Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The po-faced neo-prudes rule

(First published in the Curmudgeon column, The Dominion Post, March 29.)

BRIAN TRUE-MAY, the co-creator and producer of the popular TV series Midsomer Murders, has effectively been forced to step aside after a magazine interview in which he described the programme as “the last bastion of Englishness” and said it wouldn’t work if it included racial minorities.

He thus becomes yet another casualty of political correctness. The po-faced neo-prudes rule.

The essence of Midsomer Murders, the source of its charm, is that it is set in a mythical, rural England where the villages have names like Badger’s Drift, Luxton Deeping and Monks Barton. The characters are quintessentially English, which means white (and often slightly loopy).

Though nominally set in the present, the series conjures up an England from an indeterminate period in the past. If it were suddenly swamped with characters wearing Muslim head-scarves or speaking with West Indian accents, the illusion would be shattered.

But none of this matters to the enforcers of political correctness, who seem to demand that Midsomer Murders reflect the multicultural reality of modern Britain. That this would destroy its inherent escapist appeal is of no concern to them.

A spokesman for ITV, which broadcasts Midsomer Murders, said he was “shocked and appalled” by True-May’s comments. The company’s over-reaction shows how defensive broadcasters have become in the face of attacks by zealots seeking to impose their oppressive orthodoxy.

There was nothing racist in what True-May said. He didn’t besmirch non-white British citizens or suggest they were inferior or unworthy. He simply stated what should be obvious to any viewer of his programme: namely, that it depicts a fantasy England similar to that portrayed in the books of Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers.

That ITV threw True-May to the wolves rather than upheld his right to remain true to his harmless artistic vision – one that has brought pleasure to millions of viewers – is a disgrace.

So now the enemies of free speech have another scalp to hang on their belts. True-May’s shafting came after veteran Sky TV football commentator Andy Gray was suspended for making supposedly sexist remarks off-air about a lineswoman – he questioned whether women knew the offside rule – and former England coach Glenn Hoddle was forced to apologise for repeating a lame but inoffensive old football joke about an imaginary Chinese player named Knee Shin Toe. (Gray was subsequently sacked when other off-air behaviour came to light, but that’s another story.)

You could accuse these people of being oafish, but heck – they’re football commentators, not Supreme Court judges. The hullabaloo over their verbal indiscretions shows that even sports commentary has become a minefield. Where, I wonder, will it end?

* * *

GREATER Wellington Regional Council, which looks increasingly like a retirement home for former Labour MPs unable to wean themselves off the public teat, has been busy congratulating itself over the announcement of a multimillion-dollar urban rail upgrade.

All this must have come as a surprise to long-suffering rail commuters, who thought the upgrade was already nearing completion. Wasn’t that given as the reason for the constant delays on Wellington lines over the past year or so? And weren’t commuters repeatedly assured that the end was in sight?

Now they learn that there’s still much more to be done. More disruption, more delays? You can bet on it. If I were a commuter, I’d suspect that the council hadn’t been straight with me.

But never mind, because Greater Wellington is getting on with the things that really matter. Its propaganda sheet tells us that the council’s partnership with the mana whenua iwi has been reinforced by the adoption of a Maori name: Te Pane Matua Taiao.

The name was developed by a group of Maori language experts – at what cost wasn’t revealed – and council chair Fran Wilde welcomed its gifting to the council as a taonga. This splendid news will no doubt help soothe the frayed tempers of all those commuters who just want to get to work on time.

* * *

I AM NOT A royalist, but there is a certain satisfaction in observing the success of the visit to New Zealand and Australia by Prince William.

He was a huge hit; no doubt about it. And not just here, but in Australia too, where republicanism runs much deeper. Enthusiastic crowds, young and old, turned out to see him everywhere.

The mystique of royalty is lost on me. I would sooner cut my lawns with a pair of scissors than queue for a glimpse of a royal personage. Yet the fact remains that the constitutional monarchy serves New Zealand well, and anything that takes the wind out of the sails of our small but noisy republican lobby is to be welcomed.


The probligo said...

There must be some kind of advantage to being a po-faced neo-prude given Wellington's continuing success at sucking the national tit for its rail services.

Yes, there probably is now a local contribution from Wellington ratepayers. I suspect that it would be nowhere near that being given by Auckland ratepayers toward the upgrade of rail in Auckland.

When will it end? Ko pati nga raho, Hone Ki.

Bearhunter said...

I concur entirely re Brian True-May, however I have no sympathy whatsoever for Gray or Hoddle.

You seem to think that a one-off remark made, as you say, by a football commentator, is excusable. If that's the case then you'd be fine with Ron Atkinson keeping his job after referring on-air to Marcel Desailly as "a fucking lazy thick nigger"?

Karl du Fresne said...

Actually no, I wouldn't. There's a world of difference between the instances I cite and the one you mention.

Bearhunter said...

But the attitudes that sparked all those comments stem from the same pool of ignorance, surely?

Karl du Fresne said...

I make a distinction between simple, oafish ignorance and the toxic malice/hatred expressed by Atkinson.

Bearhunter said...

Fair enough. Hoddle is a serial offender though, given his comments that the disabled were paying for the sins of a previous life.

Linuxluver said...

I can see why Wellington Regional Council would want to take control of the trains given how obviously the government is in the pocket of the bus and trucking lobbies. They make no effort to hide it. The "Minister for Infratil", Steven Joyce is determined to pour billions into the pockets of infrastructure cronies to build highways over the same decade the price of petrol is likely to see $5 / litre and beyond....while proposing bridges that can't handle trains for an Auckland soon to have 2 million people.

Good on Wellington for making the effort to insulate their citizens from the head-in-sand approach to Peak Oil being taken by the Beehive. Me? I'm with the OECD's International Energy Agency who, last year, informed the world peak oil had occurred in 2006 and urged governments to begin implementing measures to conserve oil. So what do we do? Continue urban sprawl and build more highways.