Sunday, 22 February 2009

PS...

Just a correction on the last blog. Those delicious chocolatey treats known as Minstrels do in fact still exist! Is it hypercorrect to be worrying about this? They're not called minstrels for any other reason than that they are brown, after all... But then you don't see Yorkshire people being offended that our chocolate namesake is a chunky, low quality and sexist product (Yorkie: it's not for girls, apparently).
that is all...

Monday, 9 February 2009

Polliwogs, Scalliwags and Carol Thatcher

The latest PC furor to hit the press is that Carol Thatcher called a black tennis player a 'golliwog' in the green room of, yes, The One Show!
She refused to apologise properly, brushing the comment off as lighthearted banter and not racist.
This has sparked a whole debate. are golliwogs racist? A golliwog, in case you don't know, is a black rag doll with big red lips and wide eyes. The word is thought to be a combination of Golly and Polliwog (tadpole) with possible play on Scalliwag, so a mischievous, slimy black guy who says golly a lot. Greeeat. It's kind of like a cartoon of a minstrel (Oh. i've just worked out why those chocolates I used to like in the 80s were called Minstrels. And why they don't make them any more...riiiight.) anyway, it's Darkie iconography squared. If you can't get your head around this being offensive, imagine the white equivalent. it would have to be a vivid shade of pink, have lank colourless hair, blue watery eyes, and be called something comparing it to pink marine life and lame white slang. Neatoshrimp, perhaps? Now, imagine that this is the only racial representation of you in your childhood bookshelf as a child. And the book calls you 'a horrid sight'. And then 100 years later, when, as white people, we've fought for equality against huge odds, and now even have a white US president, and everything feels like it might finally be getting cool.... some talentless presenter who's the daughter of a right-wing ex prime minister from hell calls you that. Not cool, Thatcher, not cool.

The thing is, at a time when black people were being segregated, attacked and oppressed, still suffering the aftermath of slavery, A white American-English writer, Florence Kate Upton, wrote a story which taught that although black people might seem unfamiliar and frightening to her young, white, European audience, they were good people and worth making friends with. when the Golliwog first appears in Upton's book, he's presented as kind of scary and ugly only because he's unfamiliar, but later turns out to be a friendly and fun companion to the other toys. her depiction of a blackface minstrel doll having adventures with a pair of (white) wooden dutch dolls can be read as a pretty simplistic allegory of racial equality. It's just that she used an image that we, now, understand to be inherently racist. I'd like to think the Golliwog doll could be reclaimed as a positive Black toy, but it's difficult when the abbreviated form, wog, is an incredibly nasty racial slur for Black and Asian people in Britain. If you aren't from the UK and want to know how bad this is, look up David Oluwale- the inspiration for the play Nationality: Wog.
This is why Carol Thatcer calling ANYONE a Golliwog, even off air, is bad. While the original Golliwog was a naive and inherently racist portrayal of Blackness, but it was done with good intentions, and was right for its time. Over 100 years of not-too-morally-firm-from-white-people's-perspective history later, There is no WAY of not reading it as a slur. Unless the tennis player in question ACTUALLY looks like a jet black rag doll in a minstrel costume. if thaqt's the case, it was a fair comment and she's off the hook. let's see, shall we?











Nope, Carol's just a racist. I blame the parents.
WG

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

An unfortunate (or deliberate?) choice of words.

I'm a dirty, dirty lady, it's true, but i can't help noticing a masturbation reference at the end of this ad for thrush treatment. What's the verdict? Deliberate, or all in my grubby little mind?

http://www.canesten.co.uk/latest-ad.htm


Answers on a postcard, or in comments.
WG

Sunday, 1 February 2009

In praise of fucking swearing.

Once again mindless viewing of prime time TV (it may even have been the One Show again - what's happening to me?) has sparked the latest diatribe.
Apparently we all swear too much and civiliasation is coming to an end as a result. We know this because of the ubiquitous random talking heads in a busy high street segment. "There's too much of it. I don't like hearing it. It's the sign of a limited vocabulary."
Well thank you, Captain Eloquent. Pointing out the deficiencies in the vocabularies of others using one of the biggest clich├ęs of them all, the old. 'People who swear do so because they don't know any other words' tripe. Hey, I used the word 'the' seven times so far.. well eight now. Does that make my vocab limited? Fuck cunt bollocks shit wank twat bastard cock. Is it any more limited now?
Some of the most eloquent voices in recent history have been the sweariest. Bill Hicks, George Carlin? Both famous for two things: 1) Absolutely foul, disgusting language that takes your breath away even when you're expecting it and 2) Some of the most incisive, sensitive and poetic examples of the English language around. Check them out. Their vocabularies were not limited; the minds of people who tried to supress them because of their choices of words were. Severely. Carlin was arrested for indecency after his "Seven Dirty Words" bit was aired on a local New York Radio station in 1973. The case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, where the justices ruled 5-4 that the sketch was "indecent but not obscene," giving the FCC broad leeway to determine what constituted indecency on the airwaves. The Seven Dirty Words bit, as well as being funny, critiques the reasons that certain words are banned from the airwaves. The reaction it got actually changed the law.
Today, I'd say one of the most eloquent writers and performers around is Charlie Brooker, who gave us the glorious new word 'Cunthive'. That's not a limited vocabulary, that's genius. In fact, it's fucking genius.
Billy Connolly described the way Glaswegians use swearing as a form of punctuation, a rhythm which adds momentum and force to the conversation. I think that's pretty valid. Every other word being 'fuck' doesn't mean that the other half of what's being said isn't eloquent. It's just being intensified. It's at worst a dialectal tic, but I don't see anyone sending complaints in about Lloyd Grossman or Johnothan Ross's idiosyncrasies (actually, scratch that last one...) However Gordon Ramsay (not my favourite person admittedly) makes the national news because his latest Kitchen Nightmares show had a "fuck" every 20 seconds (insert porn joke here). Well, no shit, Sherlock. the man is more famous for his love of saying 'fuck' than for his cooking. His last show was called the F-word, for fuck's sake! Complaining because Ramsay swore? That's like complaining that Graham Norton is too Irish and gay (although I'm sure that's been done.) Click the fucking remote over to the One Show if you don't like it. I'm sure you'll get all the vocabulary you can handle there.
WG