Thursday 15 March 2012

Let's laugh at other people

First they came for the Gypsy weddings, but I did nothing for I am not a Gypsy who is getting married...

Actually, no, that's not true. But I was able to do what any reasonable person would do when faced with a great theatre of finger-pointing, snuckering, prejudicial, sub-school playground bollocks on television and paid it no mind, least alone actually watch it. Perhaps it was just an aberration? Perhaps some prankster slipped PCP into the complimentary muffin basket before the schedulers' meeting?

But no. Because next they came for the Jewish mothers. This time, I am doing something, even though I am neither Jewish nor a mother. So, this is going to be an ongoing series of programmes based on crass, lazy, racist stereotypes, is it? On British national television. In 2012. On Channel 4.

Channel 4, I expected better of you. I don't know why, after you brought us My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding but I don't know, perhaps I had some residual good feeling towards you? And perhaps I will retain a little residue of that residue after My Really Really Jewish Jewish Mother, right in time for Britain's Most Curry-Smelling Pakistani Household or whatever masterstroke you come up with to follow this? Although this time, I suspect not. Once was very, very definitely enough.

I am trying to imagine the full horror of this programme. The makers say they're after the "ultimate Jewish mother". I see absolutely no way around that not being a completely overt admission of racist intent. For me, a human being, I would imagine the thing which really makes anyone stand out as a Jewish mother would be: one, Judaism; two, being a woman and three, having a child. Anything beyond that is just going to be straight out of the sketchbook of Josef Goebbels. Perhaps the winner will have a big nose and circumcise their children with their gold teeth, whilst making matzah balls? Who knows? It's bound to be compelling television.

My friend Lolly, who you probably remember from these pages, comes from a Jewish family - a fact that I am sure a number of elements behind the scenes at Channel 4 may find completely unbelievable to note that I don't hold against her - and was saying on Twitter this morning that she was trying to express exactly what it was about this programme she found so loathsome but couldn't find the right words. I suggested that "lazy, stereotypical, exploitative racist garbage" might be a good starting point. "BUT you see," she replied, "there will be a MASSIVE proportion of the community who will relish it and love it."

This is the sad truth. The majority of people in this country are bloody idiots, I'm afraid, and will lap this up. To be fair to most of them, I reckon at least 90% are too stupid to even realise that there is a whole questionable element of racial sensitivity and would be terribly upset if anyone considered them to be racists, because they are not. But all you need are 10% of people to be truly malign, eh? It is the result, as Lolly pointed out, of fishing in a very small gene pool - which with the ultimate irony is precisely what the rogue 10% accuse the Jewish, or Asian, or whoever else, community of Great Britain of engaging in. Indeed, it is a way of thinking that is the motivating factor behind this whole initiative, whether people like to admit it or not.

I personally would rather have a gene pool limited by race; containing dimwits and geniuses, binmen, park keepers, scientists, newsagents, chefs, musicians, businessmen, politicians... than a gene pool where the sole characteristic required for inclusion is nothing but blinkered stupidity, fear and hate. But perhaps that's just me, who knows?

I think everyone should be ashamed and angry that this programme could even be mooted, in our time and in our society, let alone made. I know I am.


McTodd said...

As a gay man I can't wait for Channel 4's 'My Big Gym Bunny Camp As Christmas Civil Partnership' as there's nothing I like more than seeing skinny bitchy queens who make John Inman look like Arnold Schwarzeneggar on primetime telly.

Roll on Channel 4 and its postpostpostmodern irony...


Anonymous said...

What's the difference between a Jewish mother and a Rottweiler?
Rottweiler's eventually let go.

Luke said...

I think that you've made a very good point - that we should not put up with programming that promotes, or even just fails to condemn, racism - but I also feel that you've prematurely jumped to a conclusion and thereby missed the mark.

You assert that the programmes are based on "crass, lazy, racist stereotypes" when really they are just exaggerated racial stereotypes. Stereotyping and racism should not be considered the same thing - otherwise you indict whole swathes of comedy and drama programmes, films, books, jokes etc. in the process.

In the case of the Gypsy Wedding series, the programmes featured real people and real events and to refer to them as "crass" would actually be considered crass to those people themselves as they are very proud of the way they behave. It could only be considered prejudiced if it was purporting to represent all gypsy weddings, but it doesn't. Instead if provides both an opportunity for one cultural group to show how and explain why they perform their celebrations and ceremonies in the manner that they do, and also an opportunity for everyone else to observe something they otherwise would not be able to. The programme makers should strive to remain objective and neutral and if they don't should be held accountable.

Now, you freely admit that you've never watched the Gypsy Wedding series and the Jewish mother series hasn't been screened yet, so your opinions can *only* be based on prejudice and conjecture - which are the very things you are railing against.

What gets my goat up a bit is that you've even gone further and made some crass stuff up to support your argument: "Perhaps the winner will have a big nose and circumcise their children with their gold teeth, whilst making matzah balls?" and "Britain's Most Curry-Smelling Pakistani Household" - the programme makers didn't come up with this offensive stuff, you just did.

Maybe the people who made My Really Really Jewish Jewish Mother really are a bunch of racist bigots who want to cultivate a prejudiced hatred so let's watch it and if we find that's the case then let's do something about it. But to lambast them beforehand makes you no better than what you claim to be fighting.



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