ITV cleared over 'tranny' gags

Moving Wallpaper complaints

Broadcasting watchdogs have rejected 100 complaints that ITV1 comedy Moving Wallpaper was offensive to transsexuals.

Ofcom received the complaints after the transsexual character Georgina was introduced as a writer on the fictional production team.

During the episode Georgina experienced bigoted treatment from other characters, including the egotistical producer Jonathan Pope, played by Ben Miller. Those who complained said the storyline was offensive and encouraged bullying and discrimination against transsexuals.

Their grievances included the facts that:

  • She was constantly referred to as ‘he’, ‘she/he’ or even ‘it’
  • Gender reassignment surgery was described as a ‘knock-through’
  • One character threatened to grab her by the Adam’s apple, ‘if she/he still has one’
  • She was the butt of further jokes about her ‘hairy hands’ and ‘stubbly face’
  • She was described as a man in a frock and ‘a walking GM crop’
  • The script used the word ‘trannie’ – a word which some protesters said was on a par with ‘nigger’.

Ofcom conceded that some of the comments had ‘the potential to cause offence’, b ut it did not uphold the complaints, noting: ‘Comedy and satire often, and rightly, engage with challenging and sensitive subjects touching on sexuality and gender. Ofcom must regulate potentially offensive material in a manner that also respects freedom of expression.’

Their ruling, published today, said: ‘Throughout the programme, Georgina is not presented in a negative or stereotypical way. She has strong morals and is very professional, refusing for example to bow to the pressure Jonathan puts her under to turn around a script quickly and to re-use storylines simply to salvage his own reputation.

‘It is Ofcom’s view that the intention of the humour in this episode was to illustrate the crass and prejudiced character of Jonathan, rather than to ridicule a transsexual character. Georgina is given her opportunity to tell Jonathan what she thinks of him at the end of the programme, referring to him as “incompetent, sexist, offensive and talentless”.

‘Although Ofcom appreciates this programme caused offence to some individuals, its intention was to draw out the characters, in the programme, in a manner which was both absurd and satirical. The programme did not condone or encourage such negative attitudes to transsexuals.’

ITV had previously apologised for causing offence in the episode, which aired in March.

In response to one letter of complaint, the broadcaster said: ‘It is never our intention to upset or to offend our viewers but obviously for you on this occasion we got it completely wrong.

‘The episode did highlight, in a comedic way, the prejudice suffered by many, and I should like to mention that positive comments were made… in defence of Georgina to counter those made by Jonathan Pope.’

Published: 8 Jun 2009

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