Mary Whitehouse, a devout Catholic and righteous campaigner of broadcast media is an important figure in British history. She thought the BBC was at the centre of a “conspiracy to remove the myth of God from the minds of men”. Her ‘Clean Up TV Campaign’ manifesto claimed that the BBC diffused “the propaganda of disbelief, doubt and dirt… promiscuity, infidelity and drinking”. The CUTV Campaign instead argued that the BBC should “encourage and sustain faith in God and bring Him back to the hearts of our family and national life”.
Doctor Who was described as “teatime brutality for tots”. A catchy title I think you’ll agree. But a bit much. Doctor Who is somewhat sinister perhaps. But brutal? Brutal?! The Rape of Nanking was brutal. Stagnant cyborgs and ring-modulated voices are not.
But that was then, and this is now. Different people ageing in different times. What offended us 40 years ago is unlikely to offend us now. Opinions and attitudes change change with the times.
This generation. My generation. What does it take to offend us? Are we even capable of being genuinely offended by media? Exactly what on-screen atrocities would we have to witness in order for us to take umbrage and write an angry email to Ofcom?
Let us examine the most controversial television shows in British history.
In 2004 Derren Brown’s Séance received 700 complaints. Most complaints received relating to the psychological illusionist’s supernatural shenanigans were pre-transmission.
Derren Brown’s metaphysical tomfoolery was causing controversy and collecting complaints for tinkering with the preternatural before anyone had even seen it it. I wouldn’t complain. Yet it remains the third most complained about show in British TV history.
In 2001, the Brass Eye special episode: Paedogeddon received a huge 1000-2000 complaints.
Chris Morris’ Brass Eye often came under fire from the media muskets of the untrained infantries, but the largest lambaste came as a result of the 2001 special episode: Paedogeddon. Satirising paedophilia coverage within British media, it highlighted the hysteria and hypocrisy surrounding the subject. The media fallout that followed the transmission simply reinforced the ideologies of the show. Without an understanding of what satire is, surely one can only interpret the show as a glorification of kiddy fiddling, and many did.
An estimated 1000-2000 complaints were received, some damning the show as “unspeakably sick”. In a spectacular slice of now infamous hypocrisy The Daily Mail featured an article decrying Morris and the show, juxtaposed rather ridiculously with an image of the then 15-year-old Charlotte Church’s breasts and the title: She’s a big girl now.
I wonder if those same people complained about To Catch a Predator. I wonder if Chris Morris himself makes of the show. It’s sort of like Paedogeddon, but without the satire, humour or human rights.
I wouldn’t complain. Why? Because it’s brilliant. That is scientific fact. There’s no real evidence for it, but it’s scientific fact. It’s also one of the most complained about shows in British TV history.
Curiously it’s not nonsensical coercion toward our comrades that causes the most complaints. To truly emancipate our emotions and soften our collective stiff upper lips, all that’s needed is superfluous homosexuality and the slander of spiritual symbolism.
In 1995 Martin Scorcese’s The Last Temptation of Christ received 1,544 complaints. Again most of which were pre-transmission. What did your mother tell you about judging a film by its trailer and slanderous media coverage? Not a lot I imagine. I wouldn’t complain. It’s Scorcese for Christ’s sake. Regardless, it’s still one of the most complained about programs in British TV history.
Queer as Folk, a drama chronicling the lives of three gay men in Manchester received 163 complaints immediately after the first episode was broadcast in 1999. Some viewers were distressed by strong language and scenes involving an under-age character coming to terms with his confusing sexuality. The ITC ruled that the show fell within Channel 4’s statutory remit and so complaints were not upheld. Despite this, the show only ran two series before being cancelled. However the North American version ran for five seasons before coming to an end.
In 2002, The Bill, a long-running police series featured a pre-watershed gay kiss. A single gay kiss. It received 170 complaints. Complaints stated that the kiss would’ve been acceptable post-watershed, but examples of homosexuality shouldn’t be showcased while children may still be watching. We wouldn’t want to corrupt their impressionable young minds with the calling card of Satan would we? We might end up a nation of mincers. Oh the horror!
Except, according to some we already are. We’re already at the mercy of Lucifer. Why? Teletubbies. That’s why. Tinky Winky has been branded a gay icon by many. Not least when he aroused the attention of Christian evangelical, fundamentalist Baptist pastor, televangelist and conservative commentator Jerry Falwell. The evidence against the Tinkster is compelling indeed. He’s purple – the colour of gay pride. The symbol on his head is the triangle – the symbol of gay pride. If that’s not enough he also carries a handbag.
The BBC responded to the allegations of homosexuality with this fantastic quip: “Tinky Winky is simply a sweet, technological baby with a magic bag”.
But again, that was then and this is now. Since 1999 our priorities have changed. In 2009 we were no longer complaining about the apparent misrepresentation of a biblical character or the unholy public compassion of a homosexual relationship. No. No. No. Now it’s the mistreatment of reality TV show contestants that really gets us going. The top three most complained about shows of 2009 were The X-Factor, Britain’s Got Talent and Big Brother.
Why? Apparently some child had a tantrum. I’d have got a slap and been sent to bed. But this kid induced a slew of incomprehensible whinging.
Throughout the last 20 years we have gathered the raw ingredients to collectively bake the most offensive televisual cake in the world. Homosexuality, paedophilia, paranormal activity, religion and the mistreatment of young children. Sound appetising? So what are you waiting for? Get out your mixing bowl and your whisk. Set your oven to gas mask something. Follow this recipe to the letter, and you too can gorge upon the deliciousness of the distasteful.
Without further a Jew, I give you
The Most Offensive Show on Earth
Britain’s Got Nonces
Much like the format show we’ve come to know and love/hate, BGP scours the UK for the most talented and skilled paedophiles in rotation. Paedos of all ages are encouraged to audition in front of a panel of scantily-cladolescents who will judge their stage presence, likability and their technique. Thousands enter, but only a ten lucky nonces will make it through to Round 2: The Séance.
During this round, with the help of Yvette Fielding and Derek Acorah, contestants are tasked with contacting deceased religious figureheads. Everyone from Pope John Paul II to Pontius Pilate, to the J-Dog himself are available. Competitors race to contact the dead, and the first five to do so will be granted access to the live shows. The five who fail to contact anyone of a high enough holy order will be declared the weakest link and sent home with nothing.
During the live shows paedophiles are dressed as Teletubbies and ordered to commit homosexual acts whilst dancing around a flaming effigy of Queen Elizabeth II. Viewers can vote via text for their winners, and after thirty minutes of hardcore homosexuality a winner will be declared.
Culminating in a celebration of all things offensive, our champion nonce will be paraded through the streets as a national hero. Then, in front 90,000 cheering fans at Wembley Stadium and live on international television, a single bullet will be placed into his skull. As it transpires that the show was never a talent show at all, but actually an extreme elaboration of To Catch a Predator. Psyche!
What do you think? I think I’m going to complain right now. To myself.