TV shows being cut or taken down for racism

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Bewildered
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Re: TV shows being cut or taken down for racism

Post by Bewildered » Fri Jun 12, 2020 6:27 pm

Vertigowooyay wrote:
Fri Jun 12, 2020 5:39 pm
It’s worth noting a lot of BLM voices on social media are saying that no-one has specifically asked for things like Fawlty Towers to be taken down*, and that the effect of it just makes them look unreasonable, strengthens knee jerk opposition against them and overshadows the actual aims of BLM like meaningful structural change in society. It shifts the discussion to censorship and away from talking about racism in modern Britain.


* it’s being done voluntarily by nervous broadcasters. It’d be more helpful if they looked at the massive under representation of BAME employees in their organizations.
Yes, and unfortunately it is perfect forum fodder, and much easier to discuss than the bigger issues...

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Re: TV shows being cut or taken down for racism

Post by Tessa K » Fri Jun 12, 2020 6:32 pm

Bewildered wrote:
Fri Jun 12, 2020 6:22 pm
Woodchopper wrote:
Fri Jun 12, 2020 4:02 pm
Martin Y wrote:
Fri Jun 12, 2020 3:11 pm

I don't understand that bit.

It was a joke. Woodchopper actually pointed out how the joke worked which I failed to do, but it was a joke and it got a laugh.
It did, but IMHO in that joke the audience isn't being invited to laugh at the major's racism. ETA the show isn't using laughter to ridicule a racist. Its making a joke out of racism via misdirection.
I have been struggling to understand how your (correct) explanation of the joke, could possibly fit with your earlier comment to Tessa. Now I see I think, but I strongly disagree. A crucial part of the misdirection is the expectation that someone would find the initial racism to be objectionable and specifically in the context of the series, iirc, I think you are supposed to think “ah even he objects to that” and then laugh *at* him when you realise no he is actually worse than you already thought.
He's not a racist. Oh wait he really is. That's hilarious.

Yes, there's the laughing with/laughing at defence as there was with Alf Garnett but too many people agreed with Alf and didn't realise he was supposed to be the butt of the jokes. Even saying certain words in a comedy context is now problematic.

Although it is important to discuss these things (which is why I started the thread) in a place like this where we can calmly (mostly) look at the issues, I am also concerned on a wider level that the debates/arguments around this and the statues can all too easily become a distraction from the main issues and polarise people even more.

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Re: TV shows being cut or taken down for racism

Post by bob sterman » Fri Jun 12, 2020 8:52 pm

This particular joke has been discussed for years...

E.g.
https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radi ... r-gowen-is
Cleese and Booth, when they wrote the character of Major Gowen, were clearly not being unthinkingly racist; rather, they were satirising an English upper-class bigot. The joke depends on the audience first thinking that, when the Major rebukes his companion "No, no, no", he is condemning her for inflammatory language, when it turns out that he is simply a particularly pedantic racist.

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Re: TV shows being cut or taken down for racism

Post by dyqik » Fri Jun 12, 2020 9:38 pm

The joke might have made very roughly the right point at the time it was broadcast, if you squint a bit.

But it can't work the same way now, because acceptable language has moved on so much further.

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Re: TV shows being cut or taken down for racism

Post by Bird on a Fire » Fri Jun 12, 2020 10:05 pm

As much as I think that joke is pretty acceptable and has the right target, if you get it, I think the shock of hearing those words used these days and the hurt they can potentially cause is reason enough to worry, and if we can't even agree about it in here I suspect that it might not play right with a fairly large chunk of potential audience, which is reason enough IMHO to suggest a ban.

I'd also find it really tricky to be gracious if I'd written that joke - you've got to find the balance of acknowledging why people might have a problem with it whole conveying clearly that it was never intended to be racist.
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Re: TV shows being cut or taken down for racism

Post by dyqik » Fri Jun 12, 2020 10:43 pm

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Fri Jun 12, 2020 10:05 pm
As much as I think that joke is pretty acceptable and has the right target, if you get it, I think the shock of hearing those words used these days and the hurt they can potentially cause is reason enough to worry, and if we can't even agree about it in here I suspect that it might not play right with a fairly large chunk of potential audience, which is reason enough IMHO to suggest a ban.

I'd also find it really tricky to be gracious if I'd written that joke - you've got to find the balance of acknowledging why people might have a problem with it whole conveying clearly that it was never intended to be racist.
I think I'm in violent agreement with you here.

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Re: TV shows being cut or taken down for racism

Post by Boustrophedon » Sat Jun 13, 2020 5:59 am

Whilst I can't prove it, the addition of a canned laugh track was not, nor has ever been BBC practice, instead they filmed most of the show in front of an audience or recorded audience response to filmed material. If there is laughter it's because an audience found it funny.

David Mitchell on studio laughter:
A Dose Of David Mitchell

I still find it funny, but then I am of "an age". As for acceptability I cannot really judge: It's the difference between say John Cleese as writer and actor and Johnny Speight writing Alf Garnett, in Til Death us do Part. Neither Cleese nor Speight were racist, Cleese has a lot of targets for his humour Speight had one, Basil Fawlty skirted the edge, Alf Garnett threw himself over it. The Major is a small incidental character, Garnett is the main one. Those of a lesser intellect might think that Alf Garnett was encouraging bigotry asking them to laugh along with him. You can get laughter out of saying something shocking once and maybe get away with it in context, to do it again and again ad nauseam is less acceptable.
It is clear in the clip that Basil is aghast at the Major, in Alf Garnett there is less reaction on screen to say "this is unacceptable".
...zoologically improbable and/or terrifying to small children.

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Re: TV shows being cut or taken down for racism

Post by Bewildered » Sat Jun 13, 2020 6:53 am

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Fri Jun 12, 2020 10:05 pm
As much as I think that joke is pretty acceptable and has the right target, if you get it, I think the shock of hearing those words used these days and the hurt they can potentially cause is reason enough to worry, and if we can't even agree about it in here I suspect that it might not play right with a fairly large chunk of potential audience, which is reason enough IMHO to suggest a ban.

I'd also find it really tricky to be gracious if I'd written that joke - you've got to find the balance of acknowledging why people might have a problem with it whole conveying clearly that it was never intended to be racist.
I think the question of what the joke meant should be separated from the question of what to do with anti-racist jokes that use racist language, from the question of what the joke actually means and whether it is anti-racist or not (and from the related question of what to do about jokes that assume a broadly anti-racist attitude to make a joke that contains racist words but maybe doing that more as an excuse for shock value humour). I say this, because to me the joke seems very clearly anti-racist and the people who wrote it seem to have said that was the intent. It may be that once again communication is tricky and lots of people can read things in very different ways, but I do wonder if people are also a bit motivated to read the joke as racist now, because then they don’t need to think about the messier questions of what to do when it is an anti-racist joke but some people still find the racist language upsetting.


As above I am worried this whole discussion is a bit of a distraction from what black voices are actually calling for, which for the most part are an end to fairly clear cut abuses of police power against black people, and the removal of statues commemorating racist mass murderers. But this is natural forum fodder, as a philosophically difficult case. I appreciate people may find the words upsetting and there should probably be consideration on whether using that language and upsetting people is worth making the cutting remark to mock racisim and show it as absurd. It may well be that while it was worth doing at the time, it is not worth doing now because the offences has gone up and the relevance of the argument has changed because the nature and understanding of racist problems in society have changed. so then it can just be cut. I feel it should be up to the artist to make that decision, though of course that’s not how tv or film industries work in general.

In general for these kind of questions, I have some (not particularly well thought out currently) concerns about
- removing the weapons comedians have to tackle racism with
- sending inconsistent messages to right wing people, if it’s the word itself that is the problem then should it never be said etc and you have to explain in a rather complicated way why it is needed in some cases
- I don’t like giving support to the faux outrage of Fox News when Obama used it etc, or supporters of trump more outraged that a white person quoted a racist saying it to expose them, than they are that trump is racist and is hiring racist people
- if we want to avoid triggering upset and hurt, which I do understand, I sometimes wonder if to be consistent then I should moderate my stance on stuff that upsets conservatives, like pissing on or burning flags, swearing and vulgarities etc, expressions like “I shat myself” for getting a fright, which my generation used repeatedly and the older generation found upsetting.

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Re: TV shows being cut or taken down for racism

Post by Tessa K » Sat Jun 13, 2020 7:17 am

The episode has been reinstated with a warning at the start.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-53032895

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Re: TV shows being cut or taken down for racism

Post by Woodchopper » Sat Jun 13, 2020 9:42 am

Bird on a Fire, Bewildered

I still have a different take. Humour is subjective so there is no right or wrong. But as this is an interesting discussion I'll explain my point of view.

It seems to me that your interpretation that the audience is being invited to laugh at the racist works for contemporary viewers. But it seems to me that it would have been viewed very differently 45 years ago.

Firstly, a contemporary audience might find the Major's language to be startling (either because they are offended by racism, or because they know that people aren't supposed to say that sort of thing in public). But back then what we would regard as racism was normal and routine. Britain had only just granted independence to the last of its African colonies. On TV blackface was prime time BBC TV entertainment, even the edgy innovative comedians ridiculed racial stereotypes, Afl Garnet wasn't an outlier, there were lots of other popular TV shows which encouraged the audience to laugh at persons of colour (who were often played by blacked up or browned up white actors).

Secondly, as far as I remember it, in Fawlty Towers the Major's character was an earlier version of nice but dim. He was the butt of some jokes, eg thinking that the Moose head can talk, but on the whole he's genial.

I was too young to appreciate Faulty Towers when it first aired, but later on in the 70s and early 80s it wasn't unusual to hear the language used by the Major being said casually. Those terms wouldn't have surprised people. It was how very many white people talked.

So I just view the joke as another piece of casual racism.

I doubt that Cleese and Booth were racists, its more a matter of not having a problem with things that were normal at the time.

But as mentioned, its all subjective, so my view isn't any more right than yours.

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Re: TV shows being cut or taken down for racism

Post by Tessa K » Sat Jun 13, 2020 9:59 am

Woodchopper wrote:
Sat Jun 13, 2020 9:42 am

I doubt that Cleese and Booth were racists, its more a matter of not having a problem with things that were normal at the time.

But as mentioned, its all subjective, so my view isn't any more right than yours.
Let's assume that they weren't overtly racist but they are still writing and performing from a position of white privilege where they don't have to think about the wider implications of their work because they are not part of the group affected. And yes, most white people back then didn't think in those terms but we do.

As with the statues and people's response to them being knocked down or defaced, times change. It's not rewriting or censoring or hiding the past, it's quite the opposite, it's re-evaluating based on where we are now. The past isn't a job lot we in the present have to accept wholesale.

Humour is subjective but racism isn't. There's a difference between subjectivity and the way attitudes change over time.

I'm not having a go at you, just expanding on what you wrote.

I just found this, which does strongly imply that Cleese conflates English with white.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfr ... ion-empire
Some years ago I opined that London was not really an English city any more,” is how John Cleese began a tweet on Wednesday. “Since then, virtually all my friends from abroad have confirmed my observation.” When eight long years ago he made a similar claim, he gave us the unabridged version. “I’m not sure what’s going on in Britain,” he said while appearing on an Australian TV programme. “Let me say this, I don’t know what’s going on in London because London is no longer an English city
and
He moved from his home in the UK to Nevis in the Carribbean ... adding that he enjoys life there where it is ‘safe and beautiful.
https://www.independent.ie/entertainmen ... 00845.html

(if it's relevant, he was also pro-Brexit)

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Re: TV shows being cut or taken down for racism

Post by jimbob » Sat Jun 13, 2020 11:21 am

dyqik wrote:
Fri Jun 12, 2020 10:43 pm
Bird on a Fire wrote:
Fri Jun 12, 2020 10:05 pm
As much as I think that joke is pretty acceptable and has the right target, if you get it, I think the shock of hearing those words used these days and the hurt they can potentially cause is reason enough to worry, and if we can't even agree about it in here I suspect that it might not play right with a fairly large chunk of potential audience, which is reason enough IMHO to suggest a ban.

I'd also find it really tricky to be gracious if I'd written that joke - you've got to find the balance of acknowledging why people might have a problem with it whole conveying clearly that it was never intended to be racist.
I think I'm in violent agreement with you here.
Yup.

About the only example I can think of where it's obvious that the character is racist and that it is a bad thing is the Father Ted episode. But I don't know what I would think about that if I was Chinese.
Have you considered stupidity as an explanation

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Re: TV shows being cut or taken down for racism

Post by bob sterman » Sat Jun 13, 2020 11:46 am

Tessa K wrote:
Sat Jun 13, 2020 9:59 am
I just found this, which does strongly imply that Cleese conflates English with white.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfr ... ion-empire
Some years ago I opined that London was not really an English city any more,” is how John Cleese began a tweet on Wednesday. “Since then, virtually all my friends from abroad have confirmed my observation.” When eight long years ago he made a similar claim, he gave us the unabridged version. “I’m not sure what’s going on in Britain,” he said while appearing on an Australian TV programme. “Let me say this, I don’t know what’s going on in London because London is no longer an English city
...
(if it's relevant, he was also pro-Brexit)
Not sure where this necessarily implies that Cleese conflates English and white (unless that is obvious from some other comments he's made).

If you link his pro-Brexit stance with his complaint that London "is no longer an English city" it could just as easily be assumed that he's referring to the (approximately 1,000,000) EU nationals living in London - and shaping its culture (for the better many people would say - but perhaps not Cleese).

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Re: TV shows being cut or taken down for racism

Post by individualmember » Sat Jun 13, 2020 12:01 pm

One thing I loved about London when I moved down here in the 1980s is how unlike other English cities it is. One could have said it isn’t an English city 35 years ago in a certain sense.

Anyway, just to widen things out from Flowery tw.ts, a while back my mother bought me a DVD set of It Ain’t Half Hot Mum. I recall enjoying that as a child/teenager (it may be relevant that I grew up in a part of the country where I never saw a human being with a different skin colour to me except on tv) but jeezusfukinhaichchrist that is so full of racism...

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Re: TV shows being cut or taken down for racism

Post by jimbob » Sat Jun 13, 2020 12:25 pm

individualmember wrote:
Sat Jun 13, 2020 12:01 pm
One thing I loved about London when I moved down here in the 1980s is how unlike other English cities it is. One could have said it isn’t an English city 35 years ago in a certain sense.

Anyway, just to widen things out from Flowery tw.ts, a while back my mother bought me a DVD set of It Ain’t Half Hot Mum. I recall enjoying that as a child/teenager (it may be relevant that I grew up in a part of the country where I never saw a human being with a different skin colour to me except on tv) but jeezusfukinhaichchrist that is so full of racism...
Yes that's what casual racism looked like then.

I remember seeing the opening part of it, and the bad Indian accent guy narrating it. I don't think I watched any episode. It made me uneasy, just as Allo Allo did.
Have you considered stupidity as an explanation

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Re: TV shows being cut or taken down for racism

Post by individualmember » Sat Jun 13, 2020 12:50 pm

jimbob wrote:
Sat Jun 13, 2020 12:25 pm
Yes that's what casual racism looked like then.

I remember seeing the opening part of it, and the bad Indian accent guy narrating it. I don't think I watched any episode. It made me uneasy, just as Allo Allo did.
IIRC the actor who was blacked-up (ok indianed-up) was pretty right wing. He got into real arguments with the other actors in Last Of The Summer Wine over his admiration for Enoch Powell, etc, and only lasted one series.

I’ve never minded Allo Allo much, I’ve seen a couple of episodes on freeview recently and find it very silly, but not really racist because everyone is being mocked.

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Re: TV shows being cut or taken down for racism

Post by individualmember » Sat Jun 13, 2020 1:01 pm

Ffs
Last edited by individualmember on Sat Jun 13, 2020 1:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: TV shows being cut or taken down for racism

Post by individualmember » Sat Jun 13, 2020 1:02 pm

Dang, duplicate again. Please excuse me, typing on a tablet while having greasy fingers from eating salami.

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Re: TV shows being cut or taken down for racism

Post by Martin Y » Sat Jun 13, 2020 1:18 pm

Although we squirm at a white actor playing an Indian comic character, and I can vaguely remember finding it a little embarrassing at the time, I've seen it reported that the accent was thought pretty well observed by older British Indians.

(I have no idea how horrible the actor was IRL.)

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Re: TV shows being cut or taken down for racism

Post by Bewildered » Sat Jun 13, 2020 1:19 pm

jimbob wrote:
Sat Jun 13, 2020 11:21 am
dyqik wrote:
Fri Jun 12, 2020 10:43 pm
Bird on a Fire wrote:
Fri Jun 12, 2020 10:05 pm
As much as I think that joke is pretty acceptable and has the right target, if you get it, I think the shock of hearing those words used these days and the hurt they can potentially cause is reason enough to worry, and if we can't even agree about it in here I suspect that it might not play right with a fairly large chunk of potential audience, which is reason enough IMHO to suggest a ban.

I'd also find it really tricky to be gracious if I'd written that joke - you've got to find the balance of acknowledging why people might have a problem with it whole conveying clearly that it was never intended to be racist.
I think I'm in violent agreement with you here.
Yup.

About the only example I can think of where it's obvious that the character is racist and that it is a bad thing is the Father Ted episode. But I don't know what I would think about that if I was Chinese.
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Re: TV shows being cut or taken down for racism

Post by Trinucleus » Sat Jun 13, 2020 1:21 pm

Tessa K wrote:
Sat Jun 13, 2020 7:17 am
The episode has been reinstated with a warning at the start.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-53032895
If it's the Germans one, the other bit that made me cringe then, never mind now, was Fawlty's reaction to seeing a black doctor. No major there.

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Re: TV shows being cut or taken down for racism

Post by Woodchopper » Sat Jun 13, 2020 3:03 pm

Martin Y wrote:
Sat Jun 13, 2020 1:18 pm
Although we squirm at a white actor playing an Indian comic character, and I can vaguely remember finding it a little embarrassing at the time, I've seen it reported that the accent was thought pretty well observed by older British Indians.

(I have no idea how horrible the actor was IRL.)
That’s probably because he lived in India as a child as his father was a colonial administrator.

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Re: TV shows being cut or taken down for racism

Post by Tessa K » Sat Jun 13, 2020 3:36 pm

bob sterman wrote:
Sat Jun 13, 2020 11:46 am
Tessa K wrote:
Sat Jun 13, 2020 9:59 am
I just found this, which does strongly imply that Cleese conflates English with white.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfr ... ion-empire
Some years ago I opined that London was not really an English city any more,” is how John Cleese began a tweet on Wednesday. “Since then, virtually all my friends from abroad have confirmed my observation.” When eight long years ago he made a similar claim, he gave us the unabridged version. “I’m not sure what’s going on in Britain,” he said while appearing on an Australian TV programme. “Let me say this, I don’t know what’s going on in London because London is no longer an English city
...
(if it's relevant, he was also pro-Brexit)
Not sure where this necessarily implies that Cleese conflates English and white (unless that is obvious from some other comments he's made).

If you link his pro-Brexit stance with his complaint that London "is no longer an English city" it could just as easily be assumed that he's referring to the (approximately 1,000,000) EU nationals living in London - and shaping its culture (for the better many people would say - but perhaps not Cleese).
Yes, elsewhere too. It's not a surefire indicator but very often when a white person says English (rather than British) they mean white.

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Re: TV shows being cut or taken down for racism

Post by tom p » Mon Jun 15, 2020 12:07 pm

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Fri Jun 12, 2020 10:05 pm
As much as I think that joke is pretty acceptable and has the right target, if you get it, I think the shock of hearing those words used these days and the hurt they can potentially cause is reason enough to worry, and if we can't even agree about it in here I suspect that it might not play right with a fairly large chunk of potential audience, which is reason enough IMHO to suggest a ban.
I think you're overestimating the ability of our fellow scrutineers to get a joke.

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Re: TV shows being cut or taken down for racism

Post by tom p » Mon Jun 15, 2020 12:09 pm

individualmember wrote:
Sat Jun 13, 2020 12:50 pm
jimbob wrote:
Sat Jun 13, 2020 12:25 pm
Yes that's what casual racism looked like then.

I remember seeing the opening part of it, and the bad Indian accent guy narrating it. I don't think I watched any episode. It made me uneasy, just as Allo Allo did.
IIRC the actor who was blacked-up (ok indianed-up) was pretty right wing. He got into real arguments with the other actors in Last Of The Summer Wine over his admiration for Enoch Powell, etc, and only lasted one series.

I’ve never minded Allo Allo much, I’ve seen a couple of episodes on freeview recently and find it very silly, but not really racist because everyone is being mocked.
Well, if by "everyone", you mean cowardly sex-mad froggies, effeminate poofters and overemotional stupid italians, then yeah, "everyone" was being mocked.

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