Enfield cleared over Filipina sketch

Watchdog rejects complaints

Complaints that Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse were offensive to Filipina maids have been rejected by broadcasting watchdogs.

A total of 42 viewers complained about a sketch in BBC One’s Harry And Paul show in which Enfield played an upper-class character who treats a Northerner like a pet dog. In the scene, below, Enfield tried to encourage the man to ‘mate’ with his neighbour’s Filipina maid, with no success.

Viewers complained that the sketch was offensive to the Filipino community and women in general, by presenting the Filipina as an object of sexual gratification. At the time, Filipina congresswoman Risa Hontiveros: ‘It was revolting. It was a disgusting and an insensitive and racist attempt to satirise a scene of exploitation. By making overseas Filipinas appear as submissive sex objects, it reinforces the notion that foreigners could easily hire small and sexy Filipina domestic helpers and goad them into becoming sexual objects.’

However, Ofcom rejected the complaints, saying that they were to be expected in a show like this.

‘This particular sketch was one of a number which ran throughout the series in which Harry Enfield plays an extreme comedy stereotype,’ it ruled.‘ The comedy frequently comes from the absurdity of the situation.

‘In Ofcom’s view, there was no intention to ridicule women or the Filipino community. The target of the humour was very clearly the upper-class character played by Harry Enfield who holds such a deluded view of his social superiority that he treats individuals with lower social status with ridiculous disdain.

‘Although this sketch may have caused offence to some individuals, it explored the issue of social class in an absurd way which was not intended to reflect real life.’

Ofcom also rejected complaints about Jeremy Clarkson’s jibe against lorry drivers on Top Gear. A total of 339 people complained last month after he said that the job was: ‘Change gear; change gear; change gear; check your mirrors; murder a prostitute…’

The watchdog ruled: ‘Taste in comedy can vary widely between people and Ofcom recognised that the comments made by Jeremy Clarkson could be offensive to some people.

‘Ofcom accepts that the comments made by Jeremy Clarkson could shock some viewers. However, Ofcom did not believe the intention of the comments could be seen to imply that all lorry drivers murder prostitutes, nor would it be reasonable to make such an inference. In Ofcom’s view, the presenter was clearly using exaggeration to make a joke, albeit not to everyone’s taste.’

Published: 8 Dec 2008

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