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Tue, Oct

Uncategorised
Typography

At What Point Do the Offended Minorities Become the Bigots . .?

It was with barely even a flicker of annoyance that I noticed that HBO Max would be pulling the 1939 film of Gone with the Wind from their scheduling.
I mean, what’s the point of upsetting ourselves at this stage? As I pointed out previously, we can get set for a whole shed load of things being removed on the assumption that they are bad for us and that we are too thick to be able to make decisions for ourselves. So I have been expecting and continue to expect to see many parts of our history removed or rewritten. And let’s be honest, Gone with the Wind was always an easy target.

My ears pricked up a bit more, however, when I heard that elsewhere the 1967 Disney cartoon The Jungle Book was in trouble. Ah, what memories that one brought back!

I was 8 when our primary school teacher called us all together to announce that we were being taken to the cinema on an Approved Educational School Outing.
And you can only imagine our excitement when we heard that it was to see something based on a work by Rudyard Kipling! The yells of happiness we let out! Yells that only got louder as our teacher explained to us that it was all about a little Indian boy called Mowgli (the Indians being people from where the British Raj used to rule and not those who were slaughtered by an evil statue of Christopher Columbus); and that our class would be tested on how well Mowgli handled his submergence in a foreign culture -- the symbolic jungle animals -- in conjunction with his attempts to resist the call of his ‘natural’ culture. How we sneered at that idea!

At the showing we sat there stony faced during some (admittedly infuriatingly catchy) songs that we could see were quite obviously intended to reinforce racial stereotypes, before we stormed out of the cinema, offended and frothing at the mouth, just gagging to take part in a riot that would culminate in the burning of an effigy of King Louie, who had been attempting some serious cultural appropriation of white man’s red fire and was opposed by Baloo the Bear – and, I might add, of a species of bear that was not indigenous to India and had an American accent. I leave you to draw your own conclusions.

Nor were we blind to the fat-shaming inherent in Disney’s use of the lazy, expect-food-to-fall-into-your-lap depiction of that brown, non-indigenous sloth bear.
Nah, I’m just pulling your leg. We came out thinking that we had seen a pretty great animated movie and most of us couldn’t get that bloody ‘Bare Necessities’ tune out of our heads for the rest of the week. And even though most of us were still at the “I hate girls” stage of innocence, we were pretty happy that wee Mowgli went off with the dark-skinned little cutie at the end of the movie.

So when I heard that this Disney classic was in trouble with the Department of Cinematic Cultural & Racial Stereotyping – and don’t worry, if it’s not a real thing yet it soon will be – I wondered what had triggered the League of the Perpetually Offended this time. The three black, jive-talkin’ crows, maybe?

As it turned out, I had that wrong: Jungle Book was the one with the vultures in it; the 1941 Dumbo was the one with the crows. But don’t worry: that’s on the Orwell list as well.

I got into trouble over here myself this week – not much new there - with my use of the word ‘black’ when talking about the idiots who thought it was smart to organise demonstrations through Dublin during a pandemic that has seen whole countries locked down. Genuinely puzzled, I asked why I couldn’t use the word ‘black’ when the entire movement is known as ‘Black Lives Matter’. Well, you just can’t; that’s all.

I’ve long ago lost track of what I can and can’t say and in any case I don’t even understand half the new words or terms as any kind of recognizable language any more.
I mean, thanks for nothing, JK Rowling! Because of you talking sense this week I came across a completely new acronym when you were referred to as a TERF.

‘That’s definitely a new one’, I thought; but no! According to Mr. Google, it was invented by a cisgender person all of a decade ago. So there. (And did you like the way I just glided over that as if I knew what cisgender means?)

A TERF is someone who is a Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist. So let’s work our way through that together. We’ll skip Radical Feminist. I suppose I’m feminist in that I respect women (as long as my dinner is ready on time; joke!); but I’m not particularly radical.

Trans is probably transvestite or transsexual and we know what exclusion is so I’m guessing it’s someone who doesn’t include the Trans community in…what? I have to be honest and say that, probably like most people, I don’t really give a lot of thought to it. But… More than twenty years ago I worked with a guy who had started the long process into becoming a woman. He tried to do it low-key, but that was difficult. He would add things like earrings or make-up a bit at a time, letting us get accepting of it. Then we had to get used to calling him by his female name. And so on. Using the toilets became a real problem because some women didn’t want him in theirs and some men, likewise.

It was a process of years -- but I’ll tell you something about that person: I eventually thought of her as one of the bravest people I ever knew. In the intermediate stage he/she would often come in black and blue, having been beaten up the night before for the sin of being different.

I wonder what she makes of the way that the decades since have gone, but suspect that she wouldn’t be too approving. Everything seems to be demanded immediately these days, and the agenda is pushed more and more that it is the majority who are out of touch; and that’s just not so.

People who are sympathetic get increasingly irritated that the lack of tolerance is now being shown to us – and for little reason other than that we’re different or dinosaurs or all the rest of those disparaging words. And when does THAT get to be called bigotry?

I am NOT going to apologise for not understanding why it was once OK for me to use the word ‘black’ when today it has to be ‘person of colour’. You know what I mean and you know that I am NOT being derogatory. Neither was JK Rowling; so stop making it seem as if we are.

Most of us have always sided with the minority and in fact I do it instinctively; as with the person I mentioned above, it takes guts to be a member of one and not allow yourself to be bullied; and guts and gumption and courage are things that I admire.

But perhaps it’s time that the Trans and the Cisgender and the Film History-hating Communities cut us a bit of slack as well. Who knows, we might even all get on.
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