World

The great Greta rebrand

2 November 2021

7:30 PM

2 November 2021

7:30 PM

Steerpike is no prude but even he has been surprised by some of the blue language from green activists at COP. Temperatures are running high outside the official conference zone, where angel-faced iconoclast Greta Thunberg has been leading protestors in a chorus of ‘You can shove your climate crisis up your arse’ and telling her devoted followers that it is now time for ‘no more blah blah blah’ and ‘no more whatever the fuck they’re doing in there.’ All this a day after her performance on the Andrew Marr show when Thunberg told the veteran broadcaster she was ‘pissed off’ with world leaders.

So what is behind the sudden transformation from unimpeachable schoolgirl to foul-mouthed teen? Surely the answer is the tried and tested formula of Disney Club star gone bad. Like Miley Cyrus or Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan or Alyssa Milano, Thunberg is growing conspicuously more punk and sweary, as record labels do with child pop stars when they grow up. Make them say something rude or shocking to generate interest; the old persona is shed and a new identity adopted. After all, what is politics but showbiz by other means?

Greta in Govan @GretaThunberg pic.twitter.com/xK5s7V5q5L

— Peter Cassidy (@petercassidy20) November 1, 2021


Her mother was a Swedish Eurovision star and her father a feted actor: between them they nurtured the greatest cabaret act the world has ever seen. But after three years of worldwide domination, with presidents and prime ministers at her feet, Greta has hit a problem. Aged 18, she’s getting a bit old to carry off her ‘child clairvoyant’ act. The ‘school strike’ card is harder to play if you’re not at school. So now we are treated instead to her dancing to Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up, clenched fists raised high at the front of various demos, an adolescent exasperation with elected officials and profanity-peppered appearances before genuflecting journalists.

Like any great performer, Thunberg’s act has moved with the times. But what of the future? All artists run the risk of becoming stale and repetitive, forced to repeat their greatest hits while rapidly running out of new ways to shock, surprise and push creative boundaries. Will the same fate befall the Cassandra of Stockholm? Steerpike looks forward to seeing the next act in the life of Thunberg as she moves from adolescence into adulthood, with the vocabulary to match.

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