Picture this. President Reagan sat on Air Force One, reading a book. He appears engrossed. But wait, who’s that lying in a bed behind him? It’s Max Branning from East Enders. Hang on, what’s that book the late President is reading? It’s Pat Butcher’s autobiography.
Welcome to the world of McFadden’s Cold War, the funniest account on Twitter. A bricolage of modern global politics and British television – where Cilla Black is able to sit and have Christmas dinner with Kim Jong-un, where Khruschev and Eisenhower ride the streets of Washington with a young Sam Allardyce and a topless Cliff Richard. Present in most of these images, somewhere, often in a state of disarray is East Enders long suffering alcoholic wannabe gangster Phil Mitchell (as played by Steve McFadden).
McFadden’s Cold War should be Unit 101 in any Postmodernism Studies course. Disparate images, times and cultural references are thrown together in order to both reflect the fragmented nature of society and the instant accessibility of all knowledge that the internet has afforded 21st century man.
An image of Kim Il Jung and his generals watching a successful missile launch is subverted utterly by the replacement of the on screen warhead with an image of Nick Knowles mouth-turding his way through one of his songs. Reagan’s Cabinet pose for a photo, suddenly with Harold Shipman and distressed murder suspect Christopher Jeffries amongst their number, a juxtaposition jarring enough but given extra power by the realisation that they are posing beneath a large photo of a leering Dean Gaffney. This is Orwell via Wellard.
McFadden’s Cold War plays with ideas of cultureme, chronotopes and the like in a manner of a great sorcerer. In juxtaposing the worlds of pop culture and realpolitik, he anticipated the televisual celebrity cult of President Trump. Fictional drunks become players on the world stage, statesmen are reduced to mere citizens, drinkers at the Queen Vic, readers of TV Times. It is this pricking of pomposity at all levels that makes the pleasingly anonymous MCW such a wonderful fountain of deep belly laughter.