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Finding repeats of ‘Til Death us Do Part’, starring the excellent Warren Mitchell as dyed in the wool racist, Alf Garnett, is virtually impossible these days.
I seem to recall, some years ago, The BBC stating that, minority groups would be offended by such a thing on their televisions.
I assumed the term ‘minority groups’ applied to people of color, in this instance, rather than pop groups with a very small fan base.
The BBC might as well have said “People of color are too stupid to understand” – now if that isn’t offensive I don’t know what is!
You see, Alf Garnett was a dyed in the wool racist – particularly against African Caribbeans. The character was portrayed as an East Londoner who was about as bigoted as you could be.
The program actually made him – and by association – all color prejudiced and racist people – look like complete idiots. Yes, it was funny but, you weren’t laughing along with Alf, you were laughing at him and, again, by association, at anyone who held nonsensical prejudices against somebody just because they had a suntan.
Another popular program from yesteryear has also fallen foul of the politically correct brigade. A program called ‘It Ain’t Half Hot Mum’ was based around a military barracks somewhere in India housing an entertainments battalion who put on shows for the troops.
The marvelous, late Windsor Davies portrayed a Sergeant Major who was clearly prejudiced against gay people – one of the characters played by Melvyn Hayes often wore make up and dresses and was known as ‘Gloria’. He frequently suffered the wrath of the outraged Sergeant Major, as did the Indian characters around the camp making him racist as well.
Again, the character was portrayed as a bigoted idiot and you found yourself laughing at him, not with him.
More lately, a superb situation comedy has come under attack.
Citizen Khan is written by, and stars, Adil Ray. He is a writer and actor with great talent. As he was born of a Pakistani father and Kenyan Asian mother, he knows all about the funny side of Islam and Muslims in general.
The show is extremely funny. The character of Citizen Khan is extremely funny.
The show was heavily criticized by the politically correct and several prominent Muslim groups.
Excuse me. It’s funny. Clearly the critics failed to realize that, perhaps oddly but never the less actually, the show helped break down barriers between communities.
Suddenly white communities, and indeed, all non-Muslim communities, suddenly realized that they shared a sense of humor with Adil Ray, a Muslim of Pakistani descent, therefore, perhaps they shared a similar sense of humor with the Muslim communities.
Let’s face it, humor is a good thing and often brings people together.
For a long time the British would tell ‘Irish jokes’. The supposed joke being that the Irish were not very bright, as in –
Paddy accidentally cuts his own ear off with a saw working on a building site.
Mick picks it up off the ground and says “Is this your ear Paddy?”
“No” says Paddy, “Mine had a pencil behind it”
Now, before you start, I know what you’re going to say.
Look. There is a town in Bulgaria called Grabrovo. If you tell a Bulgarian in Sofia that you’re going to Grabrovo, the probability is, he will slap his thighs and laugh hysterically. Why? I have no idea but, for some unfathomable Bulgarian reason, they consider the town and people of Grabrovo funny.
Rather like some in the North of America laugh at the southern rednecks or, those in and around London laugh at the north of England.
Poking fun at somebody is part of the human condition. At school, the poor kid who was fat got it, or the poor kid with the broken glasses held together with sticking plaster got it.
Yes, it was frequently cruel but, in the mind of children, it was funny and it will never stop.
Once we become adults we don’t – well most of us don’t – poke fun in the same way that children do, but we still do.
It’s how the fun is poked, so to speak, that matters.
Cruelty isn’t funny. There’s no argument there but, a TV show that pokes fun at racists, bigots or, indeed, otherwise alien communities, is ultimately a positive.
The alien communities become considerably less alien when we find ourselves laughing along with them at the absurdity of one of their number. We realize that our communities have the same absurdities. We realize that we, sometimes, have the same absurdities that Citizen Khan has. Suddenly we identify with a Pakistani Muslim by descent. It brings us together.
The racist bigots are laughed at. We realize that, if we have any racist bigotry in our make up – and a surprising number who would undoubtedly deny it have – we actually look and sound like idiots.
We are laughing at the idiocy of a racist bigot on TV and suddenly, we realize we have said the same thing in the past and thought we were sounding sensible.
Comedy, on the whole, needs to be protected from political correctness.
We have a right to laugh. You have and I have. We must make sure nobody ever removes that right just because they don’t find it funny. It’s hardly our fault they need a humor implant is it?