Saturday, 29 May 2010

My unexpected encounter with Little Britain

   There seems to be a bit of a rumpus in Little-Britain-land because some of us aren't very happy with their parody of transgendered people.
   I think I should relate my first encounter with Little Britain as a trans person. I'd always been pissed off with the trans characters (and LB in general, but that's just 'cos I don't find them 100% funny), but since we're talking about them as perpetuating a negative stereotype then here's a concrete example.
   One of the first people I came out to as transgendered other than my wife was my doctor. Let me set the scene. I'm a huge bloke sitting in front of him, my wife is beside me, I've not slept properly for a couple of months and my life is starting to come apart at the seams. I'm sure most trans people will have a similar end-of-tether story about the time they had the Long Chat with their doctor. It's a pretty serious time for me, having to tell him the reason why I've come to see him.
   His response? A Little Britan joke involving the "L" word.

Yes, that's right, one of the catchphrases of everybody's favourite transphobic arseholes.

   Now I'm not trying to have a go at my doctor here. He genuinely is a nice bloke and my response: "Within the community they are seen as an outdated and insulting stereotype" he took on board immediately, in fact his instant backpedal was almost comical. He thought he was lightening the tone of a serious moment. I am his first transgendered patient and since then he has been better than excellent. The point I'm trying to make is that Little Britain have done such a good job of putting their characters into the mainstream that not even someone whose job it is to know better was aware that they are offensive to us. Think about it, I'm an in-yer-face kick-arse big bastard of a tranny so I shook it off, but some people having the same conversation are literally on the edge. I'd left my suicidal stage behind by then in coming out to my wife, but a Little Britain jibe at the wrong time could be all it takes for some poor souls.
    So there y'go, if anyone in LB-land claims they're all right really and it's all a bit of fun, there's why it isn't and they're not.


  1. If I may ask, was it the 'lesbian jam' so-called joke? That's the only one I can think of that has the "L-word" in it, and it never sat comfortably with me. The boundary of funny and not-funny is particularly delicate when there are personal issues riding so high on it. I'm all for humour, but there are times, places and subjects... anyway, I'm very glad your doctor had enough flexibility and awareness to realize he'd made an error there.

    One of my (gay) tutors said he found drag queens offensive because of their parodying of women. Gay men poking fun at trans people really doesn't help the 'community' aspect of LGBT community.

  2. blimey; it's beginning to look like all of us have had a "I'm a lay-dee" experience. Maybe we should collate them?

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  4. @Josie: Words are great, aren't they! So wrapped up was I in my indignation that I forgot momentarily that other words begin with "L". I was referring to "Lay-dee". Sorry for any confusion.

    Yes, there was a deliciously foot-in-mouth element to it all.

    I guess the test of offense is "Are the laughs being sought at the expense of those portrayed or from their position". To use a much older example, I found Corporal Klinger in the TV adaptation of M*A*S*H rather annoying, but I was really surprised when I read the book and found that he wasn't created as the crude transvestite he was portrayed as on TV, but as a soldier trying to get Hawkeye to certify him as insane so as to be sent back to the USA, and trying to achieve it by cross-dressing. The TV series: laughs at the expense of, the book: laughs because of his futile attempts to be certified. I have to say, from an interesting position of male privilege with a brain from the "girl" parts bin I'd never had my offense meter tripped by a drag queen. Maybe I should consider more closely next time I see one.

    @Dru: That would serve to quantify the issue. It would be difficult for an LB-fan to play the "I don't find them offensive" card when they can be shown a pile of documented instances.

  5. All transgender issues aside, the fact is that Little Britain is about the crappest sketch-comedy show ever created! The majority of their shit is just a set-up for repeating a catch-phrase--pathetic by the third iteration.

    Anyone above twelve-years of age who repeats them, should be laughed at. And anyone with a mental age above that probably understands why they're justifiably ridiculed. Even ladys!

  6. I can't argue with that!

  7. I've always thought that however bad it is, the child of Asian decent who had to endure being called Ting Tong in the playground had it much worse.
    Lucy x

  8. ...playground memories of a group of 1970s little oiks taunting the single black kid. It was a different world back then, wasn't it.

    It's true, there's always something much worse.