Friday, 3 April 2009

dumb fucks

an evening in front of the telly

Every now and then in this blog I refer to stuff that happened to me when I worked for P&O, and when I took them to an Employment Tribunal. I try not to do it too much; it would be nice to put that sort of thing in the past, and move on.

Sadly, That Sort Of Thing is, it turns out, always with us. The war against stupidity is never-ending. We just have to keep fighting it, don't we? It kind of reminds me of the Anglo-Saxon attitude to life, where they thought that Fate would get the best of us in the end, and what counted most was how well you fought against it, making an ending worthy of a song.

I don't have a telly, though I know that there are lots and lots of channels out there, and presumably whatever talent there may be is spread bit thinly across the airwaves.

There's something on ITV called Moving Wallpaper, a title presumably intended as an ironic reference to the way that some people will make, and other people will watch, any old crap. The other week, there was an episode which centred around a transsexual character, Georgina. You can still watch it, if that kind of thing floats your boat, here.

The show is centred around a group of hack writers for a TV soap. The odious manager employs a new writer, who turns out to be a transsexual woman. The other writers go on strike. After a while, when odious manager and rest of the cast have got bored of making offensive comments about Georgina, she is sacked and roars away on a large motorbike. Everyone else goes back to work together. End of episode.

So what is the point of this episode? Apparently, it is no more than an opportunity for the cast to say things like this about the trans character:

"Mister No-dangles"
"A walking GM crop"
"Never work with children, animals or trannies"
"You're about as good a producer as George is a woman", and so on and on...

Presumably we are intended to laugh at this stuff. That first one on the list, for instance. They start off with the name of a song called "Mister Bojangles". Perhaps you know the song, in which case you can appreciate how smart they are with what they do here. They change it to "Mister No-dangles", which cleverly suggests (smirk smirk) that the trans character has had her male genitalia removed, but is still really a man, hence the "Mister" bit. And he goes and gets his tackle cut off!

What a laugh! It must be funny, as someone wrote it down intending it to be laughed at, and then someone else read it and agreed that it was funny, and then an actor learned the line and spoke it to the camera, and I guess they thought it was funny too.

Funny old world.

Scarily, though, it did ring quite true. The attitudes expressed by these people were really very similar to those I encountered among some of the crew of the Pride of Bilbao. The Neanderthal part of the crew, to be fair, but Neanderthals are people too. Sort of. Indeed, the 'funny' things the Moving Wallpaper crowd said about and to Georgina were very similar to what some of P&O's employees said to me; had there been a camera on board recording them, they could have blended effortlessly into the show. For instance, one humourist came up with this little gem about me: "When God made man it was Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve". That is easily as witty and funny as that Mister No-dangles malarkey. The Daily Mail evidently thought so too, as they adapted it as a headline. And the Daily Mail knows a thing or two about what's right, what's wrong, and what's funny, doesn't it? The idea is that somehow the trans character is not real, and so it's OK to say and do what you like to them. Where the show strays from reality is in its version of a happy ending; everyone's had a bit of a laugh, and so Georgina is conveniently sacked. Disappears. End of Georgina. End of story.

Out there in the real world, this is often the desired outcome for people who don't like trans people. You have your joke at their expense, then you get rid of them. You can't laugh at lepers or black people or women any more, at least not openly, but at least you can Mock The Tranny. Can't you?

Didn't work in my case, of course. It ended in legal action, which I won. Because you should not treat people like that. And fortunately, the law, at least, recognises that. It may come as a surprise that some people actually need educating in the idea that you should treat other people decently, but evidently they do.

I watched this episode online. I had to sit through a few adverts. Let's see; there was one for a plug-in air freshener, one which had a bunch of lads sitting on a couch and engaging in extravagant displays of male bonding while watching football on the telly. Not sure what that was advertising - beer or something? And a trailer for a new James Bond movie. So the targeted demographic for this show is presumably closeted blokes who like their homes to smell like lavatories rather than each others' BO, and who have secret agent fantasies.

A bunch of dumb fucks, then.

Quite appropriate, I guess. And if you wish to infer that everyone involved in the commissioning, writing, approving and making of this episode is a bit of a dumb fuck too, then who am I to disagree?

-I've tagged this post with the terms "bigotry" and "transphobia", though I actually think that they're rather bigger words than the Moving Wallpaper team deserve. This little episode is just symptomatic of some mediocre attempt at cheap laughs. So I've added "dumbfuckery" to the tags. If it turns out to be a neologism, then you heard it here first. Thanks, Moving Wallpaper. Inspirational.