Monday, April 12, 2010

Frankie Boyle - social media strikes again

I've held back from blogging about this for a few days, because it's a subject upon which I know that, due to my family circumstances, I might not always be objective. But having given it thought over the weekend, I'm now sure about where I stand.

On Thursday morning I logged into my Twitter feed to find that a blog post was being retweeted. I duly read the post and was horrified.

We have watched Mock the Week for a long time and I'm well aware of Frankie Boyle's humour. He is the sort of comedian who takes his material right to the boundary of bad taste and often beyond it. Sometimes he makes me laugh a lot, but just as often he makes me squirm in discomfort. So I wasn't really surprised to read that he thinks that making a string of jokes about people with Down's Syndrome is acceptable. That laughing about people who will almost certainly neither understand the jokes or be able to fight back is acceptable. To me it is definitely not.

But perhaps what shocked me most of all was the way he treated the blogger and her husband, the fact that he said he didn't 'give a f*ck' that his material had upset her, even after she had calmly explained why.

The power of Twitter worked, as it did in the case of Jan Moir's remarks about Stephen Gately. The story was soon picked up by the mainstream media. India Knight wrote an excellent column in yesterday's Sunday Times. A blogger who just wanted to make sense of a confusing situation was plummeted into a media whirl she neither wanted nor expected. But hopefully it has made at least a few people think.

I wonder if Frankie Boyle gives a f*ck now?


Gillian Philip said...

I refrained from commenting on the original post because it was all getting a bit heated. It's taken me time to work out what I think, too, so I know how you feel!

I've always loathed Frankie Boyle and his cruel humour (though he has a right to make jokes about whatever he likes, and I don't have to listen). I think Sharon stood up for her gorgeous daughter magnificently, thoughtfully and with huge dignity - no arguing, no shouting, and no storming out. I think it was enormously brave of her to stand up to such an acerbic, vicious comedian - I'm sure I would never have the nerve - and I hope she has given him pause for thought.

However, she admits openly in her blog that she had always enjoyed his 'nasty' humour (her word) and bought front row tickets for a live show because she wanted to see him perform unconstrained by a TV editing suite. I really, really hope that she has also given herself pause for thought about just how 'funny' the rest of his material has always been.

People are always writing to cancel their Private Eye subscriptions because they get offended, and I always think they're ridiculous - because Private Eye is sharply satirical and its jokes have many layers, and reveal a lot about those on every side of the joke, including the person who laughs. Frankie Boyle's humour isn't like that: it's crude and cruel and one-dimensional; playground stuff. Sharon's argument that disabled children are the only ones who can't argue back does not quite hold water. The same is true of the victims of many of his jokes.

I admire Sharon hugely for standing up to him - good on her. But I hope she has also reflected on what she perhaps used to find funny.

Cathy said...

Gillian, yes absolutely, anybody buying tickets to see Frankie Boyle live should have an idea what to expect.

As I said I think what upset me most was actually his reaction to her. I, too, hope it will, in the long run, make him think about the nature of his targets and his humour. When he gets it right he can be very funny. But most of the time, sadly, he just gets cheap laughs.

Parents of disabled children are often quite tough. We have to learn early on to take knocks, fight for their rights and defend them to the best of our ability. It's a cruel world out there.

Lacer said...

I agree, it was his "I don't give a f***" comment at the end which really got me, that just showed pure arrogance and not an ounce of understanding.

Anonymous said...

I've heard of him but I have no inclination of finding out who he is or what he does. He's not worth my time.

You however, are.

CJ xx

Cathy said...

Lacer and CJ, I know you both understand.

Gillian Philip said...

I think I understand too, Cathy. However, I still think it is completely valid to hope that Sharon has learned something from this. Which of his 'nasty' jokes did she find funny - the ones about AIDS victims? Cancer sufferers? Child abuse victims?

It's not OK to find vicious humour hilarious - whether it's aimed at you or anyone else.

Cathy said...

I'm not disagreeing with you at all, Gillian (and my poorly worded reply to Lacer and CJ was not in any respect aimed at you, but merely a nod of recognition to two regular blog readers who have children with the same condition as my own son).

For the record I would never, ever want to see Frankie Boyle live, even though I may have very occasionally laughed at one of his jokes (the very rare ones which don't poke fun at more vulnerable people). Most of the time when I have seen him on TV he has made me feel very uncomfortable.

I do, however, still feel sorry for the original blog poster. Yes, she should have been aware of the possibility of something like that happening, given FB's style of humour which she appears to normally enjoy. But it still doesn't excuse his very public attitude towards her on the night. And, in my experience, sometimes something can just hit a very vulnerable spot unexpectedly on a particular day, when on another you would cope better.

I'm sure she will also be reflecting long and hard, not least because of all the unexpected attention, both positive and negative to which she has been subjected (and to which I have, of course, just added).

Gillian Philip said...

Understood, Cathy! Obviously we're all on the same wavelength. I do agree with you all about his dreadful reaction, too.

It's as I said: I think she was tremendously brave to stand up to him at all and it must have been an awful, awful moment for her. Here's hoping that his reaction came out of panic (surely, surely...), and that he has had enough time now to think long and hard.

It'll be very interesting to see what he does next...

Marshall Buckley said...

Very refreshing to see such reasoned arguments on here about the rights and the wrongs of what Frankie Boyle did.

Like you, and many other I'm sure, I fought the urge to make comments on the day, though I did post a couple of (I hope, carefully restrained) comments on Twitter and Facebook the following day.

I'm not, for one moment, condoning Frankie's use of Down's as humour. But - and this is really key, for me - when you claim you know what he's like and you're looking forward to seeing him push the boundaries, I don't think you can then choose to get upset when he happens to cross into your personal area of sensitivity, no matter what the subject.

Yes, we all have one (I won't mention mine). Had I gone to see him, and had he ventured into my area of sensitivity, then I'm sure I wouldn't have found it amusing. However, I'm equally sure I would have gritted my teeth, shrugged and thought "Well, that's what I paid to come and see".
(I'll admit, I do like his humour, even though I know it's mainly just shock tactics, really).

I do feel for the original poster, and think she handled the situation with some dignity.

One of the things that really riled me were comments on Twitter like "I don't know anything about this man, but this is vile". Those who do know his humour can, I think, give a much more reasoned view (even if they still say "It's vile" at least they are coming from an educated viewpoint).

I've ranted enough now. Thanks for the opportunity to get that off mh chest!

Cathy said...

Welcome, Marshall and you didn't rant at all!

Yes, I think we do all seem to be coming from about the same place on this one. I think that was why I was careful not to blog about it as a knee jerk reaction at the time, just as Gillian said she didn't comment then either. There are two sides to every story.