Monday, March 07, 2005

Monday Media Section

Both Channel 5 and Channel 4 are pumping out programmes on the Royal Family at a tremendous rate at the moment. It's easy to see why. They consist entirely of old clips interspersed with a few talking heads and a slightly sarcastic commentary. Programmes don't come much cheaper to make and they're guaranteed respectable audiences.

Last night's "Prince Edward: The Showbiz Years" (C4) had little that was new but reminded us that he has the Windsor gene that makes him prone to arrogance and petulance if he doesn't get his own way.
I hadn't realised that the reason that the Royal It's A Knockout was such a disaster was that he rounded on the press afterwards for not showing enough enthusiasm. For a Royal this is more stupid than being rude to waiters. The latter can only piss in your soup once. The press will do so metaphorically for the next 20 years.

His other mistake was to deny he was gay. The press had mostly ignored this suspicion but once he mentioned it, if only to deny it, the floodgates were open. The widespread belief that he was gay was based almost entirely on his passion for the theatre. This was extremely silly.
I can now make an exclusive revelation. But you better sit down and take some deep breaths. I worked in the West End theatre for several years and I can reveal that the overwhelming majority of people who work in the theatre are heterosexual. Some of them are even very homophobic although it's considered bad form to show it.

Of course, like millions of people, Edward may have been 'a bit gay' or 'AC/DC' as people used to say. But the tabloid press and a lot of their readers can't cope with complexity.
If he was, or is, that could also be down to his genetic inheritance. It was said of the Queen's Uncle George that nobody of either sex was safe with him in the back of a taxi and he had an affair with Noel Coward. To a Windsor, dear Noel probably seemed like rough trade.
A promiscuous drug addict, this troublesome royal was killed in a mysterious plane crash in Scotland. Now who does that remind you of?


Another cut and paste job was last nights C4 programme on controversial television. It gave quite a lot of airtime to the people who complain. What a weird bunch! It wouldn't have surprised you to discover that they were all being played by Paul Whitehouse. My favourite is the chap who succeeded Mary Whitehouse who looks and sounds exactly as you would expect him to. Showed a clip of gay sex that was removed from Footballers' Wives he said: "Men behaving like dogs!" This was one of two possible comments from the Complainer's Phrase Book, the other being "Even dogs don't behave like that!" They're contadictory but when you're a screwed-up, evangelical moralist you can have your cake and eat it.

The programme listed the three most complained about programmes on British television. What they all have in common is that those who tried to ban them are too stupid to grasp subtle distinctions - or even distinctions spelt out in ten foot high flashing neon letters.
At No 3 was Derren Brown's fake sèance which sought to show the trickery used by Victorian clairvoyants. Although the programme showed the special effects being engineered by a woman in a trailer outside the room, the complainers insisted that Derren had conjured up Satan.
At No 2 was the Chris Morris masterpiece, the Brass Eye Special on Paedophilia. Almost as worrying as paedophilia itself is the revelation that there are so many people who are so stupid that they cannot see the difference between laughing at paedophilia and laughing at the hysterical media coverage of the subject. It was the latter that Morris was satirising. Happily, the television regulator grasped this and censured Channel 4 only for failing to give a sufficiently strong warning before the programme.
At No 1 was the recent broadcast of Jerry Springer, The Opera, partly because this was subject to a highly organised campaign by Christian groups. Again, there was a subtle distinction here that was only apparent if you actually watched the programme and had brain cells in double figures. The 'Jesus' character in Act Two is NOT Jesus. He's a Springer guest from Act One who takes the role of Jesus in a fantasy dream sequence.
As someone commented the last time I wrote on this subject, part of the explanation is that some people deliberately choose to be offended and won't let the evidence get in the way of a satisfying bout of moral outrage.

Further evidence of the nutters who live on the extreme fringes of Christianity came today in a Woman's Hour interview with the father of one of the murdered Soham girls. Pressed to reveal the nature of the hate mail that the grieving parents received he said that a recurrent theme was that they got what they deserved for letting their children go out to play on the Sabbath.
If I sat at this keyboard for the next week I wouldn't be able to think of an adequate comment on that.

I mentioned long ago that I had some minor involvement with an ill-fated West End musical that included one of the first examples of full-frontal female nudity on the London stage. It didn't attract any Christian protests although there were sometimes unseemly tussles in the stalls over opera glasses.
However, it slipped my mind that the young Lynda Bellingham who got her kit off in the cause of Art (literally - the musical was about Toulouse-Lautrec) went on to become that iconic figure of middle class, middle England life, the Oxo Mum, in the commercials which ran for 16 years.
So one of the odder episodes in my life is that eight times a week I was confronted with a naked Oxo Mum. Stark bollock naked, or whatever the female equivalent is.
Flaunting what Jo Brand memorably called "the velvet Tardis".
What do you say to the Oxo Mum when she's naked?
Let's get ready to crumble?


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