A World Gone Mad With Political Correctness

Posted on November 22, 2009


So I see the Marks and Spencer people are under fire (from 8 people) for casting Gene Hunt in their Christmas ad this year. Well, they should have known really. He was always going to be crass and insensitive, and make the advert revert back on itself. (I would like to point out that I have been accused of looking for any excuse to write about Philip Glenister and Gene Hunt. I am very hurt by this accusation and find it offensive.)

The whole point of his line in the M&S ad is that he’s drawing attention to the fact that every M&S ad has a girl prancing about in her underwear, especially the Christmas ones. What he’s doing is drawing attention to the fact that, as the ad starts, “Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without…” – the M&S girl in her underwear. It’s kind of like saying, it’s not Christmas season until the Coca Cola ad is on the telly.


But of course, there are always a few naysayers and demons of political correctness on hand to put a dampener on something that really shouldn’t even merit discussion. I mean, the ad is, for the most part fairly standard, the kind of thing you expect from a department store where the subtext is “Spend money in here please”.


I wonder would there have been as much consternation had it been a woman drawing attention to the underwear model?


Of course, there’s no disguising the fact that the need for utter and total political correctness has gone completely off the wall of late, hasn’t it?


We had the situation with Jonathon Ross, Russell Brand and Andrew Sachs and yes, fair enough that was actually a situation that needed to be dealt with and it was out of order. But it seems that it has opened a whole can of worms in terms of what people perceive to be inappropriate. Who at the start of the year would have believed that M&S would come under fire for inappropriate advertising?


Of course, following that controversy, we had Jeremy Clarkson making a comment about truck drivers, something clearly based on films like Duel and other such films. For the love of God, the remark he made was based on the already present pop cultural references to truck drivers as opposed to an actual personal remark. It’s akin to asking an Irish person why they aren’t drunk and red haired, and we don’t get worked up about it, do we? Or at least most of us don’t.


Another instance was in a recent episode of Ashes to Ashes in which, Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister again – making a habit of popping up in political correctness issues, so he is) shoots a dog that’s about to attack them. I remember reading that there were complaints about it, mostly based on the idea that it was setting a bad example for kids. I remember thinking; Ashes to Ashes goes out at 9 o’clock on a Monday night. So firstly, it’s after the watershed, which pretty much means unless you’re strangling puppies with your own overlong hair, you can broadcast whatever you want. And secondly, it’s a school night, kids should be in bed! And, of course if that argument fails, it’s up to parents to monitor what their kids watch. Once the watershed hits, it should be a creative free for all.


In addition to that, if you actually watch the scene, the dog is clearly still moving when they walk in past him!


But, after all of my examples and such, what the whole thing comes down to is perception. How many of us have perceived filth or double meanings in a sentence or a scene when someone else hasn’t? Anything can be perceived as sexist, or too mature for its audience but at the end of the day, it’s the audience that perceives it that way. I’m forever doing it, as are, I’m sure many others. We complain about certain ads because we don’t like that they alert us to how our own minds work and jump to the less PC conclusions.


Why were/are Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes so wildly popular? That’s another blog but I’m just putting the question out there. (I have an essay about this which I’ll blog once I discover its whereabouts on my new ‘I like to hide things’ laptop.)

At the end of the day, coming back to the Marks & Spencer ad: it’s Christmas. And we always see that girl prancing around in her underwear? Why should this year be any different?