Edward Hopper’s painting Nighthawks reimagined by Doug Pledger
By Larry Jaffee
London artist Doug Pledger has found an unusual muse in Phil Mitchell, and his memes dedicated to the EastEnders hard man often go viral in social media, collected at www.utterphilth.com.
Pledger, whose other artwork is showcased at www.douggy.com, graciously shared insight into why he pays homage to someone who many fans consider to be an Albert Square menace.
Walford Gazette: What was the catalyst for using Phil Mitchell as a muse, and how old is the site?
Doug Pledger: About 10 to 15 years ago, I did a few jokey photoshopped images of Phil, in fake film posters and what not, just to send to mates, and over the years have done a few here and there. My friend osymyso had also dabbled in messing with EastEnders, having made a musical track ‘Pat and Peg’ which had done the rounds in the late 1990s. We thought we’d rub our brains together and do a few more bits and pieces and make a website – Utter Philth, which we started in March 2016. Osymyso does the music for the videos, and I do all the designs/cartoons/photoshop stuff along with the video editing. It caught on pretty quickly thanks to the Facebook page, and kind of took off overnight. We haven’t made a single penny from it, but it sure is a laugh.
WG: But why Phil?
DP: I think the fact that Steve McFadden is the only actor in EastEnders who doesn’t do that much in the way of interviews/chat shows gives an air of mystery about him, almost like he really is Phil. He’s great to plonk into different situations, as he has various traits that work really well for comedy/tragedy. He’s famously angry, confused and sad, never really that happy… unless he’s drunk or doing someone over. He’s certainly the best thing about the show, by a million country miles.
WG: Have you received any recognition from the BBC of your Utter Philth efforts?
DP: The BBC certainly know about Utter Philth as I have worked freelance for the EastEnders social media department; this was before Philth took over. I did a bunch of non-Phil-related images and designs, which were used on their Facebook/Instagram/Twitter etc. They did post a few of the early Utter Philth images but due to some of the stuff being pretty backward and just plain odd, they haven’t embraced it that much. This has all taken off in a weird direction now anyway. We like the idea of creating an alternate Phil Mitchell. One who’s scared of Kermit and has a sick Rubik’s Cube addiction.
WG: How many Utter Philth memes have you created?
DP: The amount of ‘memes’, as you say, so far I think there are more than 100 photos and 23 videos. There are also probably about that many again that’ll never see the light of day as they’re either too awful or just too unholy.
WG: What is the thought process behind creating such a meme?
DP: There isn’t really a thought process on any of this. Things just pop into your head, mostly due to what clips and photos surface. It’s a lot easier getting ideas from watching and looking rather than having an idea, then spending all day looking for a photo where he’d look good on a skateboard, for example.
WG: Why do you do it?
DP: FUN. Nobody’s paying us to do any of this, so it’s more like a hobby. The fact that it’s being banded around the web is just icing on the cake. I’ve been doing stuff like this forever, for the love of making stuff.
WG: If you met Steve McFadden, and he realized Utter Philth was your creation, what would you say to him?
DP: If I met Phil, I mean Steve, I would go weak at the knees probably because he’d be breaking them. Has he even seen it? I have no idea. I’d have to say hello though, shake his hand and check out that thumb of his. You know what… up until recently I couldn’t stand the guy, not Steve, but Phil. It’s only been this year I think and that he’s gotten older, that I’ve realised how fucking brilliant he is. Always known he’s a great actor and admired his skill but never really took to him. Maybe because when he was younger he was just this “well ’ard thug,” but now, he’s kind of still that, but he’s more of a character. But maybe that’s always been there. As I said before, I don’t really watch the show so I’m not really the best person to judge. Would love to have a drink with him though.
WG: Have you received any acknowledgment from Steve?
DP: My fiancée Caroline went to school with his son and is friends with him on Facebook. She said one day, “Oh look! Matt’s liked one of your Phil videos” so we know his son’s seen it … that’s as close to the holy grail we’ve got.
WG: To what extent do you watch the show for ideas?
DP: I have a one-year-old daughter, so I don’t really get much time to watch TV outside of CBeebies, but I do try to skim through the EastEnders episodes on the BBC iPlayer to see if Phil’s been in it. To be honest, I don’t watch the show, I see bits and pieces here and there, but I really couldn’t tell you what three quarters of the characters are called or what they’ve been up to. I’m just about up to date with Phil, but haven’t seen any of this week. Osymyso is the same, but I think between us we manage to keep on top of things. I do get told from time to time by people… “Doug, did you see EE last night, Phil was on form.” It’s good to have these informants.
WG: How many social media followers does Utter Philth have?
DP: Facebook has 57,740 followers and the videos have millions of hits. Is that good? Sounds good … but then you might find a page dedicated to a snowman that has double that, I’m really not that clued up on all this. The fans on there are great though, the best, they’ve really taken to the nutty stuff.