So, you might remember me getting hugely fucked off a week or so ago because of the whole ha-ha-Roman-Polanski-rapes-children thing on Have I Got News For You. If you’ve got a very good memory, or if you scroll down to the post before this one, you might also remember that I complained, and that I was taking bets as to what kind of response I’d get. It turns out, in fact, that the email I got was less full of bingo-squares than I expected, but there has to be a winner in the what-the-BBC-said competition, and that winner is Cim, who suggested a variant on “the show caters to a broad audience and so not everything will appeal to everyone”.
For a bit of perspective, I’m posting up the complaint I wrote.
“The “joke”, a throwaway comment – which appeared to be scripted – was made by Alexander Armstrong in relation to Roman Polanski’s new film. Aparently, “it comes out with a fifteen rating but Polanski swears it was an eighteen”.
There is nothing funny about the rape of a child. There’s nothing funny in knowing that as a girl, or a woman, you have over a 1 in 5 chance of being sexually assaulted. There’s nothing funny about knowing that if you are raped, you have only a 6% chance of seeing your rapist convicted for his crime, and there’s nothing funny about Roman Polanski being one of those men, and *still* evading punishment.
And there’s certainly nothing funny about being reminded of this while trying to relax in the evening by watching Have I Got News For You.
I expect better of the BBC.
I don’t expect to find all of the jokes made on HIGNFY funny. I *do* expect that they won’t normalise rape by diminishing its gravity. That’s harmful to everybody.”
It was a difficult thing to write, and I struggled to express the way I felt in terms that could be understood by somebody who hasn’t taken Feminism 101. But either I failed, or the BBC failed to engage with the problem I had with the “joke”, because the line that won Cim the bet, just after the pleasantries, was: “As the BBC is a public service financed by the licence fee it must provide programmes which cater for the whole range of tastes in humour.”
Would you like the whole email? I bet you would. Have the whole email:
“As the BBC is a public service financed by the licence fee it must provide programmes which cater for the whole range of tastes in humour. We believe that there is no single set of standards in this area on which the whole of society can agree, and it is inevitable that programmes which are funny to some will occasionally strike others as poor. The only realistic and fair approach for us is to ensure that the range of comedy is broad enough for all viewers to feel that they are catered for at least some of the time.
Nevertheless, feedback like your own helps to inform the discussion about a programme’s tone and content and the reactions of our audiences are closely studied by our producers and senior management to ensure the right judgement is being made about what is acceptable to the audience in general.
With your complaint in mind I can assure you that I’ve registered your comments on our audience log. This is the internal report of audience feedback which we compile daily for all programme makers and commissioning executives within the BBC, and also their senior management. It ensures that your points, and all other comments we receive, are circulated and considered across the BBC.”
I’m struggling now with how (or whether) to respond to this. I don’t want to leave it, really, because I feel as though they’ve ignored the important part – the part about how it’s really not nice to be reminded about how prevalent rape and rape culture is. If anybody has any advice about how (or whether) I should respond, please, let me know. I write a lot, but right now, I’m not sure I have the words.
Well, the title says it all, really. Last week’s episode of Have I Got News For You featured a hilarious deeply inappropriate “joke” on the subject of Roman Polanski’s new film. Aparently, “it comes out with a 15 rating but Polanski swears it was an 18”.
Yeah. Rape culture. Rampant sexism. Hell, let’s go all-out humourless-feminist: the patriarchy. Just what I want to be reminded of when I’m winding down of an evening. Except for how it isn’t. If it was, I’d watch Mock The Week. Or anything with Russell Brand in it. It’s difficult enough as it is to take off my feminism-glasses – HIGNFY seem to have some weird unofficial policy of having either a woman (white) or a black person (male) on the show, if they have to, but not both at the same time. It doesn’t help that Ian Hislop and Paul Merton are always there, which is already middle-aged white men filling two of the five slots. (Wikipedia tells me, of course, that my impression of the show isn’t completely accurate – they did once have Shappi Khorsandi on as a panelist. I went to see her perform live once; she described herself as “the box-ticker”, since she’s a female Iranian comedian.)
So, because as a woman I have no sense of humour, I wrote to the BBC to complain. I’ll post their reply when I have it. And I’ll award myself 10 points for every bingo card box I can fill. Filling in the “it was a joke!” square is pretty inevitable, I reckon, but I might also get “why are you so aaangry?!”, “I’m sorry that YOU were offended”, “it got lots of laughs”, “there were women in the audience who didn’t complain”, “yes, it was awful, BUT…”, “he didn’t mean it to minimize the severity of rape, so clearly it didn’t”…… and so on.
I’ll take bets in comments as to how many bingo cards I can fill.
- killed the new plants. They are herbs this time, so I have a vested interest in keeping them alive (at least until I eat them)
- knitted a pig for my brother. Yes, really. He asked me specially, and we picked out the wool together. I’ll probably crochet it, actually.
- finished knitting the tetris blanket. But it will be very cool (and also in fact very warm) when it’s done. Probably next year.
- finished my homework. Dear Ceiling Cat, the homework. I would like to pray that Ceiling Cat mangles my half-done homework in her claws, so that nobody notices. And also that I miraculously learn the stuff I haven’t done.
- avoided panicking about my upcoming exams. I have six weeks. SIX WEEKS! What the hell?! I only finish lectures in five weeks.
- avoided panicking about J moving in. He’s 10 months late, but moving fast. This is terrifying, as it means I no longer get to lie diagonally in bed, and also, I’m now fretting about everything from finances to housework. Incidentally, my mother (who was recently made redundant) is now looking for another job, primarily because that means she can’t get burdened with all of the housework. This does not fill me with confidence, because the summer break is fast approaching (after the EXAMS) and I haven’t looked for jobs yet because I’ve been thinking about the EXAMS!
- thought about anything sensible to blog about. So you know, with all these other things, I might just not care.
Something that is true of me: I bite my nails. My, aren’t we learning a lot about Rachel these days? If I carry on like this I’ll end up with the equivalent of one of those stupid chain emails (“what are you REALLY like?! write back and tell all your friends!!!) on the blog.
Well, never mind. Some things are worth sharing.
So. My advice is this: if you are somebody who has periods, and who bites their nails, and who isn’t colourblind, you know what’s a really good – if a little traumatizing – way to stop?
Paint your nails blood-red whilst you’re on your period.
Seriously. No matter how small and stumpy your bitten nails are. Do that, and I can pretty much guarantee that the first (and second, and… and eleventybillionth) time you raise your newly colourful hands to your mouth, you’ll catch sight of the red, and your immediate response will be “aaaaargh!!!”
Not only will the terror make you want to have nothing to do with your hands ever again, nail polish is not a good taste. And tiny chips of nail polish are hard to get off your teeth. True story. (Of course, when I was a child, my mum once painted my nails with that nail varnish that deliberately tastes foul, and all that happened was that I brushed my tongue with my toothbrush after biting my nails. So the taste thing won’t work for everybody. Or on its own. Now, if that foul-tasting varnish had been coloured brown, maybe…)
I’ve now repainted my nails purple, which – as you might be able to tell from the font colour – is more of a “me” shade. But I’m still going “aaaargh!”. Mainly because my hands, newly feminine, don’t look like mine anymore. Although they are quite cool, and occasionally I find myself holding my hands up so that I can admire them. Who knows – perhaps this will be the year I finally learn how to use nail clippers.