Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Filth and smut

On the whole I am in favour, and so I couldn't help baulking at the affectionate tone of the BBC drama depicting the campaigns of Mary Whitehouse. Given the impact of Whitehouse's driven fundamentalist moralism, I was reminded of Paulie's arguments in favour of representative democracy.

In particular, this from his latest is absolutely pertinent

I'd like an aggregated moral wisdom to prevail ... Yet we all piss and moan about paying a few hundred MPs, while tens of thousands of people work in lobbying, campaigning, wonking - earning a great deal more than MPs do in many cases. These people make their living from an attempt to disrupt that aggregated moral process.

And this is what she was about, trying to impose her conservative, Christian world view on a very different moral universe.

7 comments:

Shuggy said...

On the whole I am in favour

Ha ha - likewise. I often wonder when people say there's too much sex on television, "What are they watching?" I search in vain.

mikeovswinton said...

Not sure I am 100% with you here Peter. When you say "affectionate tone" do you mean that it didn't present her as demented? My criticism would be that it didn't quite know what it wanted to be - a serious consideration that tried to get into her head or a comedy. Hence the fantasy section which appeared to be lifted straight from Alan Partridge. (If you remember the one where he imagines himself in a pair of leather underpants in a disco.) But didn't the bit where she starting railing at the hippies in the VW camper van (no stereotyping, then) show what lay beneath her viewpoint quite well? Even the excellent Alan Armstrong as her husband looked askance at that. (I once showed Alan Armstrong how to get from Nottingham Station to Meadow Lane football ground, but that's another story.)

The Plump said...

The fantasy bit was silly. Funnier but equally unrealistic was the wry look of disappointment on the husband's face at the conversation about oral sex. There were a few occasions when they tried to show her distance from reality but they were overwhelmed by the way they portrayed her.

I thought they bought into the genre of the plucky individual taking on the big bad establishment (reducing the Director General to a ludicrous Inspector Dreyfus figure straight out of the Pink Panther), together with stereotypes of English rural decency.

In fact, I saw her as the spokesperson for a particularly nasty brand of authoritarian, very right wing (though not racist), suburban conservatism - not demented, but narrow minded and obsessive.

mikeovswinton said...

Yes, a view point may be narrow minded, obsessive (and you are right about Whitehouse here) but the individual who has such a view point may be personally quite charming etc. I recall a story about Paul Foot banging his head against the wall of his Private Eye office after an interview with Enoch Powell for the book he did on him. Someone poked their head around the door and Foot looked up in agony and said "I liked him. Oh God, I liked him." Problem with Filth last night, as I said earlier - it fell between two stools. Yes, you could make a very funny film about her, with a lot of broad ridicule. Or you could do something quite different which takes the viewpoint she embodied seriously enough not to crudely parody it (which might involve showing someone as personally charming and "nice"). Filth couldn't make its mind up which it wanted to do. I think the Whitehouse phenomenon is important enough to merit the latter. Interestingly, I don't think that there has been a serious non-fiction book appraisal of Whitehouse. Or am I wrong?

The Plump said...

Nancy Banks-Smith

I met all the combatants and Julie Walters' Mrs Whitehouse, Hugh Bonneville's Sir Hugh Greene and Ron Cook's Lord Hill are pretty true to life. All the other characters are merely parsley round the plate. Mrs Whitehouse, in my experience, was rather tougher and more down-to-earth than Julie Walters' lovable and vulnerable woman. She was, after all, cut from the same clerical cloth as Mrs Thatcher.

Paulie said...

Shuggy:

Get a freeview box. Channel 19:

Virgin Channel.

Misnamed, I think?

KB Player said...

It’s possibly a problem with tele drama about political figures – it’s easier to show the personal rather than the ideas. There was some drama about Oswald Mosley a few years back which showed him as a super shagger rather than any of his political ideas. So you make a kind of a guess that the drama meant to say that Mrs W’s ideas had something to be said for them because Mrs W was an affectionate wife and mother and if they had wanted to come down hard on her movement they would have shown her as a frigid bitch (and she would not have been played by Julie Walters).

I think Nancy Banks Smith made a good point – Mrs W and Mrs T may have been the last loud cry of nonconformist puritanical Christianity which had been such a huge force in Britain for some hundreds of years.

In Andrew Marr’s History of Modern Britain there was a bit about Up the Junction, which was an early example of the shocking programme. One woman interviewed said it wasn’t true about the girls in Camden Junction, at least she hadn’t seen anything like that, another woman said it was disgusting and all too true about the girls in Camden Junction.

Also, what was then called “pre marital sex” is now called “sex”.