Stop Complaining!

July 18, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

rant_tv_web.gifNothing gets my goat quite like TV complaints. You know the sort. Mealy-mouthed letters and emails from ‘Offended of Orpington’ about how outraged they are about some advert with a little bit of raunch, or a soap plotline involving something not quite suburban enough for their tastes.

Most recently there was the furore surrounding Heinz’s rather anodyne advert for deli spreads. The ad shows a male New York deli worker kissing a man to whom he has just served a baguette. It was a mere peck on the lips. Not an orgiastic snog. Not a lascivious lip-lock reminiscent of the last days of Sodom and Gomorrah. And yet people rang up in droves to condemn Heinz for their evil and dastardly promotion of homosexuality. “It’s a travesty!? they cried. “How will we explain this to our children?? Easy. You simply say “Some men love women. Some men love men. End of.? But that’s beside the point. More irksome is the fact that most complainers overlooked the main concept behind the advert. The male deli worker was supposed to be an incarnation of the customer’s wife. Heinz was trying to say that with their tasty new spreads, even a run-of-the-mill housewife will be transformed into a wisecracking Brooklyn deli owner. Simple enough, you might think. Apparently not, for the hundreds who complained.

Another case that annoyed me was the Chris Morris/Brasseye scandal in 2001. This is a prime example of utter idiocy at play. In case you didn’t see it or have forgotten the comic brilliance, the show was a mockumentary about paedophilia. Various celebrities including Gary Lineker and Philippa Forrester lent their support to a fictional anti-paedo campaign called ‘Nonce Sense’, while Richard Blackwood discussed the ‘fact’ that some perverts send ‘noxious gases’ through computer keyboards to subdue children. All pretty far fetched stuff, but the celebrities didn’t twig.

When the show aired there was pandemonium. Around 2000 people complained, and even politicians leapt onto the bandwagon of outrage. One pontificated that the show was “unspeakably sick”, and another claimed to be “dismayed” by it. But the thing is (and you’ll love this) neither of them had seen it. That’s right. They hadn’t even SEEN it.

And do you know what is even more ridiculous? The mind-boggling hypocrisy of the press. After Brasseye aired, the Daily Star (that well-known bastion of editorial supremacy) printed an article condemning Morris right beside a piece about Charlotte Church (then just 15 years old) and her developing mammaries with the headline “She’s a big girl now”… Note to editor – make sure you’re not encouraging your readership to lech over an underage girl at the same time as decrying someone who is ostensibly doing the same. (But Chris Morris wasn’t, that’s the point! It was a joke! Argh, I give up.)

The thing that bugs me most is that it really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. The majority of people are smart enough to realise that two men kissing on screen isn’t going to rouse the devil from his lair, and that a bit of clever, controversial humour is a credit to our country rather than a scourge.

So if you’re one of the stuffy complaining types, make sure you get your facts straight before you issue forth with your vitriol. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have opinions. But take a step back and you may discover that you’ve missed the point completely.

by Susie Gordon