Wednesday 6 February 2013

That Joke's Not Funny Anymore

These days it seems that you can’t open a newspaper without reading about another actress or TV presenter whining on about sexism in broadcasting. And then there is all that chatter about ‘rape culture’. And have we decided what the difference is between harmless banter and misogynist hate speech yet? Apparently not, if you tune into some of the comedy being broadcast in the UK at the moment.

Now, let me state for the record, I’m not a pearl-clutching, horrified letter to the Radio Times type. I like my comedy challenging, cheeky, shocking and unfettered by Daily Mail notions of taste and decency, thank you very much. However, the other night I saw something that had me questioning my sense of humour.

I had watched the first two episode of BBC3’s new comedy Way To Go with minimal engagement. I liked the central idea; three of life’s losers solve their financial problems by offering an amateur assisted-suicide service. The three lads were familiar characters; the eternally exasperated lad, the sex-obsessed gobby lad and the dumb lad. And they exchanged predictable laddish banter and got into scrapes. Nothing ground-breaking, but diverting enough.

And maybe that was what Bob Kushell, the American writer had in mind when he wrote episode three. Maybe he wanted to make an impact. That was the episode where we encountered the porn actress who told the Exasperated Lad that she had been sexually abused by her father but the reason she made porn was because she liked “getting shafted on camera” before offering him sex about thirty seconds after meeting him. Later she would be called upon to give an old man oral sex and would be casually referred to as a “dick smoker”.

Meanwhile, the Gobby Lad met a Goth girl at the fried chicken shop where she worked. The very first thing he said to her was about how he was imagining her giving him oral sex. Later, she would be referred to as a “skank” as his friends expressed incredulity that he intended to sleep with her. And sleep with her he did, all the while calling her a “bitch”, “skank” and a “dirty little whore”. But that was okay because she liked being insulted during sex.

By the way, the first words of dialogue from Dumb Lad were “Check out her nips”.

At the end of the episode I was shocked and not in a good way. Not in the “I can’t believe they got away with that, hurray for the BBC” way. I was shocked that such casual misogyny was allowed onto the BBC. The treatment of the Goth girl was particularly horrifying. Let’s imagine that initial encounter in the real world. Imagine that someone walks into your place of work and the first thing they say to you is that they are visualizing you performing oral sex on them. That wouldn’t be funny, that would be sexual harassment.

And the thing is, a lot of women don’t have to imagine that scenario, it happens every single day. If you don’t believe me, visit the Everyday Sexism site where women talk about how being sexually propositioned by strangers makes them feel.

Spoiler Alert: They don’t feel turned on or inclined to sleep with those strangers. They feel threatened and humiliated.

The men they talk about aren’t funny; they’re verbally violent and oppressive. And I should imagine that they use phrases like whore, slut and even dick smoker in everyday conversation.

And it’s that sort of language to which I particularly took offence. It is unacceptable for racist and homophobic epithets to be used in everyday conversation these days. And when used in a script they are used to typify a certain character and that is rarely your happy-go-lucky, hapless hero type. And that’s the way it should be.

So, when will we start extending the same courtesy to women? When will it stop being funny to call someone a whore, slut, slag or a bitch? I’ll give you a clue, it already has stopped being funny. I suggested that Bob Kushell may have been going for impact in the offending episode. Well, what I’d like writers to consider is the real world impact of this kind of language. I’d like to think how real women would feel if they were called bitch, skank or whore. How would you feel if you heard that language used in the workplace, playground or in the street. Would you laugh?

I don’t want any language censored or banned; I want us to take responsibility for its use. That language does filter down and is used by people with a lot less sophistication and intelligence than I would credit Bob Kushell and his fellow (all male) writers on Way To Go with. As writers (including myself) are quick to tell anyone who will listen; without us there is no show. There is a just a blank page. Well, that cuts two ways. If the project starts with us, then so does the responsibility. If you are putting that kind of language on the page then you better damn sure you know what you’re doing and you’re prepared to stand by it.

And maybe a big help would be more women on those writing teams. I’m not suggesting any form of positive discrimination. I want writing to be a meritocracy. And considering the considerable critical and ratings successes that female writers have been having recently, we should most certainly be seeing a better ratio of men to women.

A study done by The Writers’ Guild over a six month period in 2011 discovered that only 32% of scripts broadcast on BBC1, BBC2, Radio 3 and 4 were written by women. This seems bizarre to me. After all, who wouldn’t want a Sally Wainwright, Miranda Hart or Heidi Thomas on their writing team? After all, they were the powerhouses behind those rating behemoths Last Tango In Halifax, Miranda and Call The Midwife. Who wouldn’t want multiple and diverse perspectives in their story meetings? Although, as 50% of the population is female, a woman’s POV isn’t exactly “niche”.

To go back to Way To Go, I can’t help wondering if a woman casting an eye over the early drafts of the offending script might have piped up and said something about the language and the truth of the female experience. I know I would have done.


  1. The producer Steve Cleary once said a brilliant thing about writers. Famously we have very little power in film and TV. By and large we have no say over who directs our work or who is cast in it. Our stories can shift and change in production and in the edit. We can be sacked, we can be rewritten. So what power do we have? There's only one thing, Steve said, that we have control over: the morality of our stories. What our scripts actually say about the world. Writers are the guardians of the morality of their work. This is something I always try to keep in mind.

  2. Many of the TV panel comedy shows are also bastions of sexism with mainly male comics. They do jokes about women that Roy Chubby Brown would have been proud of. When there is a woman on the panel, she's often young, pretty and blonde and not a comic so can't hold her own against the testosterone salvo. The Sarah Millicans and Sue Perkins are few and far between.

    You'll notice there are very few, if any, women writers on many of these shows. When did we become invisible and unimportant? Like you, I don't want censorship. Rowan Atkinson just fought and won that battle for us. But producers/ comics/ broadcasters have to look more carefully about what they're putting out. It's an accident waiting to happen.

    1. Gail, there are often women (young, blonde and pretty too, as are many of the men) who can and do 'hold their own'. What part of being young, blonde, pretty and not-a-comic means you can't give as good as you get?

      What I don't like about the programme is when they have a 'stupid' person (I chose the word carefully) off one of the reality TV shows - this is just as likely to be a pretty young man (they all are) as it is a woman - and then poke fun at them and laugh at their ignorance and lack of guile. They were phenomenally, in fact aggressively, rude to Jedward. I usually fast forward through those bits. I don't enjoy watching people being mocked. I also don't like feeling sorry for reality TV people.

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  4. As I've discussed with you in another place, Lisa, I didn't enjoy the show either. It didn't make me laugh. It was trying too hard to be gross-out humour.

    There's much to discuss here. But can I focus on one question? As a writer myself I think it's the most important one. Should TV drama should be a mirror or a blackboard? You will, I hope, forgive the clumsy rhetorical dichotomy. I'm a mirror man myself.

    I want TV drama to contain characters who are credible and authentic. This means they (like us) will be flawed. Characters without flaws are the death of drama. Flaws are at the heart of dramatic constructs. (You get your Grandmother, I’ll provide the eggs!) If this means that some of our make-believe people use language, that is consistent with their reality but that some will find offensive, then I think that's part of the deal. Those characters will be judged. However, I don't believe anyone should watch telly drama for moral messages or to brush up on their humanity. I don't believe they do.

    We have to be allowed to have characters whose views and dialogue cause offence. And yes, I would argue that while we have a flawed society (not ending any time soon) we should have characters who are sexist, homophobic and racist (maybe not all three at once)... and that these are not always presented as entirely bad people. I'm often a lone voice on that last point. I don't believe in heroes and villains. I like moral mess. I want nuance and confusion. I don't want TV to be peopled entirely by the anodyne. I appreciate that this isn't what you were arguing for. I also realise that may not have been what the writers of Way To Go were shooting for!

    You quoted a line from the show: 'look at the nips on her'. Would you have cut that? Would you have rephrased it? I didn't laugh at the line but I feel that it was entirely justified with these characters and in this context; as a private exchange between two contemporary young men.

    I would love to live in a society which was liberated and where the sexual conduct of women was not to be used to condemn them, so words like slag and whore would be redundant and meaningless. Until we do, these words must be found in the mouths of our characters. If we object to these words (and I do) then we need to change the world. The easiest way to do that, of course, is to never use these words ourselves.

    For the purposes of comparison, what do you feel about Family Guy, South Park and The Inbetweeners? And what would you do with rap music?

    1. Jason, I wouldn't do anything with rap music because I'm not a West Coast rapper. And you should thank your lucky stars for that. Still, it's not really relevant to this arena of discussion about television writing.

      As for flawed characters, I absolutely agree. I think one of the biggest problems with British TV drama is that it is often too binary when it comes to characters. Ironically, especially female characters.

      And as I very clearly said, I don't want any language censored, I want writers to use it thoughtfully and with responsibility.

      Now, I'm sorry I can't think of any comedy characters that regularly use racist language and are considered lovable or are allowed to be the protaganist. Even homophobic language is on the way out and so it should be. My point was that a character using racist or homophobic language is rarely considered cheeky and funny. It signals they are, for want of a better word, baddies.

      And, more importantly, the other characters around express disgust and challenge that language. Jesus, even Alf Garnett had Rita correcting him. So part of what really offended me about Way To Go is not once did someone question Joey's attitude to women and use of language. So the 'look at her nips' line was just throwaway, no reaction. I wouldn't cut it, but I wouldn't have written the rest of the episode.

      You ask whether I want TV to be a blackboard or a mirror. And you know the answer full well, it's both. But as I pointed out, this show wasn't either. The treatment of those women in the real world would have caused distress and fear - there was no reflection of that.

      It think the 3 shows you enter into evidence are intersting. For a start, they are better written than WTG. Two are cartoons, which I think immediately signals that these are not supposed to be reflectiosn of reality - unless you know something about MechaStriesand that I don't.

      The closest comparison is The Inbetweeners, which I loved. The point about the characters in that show was thar=t they were fantasists. For all their sexixt banter about clunge etc, they were never going to get laid. And even if they did, it was going to be painfully awkward. A very good reflection of teenage boys in my opinion (I have a younger brother and now nephews). It was funny because it was true.

      However, in WTG, they have their cake and they eat it. They're sexist wankers with a terrible attitude to women but in the episode in question all three get laid/offers of sex. One is happily married and another finds true love - and both relationships are the shows real jeopardy. We're supposed to cheer on their pathetic love lives even though they are utter cocks. No thanks.

  5. I'm male. The issues you raise are important. But without even considering these painful issues, I wish producers and writers would avoid this stuff for even simpler reasons: they are deadening to humor.

    Like you, I thought the premise of the show was interesting. After the first episode I thought it had promise.

    Then the second episode was virtually nothing but lame prurient jokes.

    I even LIKE lame prurience. But when it so dominates, and the story lines are all go far out of the way to make constant lame prurient jokes, my time is being wasted.

    Unending streams of knob jokes kill stories. It can be done well, but people who have the impulse to create a knob-joke-rich program rarely seem to be able to write a decent story and finesse the jokes.

    Add your topics to that and such programs should never get made. Yet they proliferate.

    1. Hi,

      Sorry I missed your comments in amongst! I think that writing comedy is probably one hell of a balancing act. On teh one hand you don't want it to be anodyne and turn into moving wallpaper. And yet, you don't want it to be alienate your audience. I guess, as audience members, we all think the balance should be different!


  6. Hi Lisa,

    I script edited Way To Go and was one of the writing team. I think you're being quite unfair - not in your reaction to the material, which is entirely up to you, but in the assumptions you make about the team. I'm really quite hurt by this blog post.

    We have met. Did I really strike you as someone who is casually misogynist or who doesn't worry about the impact of his material? As someone who just churns it out for cash and takes no care? Perhaps I did, but I hope it's not who I am. I've turned down job after job because I find the material patronising or bland and was drawn to Way To Go because it posed a fascinating challenge. How do you get laughs out of such a delicate subject? Can you? Given the premise of this series, of course we considered every line. The leads aren't heroes, we aren't supposed to admire them. The series takes place in a heightened, grotesque world.

    As illustration, my episode concerns a woman dying of cancer. My own mother, who I adored, was dying of cancer when we hit production. She had already died when we reached the edit. I was, and remain, heartbroken. But I couldn't bring all that to the job. I had to accept the world Bob had created was one where usual sensibilities shouldn't apply (although they weren't entirely ignored). It's about awful, idiotic, unscrupulous people being entrusted with this most sensitive of tasks. Like you, I'd be horrified to hear someone in the real world refer to a woman as a skank or a whore - and I would challenge it - but we're not in the real world in Way To Go. It is grotesquerie. No one is expected to sympathise with Joey and his attitude to women. You say he is rewarded with a shag but it's quite an unpleasant and meaningless one. There's nothing heroic there that anyone is being encouraged to emulate. I'm not saying you don't have a point at all but we did think about and discuss this stuff.

    You have made it clear that you think the show is badly written. There you go, we're awful writers with no talent. That is your prerogative, although I think you're being very unfair on Bob and the others if not on me (I spend my whole working life feeling more down on my own abilities than you could ever be). But please don't assume that all of us on the team are blokey misogynists with no respect for women because that cuts deeper than writing skills and you do us a great disservice. You say a woman should have cast an eye over the scripts - our director is a woman. I like to think that I'm on the ball with women characters too. We had the discussions you've assumed didn't happen. We considered the material. We went with what you saw. You obviously think we made the wrong judgement call and that's up to you but at least credit us with the sensitivity and intelligence to be alert to the impact of what we were making. If we got it wrong for you, it was only after much discussion.

    Tell me I can't write by all means. You're far more successful than me and I'll take it on the chin. It's nothing I don't think most days anyway. But don't tell me I don't care.


    1. Dear Brian,

      First of all, I'm really very sorry to hear about your mother. I hope that you're getting through the grief and apologise if you feel my criticisms have in anyway made it harder for you.

      However, I do stand by criticism of the show. I think you're being disingenuous when you say that we're not supposed to identify with or like Scott, Joey and Cozzo. They are the only real voices in the show and, as I've pointed out, are not challenged on their behaviour. If I felt for one second that was happening, then I think I could have forgiven the language used and the casual way in which they treat the women. But that simply hasn't happened so far.

      You say that Joey's shag with the Goth girl was unpleasant and meaningless. For who? Because he seemed pretty happy about it - even when she told him he had small cock. And he didn't exactly agonise over breaking the finger of the girl he'd just shagged in the previous episode.

      I notice you don't tackle my criticism of the 'dick smoker' thread to the story. Do you think I was being unfair?

      I'm sure that you and the rest of the writing team worked hard on this show. It's a battle just to get something close to on air at the moment. And I'm sure that you didn't bash together the scripts without second thought. However, I found the language and portrayal of women offensive. I didn't just watch the show once and go with my (extremely strong) gut reaction, I watched it again. Unfortunately, I felt the same way when I came out the other end.

      You say you were alert to the impact you were having. Well, you had an impact on me and it really wasn't a good one. As you say, we've met - so I hope you considered me at least partially intelligent and thoughtful. So, if it was having that impact on me had something gone wrong? Or is that what you were going for?

      And in fairness, I never called you or the rest of the team bad writers. I think you've been insensitive and cavalier in your use of sexist language and portrayal of women. And I don't think my level of career success is at all relevant. I'm not a comedy writer for a start and I wasn't reacting to the show as a writer, but as a female viewer. Perhaps I'm not your target demographic and that may be a fair criticism. Maybe I'm too old and battle scarred to take the hard stuff on the chin. Still, I think I'm entitled to an opinion.

      I wish you the best, Brian. I hope that if your proudo fthe show, it goes form strength to strength and you all win BAFTAs. I also hope that the next time you sit down and type the word 'skank' you think about the power your wielding. I hope we all do.


  7. Jason, I obviously have nothing against pretty, young blonde girls but if you read my whole comment, my point was "and not a comic." I think my point is still a valid one; it happens many many panels shows, if there's a woman at all.

  8. Of course you're entitled to an opinion, Lisa, and I accept that I'm probably over-sensitive to criticism at the moment for personal reasons, but I found it quite tough to read a blog from someone I had met and liked - and interacted with in what I thought was a friendly way on Twitter in the days when I could still tolerate that place - based on the assumption that I and my colleagues are misogynist. That's quite an accusation to throw out and I think an unfair one. We have only met relatively briefly, and maybe I created a bad impression, I don't know, but did I really come across as some dreadful misogynist? I must have been having a very bad week if I did.

    Maybe it is undue touchiness on my part but I felt you have played the player rather than the ball here. I have no problem at all with you objecting to the material as it reached you and you outline why it upset you very well. I'm not questioning your intelligence or telling you how to read a show. That is entirely up to you. But the slant of your post was that we hadn't considered the material or the kind of world Bob was creating and that the series was put together with a lack of thought. In a cavalier way, as you put it. It wasn't. Does Joey's attitude to women stink? Yes. Does ours? I don't think so. Of the other writers, I have only met Bob because the rest are based in the States, but he didn't strike me as a rampant misogynist. I don't think I'm one. We looked at the material you objected to at the scripting stage and some of the points you make were raised - of course I see the word skank in a script and think, "Hey, up!" - but we decided it worked in the world of the show and for those characters.

    I really don't mean to dismiss the points you are making, even if I don't entirely agree with them, but I do wish you hadn't projected motivation or a lack of due thought onto the writing team. You must know that very few shows, particularly ones where a lead writer is creating his own vision as Bob was on this, are cobbled together in such a carefree way. Every line is considered, every potential objection addressed. Not everyone will like the end result but it is put together with due care. The benefit of the doubt might have been nice, that's all.

    But thanks for your kind words about my Mum, they are very much appreciated, and I do accept that I'm in a heightened emotional state at the moment so may be taking everything too much to heart. I wish you all the very best too, Lisa. I always admire people who'll stand up and voice an opinion but that's why I had to stand up and defend my team. And I hope I'm on the defensive, not the offensive, as I have no reason to want to upset or offend you (it appears not to have been mutual but I liked you when we met - you were good fun). But we're not the unthinking boors you suggest we are. Honestly, we're not!

    Brian x

    1. Brian,

      Thank you for both originally commenting and replying so thoughtfully. Just to clarify, I don't think you or Bob or the other writers are misogynists. I think you've created a pretty shocking one in Joey and I think I now understand that was what you were going for - I just really wish Scott would just once challenge his language or behaviour. Perhaps he does in the subsequent eps? For the record, I got on with you brilliantly at that ridiculous Bore Place BBC jamboree thingy and hope we raise a glass together again at some point.

      I don't think male comedy writers have secretly formed the 'We Hate Women' club and are plotting the overthrow of universal suffrage. However, I do think that there is sometimes a lack of sensitivity and a tendency to perpetuate stereotypes and tropes that really are outdated. Funnily enough, I think if WTG had been broadcast three or four years ago, I wouldn't have batted an eyelid. However, there has been a tsunami of news and experiences that have raised my awareness. Not least, being a female writer myself and finding that I'm battling preconceptions every bloody day. It frustrates me when I see all male writing teams because I think they must be missing such a useful voice and a different angle on their material/premis. And WTG has one of the most original central ideas I've seen in long time.

      Look, at the risk of being preachy, just take a look at everyday I think it may help you to see where I was coming from. Someone has got to start saying that the way some women are treated by a minority of men is unacceptable and damaging. Maybe next time, Goth Girl can have an orgasm then kick Joey in the crotch for being such a twat? I'm not asking you to stop being funny and rude and edgy, just flip those stereotypes on their heads.

      Again, thank you for taking the time, Brian. I admire your passion for your show. Would that every writer had that.

      Love Lisa xxx

    2. Lisa, I absolutely get your point about how some male writers portray women. Their female characters are so often and so obviously no more than wank fantasies and there's no understanding of female psychology at all. Sometimes it's done so brazenly and so blithely that you just go with it but, no, more often it grates. Similarly, I completely get your point about abusive terms and their impact. Again, though, sometimes you can just go with it. I recently saw In Bruges which is full of homophobic stuff but it didn't bother me in the slightest because it felt right in context. Similarly, I didn't mind the constant N-wording in Django Unchained. You hear it, you flinch, you're supposed to.

      For me, the neat trick Bob has played in Way To Go is to make his characters' behaviour so awful across the board that the assisted suicides begin to look like their only kind and reasonable actions. There's a sleight of hand to it. But when you get involved in a risky balancing act like that then inevitably you will be seen to stumble by some in the audience, when you hadn't even felt yourself wobble. I really do get the points you are making, Lisa, and they're not unreasonable. It's down to whether or not you can just go with the style of the show and everyone's tolerance will be set at different levels.

      Anyway, I hope we can say we have cleared the air now and that we see each other's point of view. And thanks for replying. I hope we do run into each other again in the real world too. Take care,

      Brian xx

  9. Lisa - I truly appreciate and, frankly, understand your comments about WAY TO GO. On the surface, I can see how these characters seem rampantly misogynistic. But take a closer look.

    In the first two episodes, Scott, played brilliantly by Blake Harrison, gets dumped by his girlfriend because he's "not doing anything with his life," is plagued by the incendiary sexual harassment by his predatory boss and offered uncommitted sex by a porno actress, which he doesn't act on. Instead, he finds Julia, a wonderful, articulate, caring woman with a big heart to devote himself to. Sex is important, of course. But his love for her comes first. He treats her well. And doesn't, in any way, use her or take her for granted. He is a good person. A caring person. A man with an emotional, ethical, moral base who treats women well. (By the way, just because the three women written above are somewhat (or completely) crass in their views of men, doesn't mean that the show is men-hating.) Going on...

    Cozzo, the blustery dope of a mechanist, hilariously portrayed by Marc Wootton, is a married man whose wife, Debbie, means the world to him. When Debbie tells Cozzo she's pregnant, Cozzo tells her he will do everything in the world to make his home happy and healthy for his family. Sure, his mind is often in the gutter - like the minds of many stupid, sometimes sexually-frustrated married men (we're only human). But aside from the occasional "Look at her nips" (which, by the way, he says to distract Scott and grab a fry off his plate) or ludicrously absurd, far-too-personal question about one of his mates' sex lives, Cozzo is a straight up, good-hearted man who would never in a million years stray from the wife he is deeply and desperately in love with and who he thinks of (and treats) as a queen.

    And then, finally, there's Joey. The runt of the group. He is, without question, a pig. A man-child who treats and thinks of women as disposable sex objects, without care for their true feelings. In other words, Joey is a far-too-accurate representation of so many men that, sadly, we all know; a mirror to many sex-starved, self-hating, deeply insecure people we encounter every day. He has a lot of growing up to do. And as the series progresses, he will take that journey of character growth. But it's going to take a lot of time and, as a viewer - and more than that, a writer - I would expect you to find that there's nothing wrong with that.

    Sure, the abruptness of so many of Joey's horrifyingly misogynistic comments and actions are where the comedy comes from. But like so many characters on TV and in the movies, we're not supposed to be laughing with Joey, but at him; at his insensitivity and stupidity and the realization that he is representative of, hopefully not us, but the idiot down the street. There are many men who are pigs. Not me (I've been happily married for over 20 years), or anyone on my writing staff. But many are. And even though Joey is representative of that, it certainly doesn't mean the show hates women. On the contrary, two of the three central characters in deep, emotional relationships with wonderful, articulate, intelligent, competent, empowered women who they love - which, I think, is very pro-women.

    I hope you give WAY TO GO another chance and see it through that prism, and not one of degradation towards women and aggressive sexism. You may still not like it, which is fine. It is definitely crude, edgy and not for everybody. But I think you'll find there is much more going on below the surface than meets the eye. Thank you.

    1. Hi Bob,

      And thank you for taking the time to reply so thoughtfully. And congratulations on managing 20 years of happy marriage. That is impressive.

      I take your point about Scott and Cozzo and their relationships. I think Episode 4 showed these beautifully. Although I couldn’t help laughing at the irony of Scott complaining in pretty strong terms (again with the ‘bitch’ and the ‘whore’) about being sexually harassed when he’s stood by and watched Joey indulge in much the same behaviour. And that’s what it comes down to for me. Every other aspect of Joey being a twat is challenged – his gambling problem, his utter stupidity etc – but no-one picks him up on the way he treats women and the way he talks about them.

      In the same episode, there was some brilliantly written stuff about the cultural sensitivities of arranging the Jewish man’s suicide. Cozzo was repeatedly corrected and challenged on his ignorance of Judaism. And it all paid off with Cozzo learning a valuable lesson.

      Maybe, I’ve jumped the gun and in Ep 5 Joey has an epiphany and becomes a new man complete with hessian trousers and a subscription to Spare Rib. The thing is, I will have had to endure a lot of bitches, whores and skanks-type language to get there. And as the title of my blog suggests; that stuff is just not funny for me anymore. I’m lucky that I can count the number of times I’ve called those names on one hand, but every single time hurt and humiliated. The idea that men may be casually using that language in private sickens me. It’s about taking responsibility for that language and knowing what impact it has when it filters down.

      And you and I know that Joey is to be held in contempt, I wonder if a 15 year old lad does? Of course, you’re not responsible for every hormonal little git that tunes in. But if he could just see someone confront Joey’s behaviour and say ‘hey!’, that would be a start. I don’t mean in an “after school special” kind of way. It still has to be funny; but you’ve got that bit in the bag. You managed it with Cozzo’s journey from schmuck to mensch. Good God, you’ve made Charlie Sheen seem likeable again – that’s a lot of power you’re wielding.

      Again, thank you for taking the time and effort to read the blog. I think you and Brian have put up an impressive defence. And that’s the reason I tuned in again this week and I’ll probably keep watching. But I’ll still wince every time a woman is called a whore.


  10. re: Lisa citing Miranda Hart - really? That's how low the writing bar is? Her sitcom - yes popular with the masses (like the dreadfully misogynistic Mrs Brown's Boys) revolves around Miranda falling over, mugging to camera, and stringing out for series after series a pathetic "will they? won't they?" hook up story with Gary. Poor Miranda can't get a man - No wait..series finale two men are proposing at the end!! Oh how entertaining and heart warming - isn't that what all women want from their sitcoms??, NO. As a woman I find Miranda patronising and sexist. I like my comedy edgy and dark (Julia Davis) and different - and WAY TO GO is a breath of fresh air - if it's not to your personal taste, fine. But playing the sexism card is desperate. Also don't play the "women should be involved because they are women" card - TALENT should be the requirement, not gender.

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    2. Dear Anonymous,

      Firstly, I clearly said that I didn't want women on writing teams as part of some sort of positive discrimination exercise. My point was that fully-rounded, multiple POV is useful on a writing team. As are voices from different cultures and class experiences. I think that just makes sense. I think those women should earn their place on writing teams by being talented. Are you perhaps suggesting that there are simply not enough talented women to go around, because I am here to tell you that is not the case. I hope that makes that a little clearer for you.

      As for Miranda, like all comedy it's a question of personal taste. I found it hilarious and identified with the central character massively. Her insecurities are very similar to my own and I liked seeing them on screen. Not to everyone's taste but I'm quite sure your telly comes equipped with an 'off' button.

      That is not to say that I don't like harder-edged comedy and I want every comedy to be in the style of that show. I'm a fan of Julia Davis as well. As I clearly said in the blog, I like comedy that pushes boundaries and edges past taste and decency. That's one of the reasons I sat down to watch Way To Go in the first place. I didn't object to the central premise, I thought it was original and brave. It was the purely the treament of women that got my back up. I notice you don't comment on that. I don't find misogynist language and the portrayal of women in purely sexual terms 'a breath of fresh air' at all. I find it dated and unoriginal. And I think it's about time we moved on from it.

      But thank you for your comment.

  11. You say you are against positive discrimination, then go on to say just the opposite, with your only justification being "I think that just makes sense". Who died and made you the Thought Police? Fortunately we're not living in Lisa World. Regarding women in comedy, I think real talent does rise to the top, eg Victoria Wood and Jennifer Saunders.

    I didn't comment on the treatment of women in WAY TO GO as Bob Kushell and Brian Dooley have said everything I would've. The treatment of women in WTG seems to be a problem for YOU.
    As a little bit of research I had a look at the hashtag for some feedback of the show and didn't see ANY women saying what you are over the last 4 weeks - indeed the fans of the show are a good equal mix of young and older men AND women - haven't seen one person raise the issue of sexism.

    As for the cliche-ridden women portrayed in Miranda, it genuinely makes me embarassed to be a woman, their whole lives are made good by a man! If you identify with that, which is dated and unoriginal, then WAY TO GO's not for you.

    1. Oh, I don't know. Lisa World would be pretty fucking cool. Free ice cream on Fridays and Bon Jovi playing at every school disco.

      So, I get it. You don't agree with my POV. You're just as entitled to your opinion as I am and that's why I don't moderate or delete comments on this blog. However, I'd prefer it if you didn't wilfully misrepresent my views. I do not believe in positive discrimination. I do believe that writing teams produce better television if they have a wide range of experiences represented on them and as I have actually worked on writing teams, I stand by that.

      As for talent floating to the top, what a beautiful idea. Again, as a working writer, i'm here to tell you that you are being naive. There are many factors that effect women's writing and acting careers that men are simply not subject to. I think the stats in the blog speak for themselves. This is a hot issue in tv production at the moment and not without reason.

      And maybe Way To Go isn't for me. But I don't like being told what I can and can't watch or have an opinion about. Who died and made you the thought police? We're not living in Anonymous World.

      By the way, if Miranda makes you so angry, maybe you should stop watching it? You seem to know a great deal about it for someone purports to be mortally offended by it. I don't think it's for you.

      Have a nice day.

  12. Great post, Lisa, thanks, and interesting and heartfelt responses (for which too thanks).

    I worked with a director last year who has a really thought-provoking attitude on this: no matter what we say about the morality of what we present onscreen, for a large part of our audience the very fact that it's onscreen glamourises it. This was in the context of representing bad kids on an estate - and she felt powerfully that we had to be very careful in what we portrayed, because she knows from her two teenage sons that the behaviour will be imitated regardless of the "message".

    It was very difficult, I'm not sure we got it right, but it certainly made me realise that I can't just hide behind the "mirror" argument. We're choosing what we reflect back to the world, and it has consequences which may be a lot different from the consequences we'd like it to have.

    1. Thanks Joshua,

      I think a lot of writers will have had similar experiences, I know that I have. Especially on the big juggernaut shows that move at such an alarming rate that you write first and regret later.

      I think that the medical credo 'first, do no harm' should be applied. But that has to be balanced with entertainment, drama and comedy. i don't want every show to go through a vetting process, but when mistakes are made or offence is caused, I guess we have to take it on board.

      And I think you're right about kids imitataing anything that they see as cool or even provocative. that's why I'm pretty passionate about the parents taking note of the watershed and being aware of what their kids are watching. After 9pm, I'm not sure I want to repsonsible for other peoples kids. However, the pre-watershed shows I've written on have had varying degrees of checks and balances.

      Thanks for your comments. I guess this debate will rahge on!


  13. Lisa, Josh, couple of things...

    I don't think I'm hiding behind the mirror argument. I feel no need to. If putting action on screen is a de facto glamorisation then it seems we are more than happy, keen even, to glamourise rape and murder, especially serial murder of young women. Sex and even nudity however remain taboo. Talk about skewed values!

    Anyway, I was talking mainly about mirroring character (and yes, that might be a silly distinction for 'what is character but blah, blah..' but I don't want to preach to my audience. If kids copy deeply antisocial behaviour because it's 'waaay cool' then their problems are far more extensive than their choice of TV. If you think violence is glamorous then you have already been brutalised. It's why I loathe the 'comedy' violence we so often see on TV (the likes of the execrable Tarantino): bloodless, painless, consequence-less. Even on kids' TV, it's deemed acceptable to hit people over the head. Never mind, they just get up again eventually. Doh! No harm done.

    Josh, did your producer really think her boys would copy behaviour that was clearly immoral? It tends to be "oh, not mine - but other people's". It's always other people who are the problem. Bloody 'other' people.

    Lisa. The watershed; Ah, a quaint old notion. My kids are 12 and 16 and I know they can watch pretty much whatever, whenever, wherever. Both they and I know this. Bans only ensure that viewing is compulsory. And anyway access is getting easier. Dear old Aunty may preserve the notion of innocence and make entirely redundant (risible even - click here if you are over 16!) gestures to preserve it but all the 12-year-olds I know can quote you South Park and Family Guy. I've always thought a gentle hand on the tiller is preferable.

    Anyway, in a decade, schedules and channels will be largely irrelevant, as they mostly are to the under 16s now. Content alone will rule. THAT will be a whole new challenge to new parents.

  14. And... Well done on hosting an interesting and intelligent debate. xJ

    1. Thank you, Jason.

      And if your happy with and aware of what your kids are watching that's all good. My beef is with parents who complain about their little darlings being influenced by what they watch but have absolutely no awareness and expect all TV to be anodyne and kid safe. I mean the "as a family we settled down to watch The Exorcist at 11pm on Channel 4 and were horrified..." brigade.