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Little Britain 'panders to prejudice'

...says new academic paper

Little Britain has been accused of pandering to prejudice and hatred.

Academic Deborah Finding says the show’s favourite characters - from teenage mum Vicky Pollard to ‘only gay’ Daffyd - are are stereotypes ‘produced from a sense of disgust at people of a different class, sexuality, race or gender’.

Finding, a postgraduate researcher at the London School Of Economics, said: ‘‘Little Britain is the comedy equivalent of junk food.

"It is clear that when “we”, the audience, are invited to laugh at “them”, the characters - we are laughing not only at the figures on screen but at entire groups of people whom they come to represent

‘Little Britain does far more to promote racism, sexism, homophobia, ageism and classism than it does to satirise them - though it does do that from time to time.

‘To claim that it is ironic is to miss the point that comedy constructed about the other - that which is different from us - involves the mocking of minority groups in a way that winds the clock back to the pre-alternative days of Bernard Manning.

‘There is no attempt to challenge prejudices or disrupt the status quo. This backward step in comedy seems to mirror the cultural shift we have seen from a feminist sensibility to the post-feminist culture of lads’ magazines.’

Finding, who is working at LSE’s Gender Institute, said Vicky Pollard is ‘rooted in our disgust at brash and loud working-class women, our laughter mocks all women who conform to the physical stereotype as “chavs”, “slags” or “whores”’.

Of Thai mail-order bride Ting Tong Macadangdang, she says: ‘With a mocking name, bad yellow makeup, buck teeth and an inability to pronounce the letter ‘r’ Ting Tong is a poor South-East Asian stereotype. But the laughs in her perceived sexual undesireability play on a horror of the imperfect female form and helps disguise the reality of a woman being bought for sex .’

Of Daffyd, she said: ‘The sketch only works if you believe that we live in a homophobia-free utopia – in which case it would be ridiculous to imagine prejudice where none existed. In fact, Dafydd is ridiculed for his dress and demeanour.’

While of overweight spa visitor Bubbles deVere, she said: ‘In order to laugh, we must agree that no one could ever want to touch an older woman with cellulite and drooping breasts. So Bubbles’ sexuality is presented as stupidity rather than self-confidence.’

However, in her 33-page ‘feminist critique’, Fielding said that the programme sometime ‘got it right’, such as in the mocking of insensitve Fat Fighters leader Marjorie Dawes.

Fielding argued that the racist members of a WI-style club ‘give us a more nuanced glimpse of bigotry’ and that university counselor Linda Flint ‘shows how well-meaning attempts to instil approved language and “diversity awareness” in a workplace are superficial in their effects.’

Click here to download the full study.

Posted: 29 Oct 2008

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