Above image by Everett Collection / Shutterstock.com
When I was about six years old my parents took me to go and see a magician for my birthday. Incidentally this was in the 90s when everything aimed at children had to be explicitly educational, so unfortunately most of the show was dedicated to mathematics. Towards the end of the show the magician, a middle aged choleric type who gave one the impression that he had just suffered a wheezing fit, got a few kids including myself, up on the stage to take part in the big finale.
When he came to me with his microphone I mostly fretted with the hem of my t-shirt and chirruped a few one-word answers, and the other kids weren’t much better. That was until he got to a young boy called Sean from Liverpool, who proceeded to light the place up for the next five minutes or so, speaking at length with the magician about his observations during his holiday down South. All the kids who got up on stage could hardly be called timid, but what set us apart from Sean was that he had authentic charisma, whereas in the South of England it is a trait nearing extinction.
I concede that to speak of a noun so abstract as charisma is extremely vague, so let us say that for arguments sake it is ‘compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others.’ Now taking this definition as a rubric, try and apply it to any person from the South of England who exists in the ether of public consciousness.
Take Jude Law for example. In terms of critical acclaim and bankability I would say that he’s currently the foremost actor that hails from the South of England, but in my opinion he lacks the charisma needed to shoulder the responsibility of a main role. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as Law has arguably done his best work as a supporting actor, and this is where us southerners are best suited in the public sphere, as supporting actors, who facilitate charisma without necessarily exuding it. There’s good reason for this too, and I’ll address this presently.
There are those who will obviously endeavor to break the mold, yet they can be approximated into the following three archetypes:
Slimy sociopaths – although it pains me to admit that they are charismatic, I would put the likes of David Cameron, Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, and George Osborne, Simon Cowell, Piers Morgan.
Morons – these people are similar in most regards to the first group, yet are relatively harmless, normally aspiring to become famous. To name a few; Joey Essex, Rylan Clarke, Jeff Brazier…
Geezers – this is the kind of guy who props up the bar at your Dad’s local pub and gives you a hard time about asking for red wine. In a moment of weakness he’d be able to convince you to store some of his gear in your garage, which ends up staying there for almost three years now because you’re too scared to throw it away lest he should kick off and make you buy him a new gear. He’s charismatic, but essentially a bully.
I think what these three share is a lack of authenticity somehow. We question their motives in a manner to which their northern contemporaries would be spared. For me nothing encapsulates this better than Game of Thrones with the contrast between the Starks and the Lannisters. They are fictional characters of course, but it’s implicitly agreed that the northerners should be genuine and earnest, whereas the southerners are deceitful and cruel despite the fact that they are all power hungry feudal overlords. The point is we instinctively refuse to trust a charismatic southerner, so it should come as no great surprise that the Dr. Watson role has become so endemic in the South of England.