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.


  1. Well you know my view.

    I know you've added your voice to the outrage that has flooded into Ofcom (and if anyone reads this, and then can bear to watch the programme online and wants to add their voice, just go to the Offcom site).

    I wonder if you made some of these points to Offcom Dru? That this shit actually happens. And the place where the world comes to learn its behaviour is often the tv. Especially that part of the world inhabited by the type of C2D young men who, as it happens, shouted abuse at me last Friday, and who watch this kind of garbage - as evidenced by the obvious demographic which the advertisers had bought into.

    We await Offcom's reaction.

    They better had react or a lot of anger is going to boil over. Meanwhile ITV has issued a pathetic blame shifting reply. From Kudos, the Production Company, nothing.

    Oh and you forgot "Cock in a frock".

  2. Late in the day, Jo, but I've been preoccupied. I sent Ofcom a brief complaint and pretty much a transcript of this blog. Hopefully they'll get the message.

  3. Still can't see it from here, perhaps it's for the best. As Jo says, certain types learn their behavior from TV and films

    Shouldn't it be 'Shame of Bilbao'?
    What a contrast to the 'Karen Bravo' crew.

  4. Good work Dru. It's a real pity because it was on the whole show I had enjoyed. It's difficult to understand how a show ostensibly about writers and their travails should get it so wrong.

  5. It is kind of ironic, isn't it, Anji? -I never really liked this "Pride" theme in P&O's ferry names. It all started when the Herald of Free Enterprise fell over, and Townsend Thoresen rebranded themselves as P&O and painted the ships a different colour to make them safer. It was funny, working on the Dover-Calais run, seeing the French ferries named after great artists and the British ones called Pride of Milton Keynes and so on...

    Thank you, Paul. I am a bit mystified by the whole business. I'm sure these people aren't really stupid; why did this episode happen?

  6. I don't often watch any ITV programmes - but I found 'Moving Wallpaper' funny - I can appreciate your stand on that particular episode, but,I am sorry, I still laughed - which means, I could be categorised as 'cock in a frock' - also, I live in a small market town near Milton Keynes. So, does this mean I am relegated to the land of the 'bigots'?

  7. I'll still speak to you, Neil, even if I have to stand upwind of you.

    Milton Keynes is an easy target, isn't it, especially as I've never been there. I just think it's funny, the idea that there should be citizens somewhere, anywhere, presumed to be swelling with municipal pride at the thought of a ship named after their town. How about Pride of Llanvihangel Crucorney?

  8. ...fair point about bigotry, though. I've added a little paragraph at the end.

  9. I was a bit shocked when I just saw the title 'dumb fucks' but was even more shocked that something so popular(ishishtic) is so bullying to do something against fantastic individuals. I won't be watching it, or taking any P&O Cruises either.

    There's enough good stuff on TV etc... not to have to watch something that sinister in its laziness about brave people.

    all my best, hope to catch up soon,


  10. Hi, Alan,

    Thanks for dropping in!

    I thought for a while about the title; I don't usually use words like that, but I wanted to get across my sense of contempt for this episode, which was my chief response to it, rather than anger or outrage. I do hope I got that across.

  11. Ugh, that just makes me want to bang heads together!!

    I used to get mad at my dad when I was a kid for not letting me watch ITV, but perhaps there was good reason for it.

  12. Did you get into trouble with the telly people for putting the other pictures up.

    I got the chance to fall asleep in front of the TV for the first time in ages last night.

  13. Telly was everywhere in my family home, Chandira; I think we may have benefited from some judicious rationing, but that's hindsight for you.

    I didn't, Anji, but there was something funny going on yesterday, with my blog stuff about MW becoming invisible to Google, and I thought "I wonder if there's any funny business going on?" And then I remembered that I really ought to be sure about where pictures I put up come from; you've got to be squeaky clean if you go around criticising people, haven't you? -anyway, business as usual today...

  14. It remind me of the time when shows like 'Love Thy Neighbour' were deemed to be funny. How come Russell Brand has to resign from his job and this lot just get away with such crap? I am appalled. (I also tuned into talk sport myself for the first time and laughed my head of at Russell Brand and Noel Gallagher on the play-it-again thingy - my kind of football show :-)

  15. *small hurrumph as disagrees with Annie over the Brand and Ross phone call business, but hey*

    There's been a bit of argument over on one of the TS boards about this episode. A (minority) view thinks that the target of the comedy is the idiocy of the offensive comments and those who pronounce them. I've heard this sort of thing described as "hipster satire". I look at MW and think, "No, this isn't hipster satire, this is the same old shit"