The human corps

Molly Flatt

Hugh Laurie recently explained that, 124 episodes into the TV drama House, he's still surprised that the world adores his irascible medic character so loyally. “I still like him very, very much. I know he has problems, and he is not necessarily a good man,” he said.

But I realised long ago that one doesn't only like good people. Sometimes one doesn't even like good people.”

Most of us realised this long ago too. We don't like our friends because they are inherently good, or funny, or clever, or cheap (I enjoy watching Bono, Jack Dee, Stephen Hawking and Katie Price, but I wouldn't ask any of them to dinner). We like them because their traits – both good and bad, from vulnerability to passion – make us feel better about our own, and suggest a unique, multifaceted consciousness with which we can share and grow.

Become part of a corporation, and we somehow forget this. Faced with newly empowered consumers demanding 'transparency' and 'personality', brands conclude that they need to portray themselves as good, funny, clever or cheap – by talking about just how good, and funny, and clever and cheap they are. After all, this is the age of word-of-mouth, right?