Saturday, 29 May 2010

an open letter to David Walliams

David Walliams' fansite have linked to my previous post, describing it as 'horrible'. This is a quick reply.

Dear David,

I see that your fansite have linked to my parody of your Nationwide poster, where you and Matt are dressed as Emily and Florence, your transvestite characters. The wording of the poster has been changed to "We're doing the Black and White Minstrels next. How divine". Your fansite describes this as 'horrible'. I'm sorry that they should think so. I was trying to make a point.
I'd hoped that the connection was reasonably easy to make, but I realise that sometimes what I think is blindingly obvious, isn't so.

To me, the Black and White Minstrel Show was about members of the dominant culture appropriating and caricaturing the identity of members of another culture. And as I see it, that is what you are doing with your transvestite characters. The difference between the two instances is that the first one is no longer acceptable. And I believe it's only a matter of time before what you do is also more widely seen as past its sell-by date.

You might argue that no-one could relate your characters, Emily and Florence, to real people, as they are such extreme caricatures. Unfortunately, some folk apparently do just that.

I lead a quiet and pretty normal sort of life. But a few years ago, I was in the papers as a result of some nastiness that happened to me. The press coverage was pretty much as you would expect, when a transsexual woman is in the papers. And one of those papers (the Daily Star) used 'Little Britain' references to describe me. It wasn't the end of the world, but it was an annoyance. Your characters provided a model and a vocabulary for people (people who had never even met me) to treat me as a caricature. And where people treat other people as caricatures, they don't treat them as real people. And they may (and sometimes actually do) end up abusing them.

It is claimed that you've "spoken out for the trans community for years". I'm afraid I don't know what it is that you've said; and I admit that I haven't read your book. But I do know that the trans community has within it some articulate voices, more and more of which are beginning to find platforms. When I speak, it is only for myself; I do not pretend to speak for a community. But I am sincere when I say that I do wish you would give up on Emily and Florence. I think the world (my world anyway) would be a little better for it.

13 Jan 2011 - postscript: my comment on the new Walliams and Lucas vehicle, Come Fly With Me, here.

(this post has been edited, as I initially thought that the David Walliams fansite was the voice of David Walliams himself.)