I ended up watching the last series of Sex and the City on DVD last night and wondered how, after many years, six series and huge popularity, the actresses involved would have managed to enjoy any sort of success in other roles. In particular I wondered how Kim Cattrall, the Scouse-born actress who plays serial shagger Samantha Jones, could ever appear in anything again in her career without everyone watching expecting her to sleep with every male character.
There is, of course, nothing new in such heavy typecasting risk – we could easily call this the Spock factor. No matter how many other films he appeared in or documentaries he fronted Leonard Nimoy never lost his identification with the Star Trek character. In fact Nimoy wrote two autobiographies – one in 1977 optimistically called ‘I am Not Spock’ and then one 18 years later which he gave the more realistic title of ‘I am Spock’.
So, to get to the point. Do politicians also suffer from excessive identification with a particular role? Of course they do and I’d venture that the Samantha Jones effect could have an impact on British politics. Jack Straw may be trying to reinvent himself at the moment but he will probably always be the Foreign Secretary who took us to war in Iraq. David Blunkett had several positions in cabinet but he will likely always be the blind home secretary.
If I were in Gordon Brown’s inner-circle I would be giving this factor some serious thought. We all know who Brown is – he is the Chancellor, the Scottish bloke who always wanted Blair’s job. It seems like he has been in that role forever and it is almost as hard to imagine him in another guise as it is to picture Samantha Jones, I mean Kim Cattrall, in the Sound of Music.
The bad news for the Liberal Democrats is that Menzies Campbell may struggle to escape from his typecasting as a guest/co-presenter on the Today Programme. But here is a worrying thought – who is David Cameron? He is that young new leader of the Conservative Party. Nothing else comes to mind.
The Labour alternatives to Brown? Alan Johnson hasn’t been around at the top long enough to get role-identified and John Reid has changed jobs so often and so quickly that his instant-recognition is just that tough-sounding, hard-looking bald-headed bloke.
But what can Brown do? Unlike Kim Cattrall he can’t just start wearing jeans and a tee-shirt and let his hair go a bit. Can he?