Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Filth: The Mary Whitehouse story

I have just watched Filth: The Mary Whitehouse story, with Julie Walters playing Mary Whitehouse.

I have to say that it was both a very moving inspiring and funny programme.

I appreciate that Mary Whitehouse is not every ones cup of tea, neither was she mine, but I have now got a great deal of respect and admiration for her.

I had not realised how much of a campaign of personal vilification had been launched against her, and more shockingly her family.

It took a lot of courage to make the stand that she did, and organise the campaign that she did. She showed that people power can work.

She was also responsible for the concept of the watershed, which many parents are truly grateful for.


wanderjahre said...

The appearance of Julie Walters on BBC Two in Filth: The Mary Whitehouse Story will remind many of us of the counter-productive influence of that Midlands schoolteacher. Whitehouse reduced to absurdity what should have been a serious debate on the effect of the mass media on moral standards.

Mary Whitehouse launched her Clean Up TV campaign in 1963, blaming a perceived moral decline on the BBC and other leading cultural institutions. She had a genius for choosing the most ridiculous targets, obsessing over the “bloodies” in Till Death Us Do Part, or sounding the alarm at an exposed breast, while failing to see that these were tiny fissures caused by the shifting tectonic plates of the wider society.

Julie Walters protraying her with uncanny skill said "I felt for her. She was genuine for a start, like a lot of campaigners who do it off their own backs, and I am touched by the script's portrayal of the relationship with her husband and her family. In retrospect, finding out about her, she had a point. We have a watershed because of her and it was her that started to lobby about child pornography. At the time people were going: 'No, there is no such thing, is there?' All that sort of thing was swept under the carpet and kept in the dark.

The BBC was represented by Sir Hugh Carleton Greene He did amazing stuff for television, starting BBC Two. He revolutionised it but he was ex-public school, very smug, very self-righteous and just completely dismissed her. She just didn't matter as a 'silly unintelligent person' - yet she caused his downfall in the end.

Whitehouse was wrong about television and that Greene, the BBC’s most liberal Director-General, may also have been its greatest. If I put my mind to it, I could even declare myself offended by Hugh Bonneville’s expert impression of the man as a clumsy, intellectual elitist with an overappreciative eye for the ladies (so long as they were not over 50 and wearing a hat). In his memoirs, a later D-G, Alasdair Milne, wrote that Greene’s refusal to meet or correspond with Whitehouse was misguided. It was, and the play made the corporation look pretty shabby in its attempts to flatten a licence payer.

But Whitehouse's campaign was fundamentally flawed she neither commissioned nor deployed research - the ammo necessary to win the debate - because she felt that things should be accepted on her own say-so. When Winston Churchill introduced his Private Member's Bill in 1986 to bring broadcasting authorities within the provisions of the Obscene Publications Act, his supporters were desperate for material on the effect of TV on children. The only help they got was a supply of magazines featuring large photographs of Whitehouse accompanied by tributes from clergymen to her bravery and wisdom.

She liked to claim credit towards the end of her life for making things better than they had been in the 60s, but most parents today would say they are immeasurably worse. The once mighty BBC is now a minnow in an enormous media pond that comprises not only dozens of scarcely regulated TV channels but violent computer games, the internet, rap and hip-hop music and other unhappy influences on young people.

The belief that we should try to protect children from influences that sexualise them prematurely or cauterise their emotional development is not an eccentric one. Unfortunately, because of her, it necessary to prefix expressions of concern by saying: “I don't want to sound like Mary Whitehouse but...”. Not a glorious legacy.

Anonymous said...

I want to take over where she left off. Ban crap TV, expose cheap people with low or no morals, can I be the only person who is not a trollop in the UK? It certainly feels as if I am. Is there anyone with a brain cell and a moral left? Can anyone converse, amuse, play back gammon,remember life before ecstacy, pick up a book, expect to last over a month before they sleep with someone. Please tell me someone has a pulse, class and innate wisdom to value a long, happy marriage and not think the grass is greener. Believe me, the grass is actually black and the total wierdo's out there, well you wouldn't believe. It's only that I see them as sport and antagonise them that gets me through each day. Keep careful tabs on all computer useage and mobile phone calls and if these are free of pervy angles, stick with him but if, like most, they have a whole separate, secret, twisted other existance, then find it, expose it and bring them down. I find writing their worst, most offensive habits on a large sheet and standing outside their office effective....or the threat of it!!