I don’t think I’ll ever forget the horror Little Britain. Oddly enough, I lived abroad for a couple of years when it broke through on British TV, and I remember talking to people back home who told me about this ‘hilarious new show’.
When I finally caught up with it, I was horrified: racist; hitting the poor, LGBT+ and disabled; perpetuating the awful ‘chav’ slur… and really not very clever or funny. A cheap laugh, gleaned from pissing off those who couldn’t answer. It was a version of a playground bully comedy.
Eventually, the producers of the show apparently noticed that what David Walliams and Matt Lucas were doing…wasn’t right. For example, the character of Desiree DeVere – for whom Walliams donned black makeup and a thick suit – has been removed, and in 2020 she will be replaced by a new character. Little Britain was removed from streaming services (including BBC iPlayer and Netflix) in the wake of anti-racism protests following the death of George Floyd.
Both Walliams and Lucas have since apologized (albeit years later, with identical statements about Twitter) for perpetuating harmful stereotypes in portraying “characters of other races”: unthinkable that one of the characters played by Lucas was a “chubby Thai bride” named Ting Tong.
Still, like David Baddiel’s 25-year-overdue apology to soccer player Jason Lee (Baddiel made a “black face” for Fantastic Football League imitate him by coining the term “pineapple head” and consequently inadvertently exposing Lee to years of racist abuse) – this is no excuse to seek pardon for the mere passage of time.
It was racist for Walliams to do blackface in 2003, and for Lucas to hit the poor with his “yes but no but” Vicky Pollard impression. It was offensive then and it is offensive now – and while those who extol the virtues of free speech may say that there is nothing evil being offensive (and they may be right), we still don’t need to celebrate those who are.
We don’t have to give them top spots on shows like British Got Talent; and breathtaking book deals on their (clearly mediocre) children’s books while there are so many good writers who no be endorsed by a celebrity. We don’t need to give them that much space.
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Therefore, I will not mourn the loss of Walliams from our television screens if he passes away Britain’s Got Talent (his future as a referee is “very up in the air”, according to an ITV program spokesman). Because I wasn’t surprised to hear reports that he made “disparaging comments” about the contestants who auditioned for the London Palladium show in January 2020, or that those comments were derogatory and sexually explicit.
I wasn’t surprised that according to a leaked transcript he saw guardianWalliams appeared to refer to the older performer as “c***” three times when he was out of earshot after a failed audition; or that further sexually explicit comments were made after the participant left the stage.
I wasn’t surprised to hear that he made “disrespectful remarks” in the first place. It seems clear to me that Walliams has revealed his average streak Little Britainand has been eating out ever since.
Its star should have dimmed 20 years ago when Little Britain first appeared. And in a perfect world, it would never glow.