Buster Friendly

Long long ago when the world was young, or I was, anyway, instead of more usefully reading Sociology texts I used to go to Bath market and raid the second-hand bookstall. Along with far, far too many Joseph Wambaugh LA cop tales, I read the book that lead to the film Bladerunner, which back in the day, I used to watch on video cassette, over and over again, quite often with the sound off and Queen on the CD player, while I attempted to maneuver someone or other onto my Finsbury Park futon. What girl could possibly resist that kind of allure, other than a fair few of them who managed to do that very well indeed?

Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?

It’s set, like Bladerunner, in a dystopian future. I know. Sci-fi. Imagine my surprise, too. But the thing that I’ve always remembered about the book was something that wasn’t in the film. Buster Friendly.

In an entirely imaginary world where millions of people sat on their arses doing nothing all day long watching TV, Buster was the putative host of the massively audienced show, Buster Friendly And His Friendly Friends. At breakfast time Buster would interview an actress about the film she was about to make. It didn’t help that I always imagined (that’s the thing you can do with books. Who knew?) the actress to be pretty much Cupid Stunt, Kenny Everett’s creation in whose films all of her clothes routinely fell off, but only, as she said, “in the best possible taste.”

Around about lunchtime Buster would interview the actress about the film she was making. You’ve guessed it, probably. In the evening Buster Friendly would interview the actress about the film she’d just made.

The central character in the book slowly comes to realise there is no film being made. There never was a film being made. There is no film that is going to be made. And it doesn’t matter, because people don’t want the film. Nobody has any interest at all in the film, which never existed even as a pitch anyway. What they want, in their tens of millions, is hype. Chatter, banter, noise. Fake debate, exactly the same as “Will Trump Go To Jail?”

To which the answer is always: Grow up. Of course he won’t, whatever he’s done. Presidents never, ever do. Didn’t you know that? How old are you? And you’re still asking questions like that?

Buddy Holly died more than twenty years before Bladerunner came out, but he got it exactly right for then and for now.

It really doesn’t matter anymore. Buster Friendly and his Friendly Friends – all of them replicants, androids, skin-jobs, all of them totally detectable as the one thing they couldn’t replicate was empathy – still get all the airtime we need them to have.

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