I hate the Inbetweeners

Joe Daniels argues that it's not funny, it's bigoted

With the annual hubbub of the Edinburgh Fringe cacophonously screaming in our ears all August, it always feels a bit weird getting back to reality, and catching up on all the real life you missed. I was only in Edinburgh a week, and in that time missed Steve Jobs’s retirement, Gaddafi’s compound being stormed, and Assad sending in yet more tanks to bombard his public. Despite missing all this stuff – actually important stuff – I’m glad to have missed out on the week that The Inbetweeners movie was unleashed on its baying, salivating, idiotic public.

I rarely make occasion for tact, and I wont be doing so now. I hate The Inbetweeners. I think it’s lazy, unfunny, misogynistic crap that amounts to nothing more than a resilient shit-stain on Channel 4’s line-up. And I don’t just hate it; I’m staggered that despite the mass attention it has received, nobody seems to be calling it for its blatant, unapologetic women-hating.

In fact, we all celebrate it for such reasons. We talk about how it captures the teenage years we all had. Oh! The joy we all had talking about how much clunge we’ll get if we stick a wig in our pants, how the ladies will froth at the gash waiting for us to satisfy their desperate, desperate holes! Seriously? Is this the teenage angst you had? Is this really the life you led in college? And you’re prepared to celebrate it now? If so, get yourself to a therapist.

I’m not being histrionic either: the show is demonstrably misogynistic. Name me one female character who is anything more than a sex object? Name me one male character who sees a female character as anything more than a sex object? Name me one conversation had in the programme, or a plot device, that doesn’t involve the four half-wits seeking to shag senseless any woman that’ll accept their creepy, repugnant, acne-addled advances? It’s impossible.

Will’s mum is sniggered at by three (we’ll let Will off here, though the show probably could go that low if audience figures rewarded it) nervous twats struggling to stifle wood, because – guess what? – she’s a hottie, and that’s all she can be. Carli isn’t the love of Simon’s life for any real, transcendental reason – no, that would require thoughtful writing about the true emotions of teenagers – but is instead in possession of the vagina he’s wanted to squirt inside the longest.

Women in the show are objects. They exist to be sexed. Thank fuck for feminism, look how far we’ve come: women get to be jeered at by the geeks in the corner, with their tiny cocks slopped on the table. Emancipation must taste great.

It’s not just women either; the gays also get their much-deserved ribbing. Find me one episode that doesn’t make heavy use of the word ‘bender’? Again, you can’t.

Will, Simon, Jay, and Neil love to call each other a ‘bender’, because that’s what we did in college, right? All our best friends were ‘benders’, and anyone who for a split-second didn’t want to get their dick wet was an absolute ‘bender’. Oh, and how can we forget the larks we had when we found out our friend’s dad was gay – how he was such a ‘bumder – a combination of bummer and bender’?

Let’s call this what it is: flagrant, lazy bigotry.

It would go some way towards being justified if it was funny, but I don’t find the glorification of bigoted bullies too amusing, and in the odd scene that isn’t littered with language Jim Davidson would be at home using, I’m still not laughing. Fish getting punched and kids following through farts in exams don’t tickle my funny bone these days.

Catchphrases like ‘bus-wanker’ and ‘fwiend’ don’t resemble anything close to jokes. And how is it anywhere near funny to punctuate every sentence with the infuriatingly chipper, Gervais-coined, utterance: ‘Brilliant!’?

The typical defecse offered by the show’s army of fans is that it’s just jokes about being young – jokes from the perspective of the yoof, and the yoof can say bigoted things without loading them with any real, bigoted intent. If this is the case then fine, I accept that.

But there’s a caveat. If this really is the case, that it’s just ignorance and not bigotry – just playground ‘banter’ (and I shudder to use the word) – then why is it that it’s only the women and the gays that get the abuse? Why is race spared from the onslaught, from the banter?

So, the caveat is this: If The Inbetweeners, in whatever incarnation it’ll next take – because nothing this successful ends with just one big screen outing – includes jibes at ‘Pakis’ and ‘niggers’, which is just as offensive as ‘slut’ and ‘bender’, then I’ll back down. That’s the deal. But if not, then the fans are to accept that they lap up bigoted, cowardly dross and call it 30 minutes a week well-spent.

It’s all especially disappointing given just how much potential there was in the initial premise: a light shone on the kids that aren’t quite popular, but aren’t quite outcasts. It could’ve spoken to the Everyteen, laying bare the existential crises teenagers face everyday in college, watching the world get more complex and sexed around them as they powerlessly shudder, more and more into a frustrated, insecure, impotently angry cipher of what they’re told they should be – but instead it’s just an offensive, lazy, quartet of caricatures being offensive and lazy.

I had a fairly standard experience as a teenager – I was sexless, confused, and desperate; we all were – but the show doesn’t represent this, if my childhood is the same as that of the four leads, then I’m deeply ashamed and embarrassed.

I’ve not seen the film, and I don’t intend to. I saw the first and second series and called it time someway through the third. I therefore accept that maybe I am wrong; maybe the show has balanced its misogyny and homophobia with racism. Maybe it’s even grown something close to a serious emotional core, but somehow I doubt it. Somehow I suspect it’s still the same tired, boring, and bigoted interminable abortion of a show it was when I gave up on it.

I’m glad I was in Edinburgh for the fanfare surrounding the movie’s release. I was able to see shows by Scott Capurro, Richard Herring, Toby, and Andrew Doyle (to name but a few): all of which feature childhood angst, teenage love and coming-of-age maturation in a funny, nuanced, and intelligent way, without sacrificing any darker material or concessions to puerility.

If The Inbetweeners did this, it would be twice the show it is. As it stands though, it’s just cowardly, hateful garbage that should be consigned to the list of things society regrets.


Published: 30 Aug 2011

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