure you'll ever read this post seeing as you made it three years ago, but it saddened me to think that you'd missed some of the true genius of The Office by thinking we're supposed to loathe Brent as a horrible evil man. We're not, we're supposed to pity him as a representation of an insecurity that exists everywhere. You may disagree, but even so I'd encourage you to rewatch with that interpretation in mind and it may reshape how you view the show.

Mark Shadbolt said...

I agree with @Tom.A.Smith. Came here for the same reason and was rather taken aback by your interpretation of Brent. He's basically just an annoying guy I think and this poem goes to show what a skewed self-perception he has! I liked your interpretation of the poem though, you took the sense that David probably thought he was conveying, though I'd guess he'd say it wasn't 'dope' enough because he thinks that would make him seem cooler?

Staying on your actual thought process though, I wonder if anyone has ever written a truly touching "Roses are red, violets are blue..." poem?