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Ian McKellen criticises Little Britain gay sketch

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  1. An Cat Dubh 30 Nov 2009, 11:30am

    I beg to differ. Daffyd only makes flaunting homosexuality as something unique or a silly sense of paranoia concerning it is silly. Notice the rest of the occasional gay characters can dress very stereotypically and all that, but they behave and are treated with respect.
    Also, the word ‘glorious’ sounds quite nice (‘I’m glorious’, hehe, that’s fun to say), but perhaps a bit too much. How about getting back to our roots? Why not use the Victorian term for it, ‘earnest’?

  2. why do we need a nick name.
    i prefer homosexual. full stop. ‘oh you’re heterosexual, I’m homosexual’. big deal.

  3. What is it with the gay community at the moment that everybody is expected to conform to a heterosexual lifestyle! Its like being stuffed back into the closet if you believe the Stonewall version of what being gay is.

    Celebrate the diversity within the community and not the gay Tory closet.

  4. Gary Everett 30 Nov 2009, 1:26pm

    Ian Mckellen has made a very valid point. In Liverpool there have been a spate of very violent homophobic attacks all perpetrated by young people aged between 12-19 which is shocking. They must be picking these attitudes up from a variety of sources. Im convinced television is one of them. Well done for saying it.

  5. A lot of gay are colluding with the homophobia. Here’s the ending of a Little Britain USA Fatfighters sketch – with Matt Lucas as Marjorie:

    Marjorie Dawes: The dangerously fat man over there

    Rosie O’Donnell: OK you know what Marjorie, I really cannot believe how you treat people. You’re absolutely rude. You’re homophobic, you’re racist. You’re meant to help these people and you keep ridiculing them about their size! It’s disgusting.

    Marjorie Dawes: And licking another woman’s vagina isn’t?

    (not sure if O’Donnell was in on the the ending)

  6. well correct me if I am wrong , but the Majorie Dawes persona, wasnt she the one that in the end always came off worse. Showing that having an attitude like that never paid off in the long run?

  7. Get a life Sir Ian, theres more to worry about then just a few funny sketches and remarks to fight against in this homo and trsansphobic country and pathetic government

  8. Oh dear! How silly. I’d have thought a Shakespearean actor might have been able to analyse this a little better. We all GET it. Can someone please explain the joke to the old thesp. I haven’t got the energy! He’s been campaigning too long, I think.

  9. “well correct me if I am wrong , but the Majorie Dawes persona, wasnt she the one that in the end always came off worse. Showing that having an attitude like that never paid off in the long run?”

    I think Marjorie often has the last word, and she did on the sketch to which I referred as you can see here.

  10. When I was a teacher I banned the use of the word “gay” as a derogatory term in my classroom. The kids then said “but we’re not allowed to say the computers are shit, Miss”, so I said they could say that if they wanted, but they were not to use words referring to groups of people as an insult (using the word “witch” as an insult was also banned). We then had an interesting discussion about the uses and abuses of swearing.

    I think TV producers should be more careful about putting across stereotypical portrayals of minority groups, but that’s not the same as saying there should never be portrayals of camp men or butch women – but there should also be examples of non-stereotypical LGBT people.

    I thought the Victorian term for gay was “musical”? But if it was “earnest”, that puts a new gloss on the title of Wilde’s wonderful play.

  11. theotherone 30 Nov 2009, 5:25pm

    abi: Straight Acting is the new Black, everyone’s wearing it.

    Thanks but no thanks.

    BTW: isn’t it nice how SIR Ian (let us not forget that Jarman, a Queer to be proud of, criticised him for taking a Knighthood from a Homophobic establishment) has a go at how Gay Men are portrayed in one of the only funny and insightful sketches in Little Britain but doesn’t notice the way Gender Variant people and Lesbians are portrayed. Watch out SIR Ian – you’re in danger of disappearing up your own arse hole.

  12. Simon Murphy 30 Nov 2009, 5:31pm

    Ian McKellen is going on about negative stereotypes and he may have a point.

    But let’s not forget that he was almost 50 when he came out – 20 years ago.

    The stereotypes of gay men in the 1970’s and 1980’s on TV were far worse than they are now. I didn’t see Ian McKellen challenging those stereotypes at the time. He was too firmly closeted.

    Not that there was any requirement for him to be out before, but it just strikes me as a bit hypocritical of him.

  13. Ian is right, the gays do not need to be the blunt of every joke or comedy sciene. It fertilizes hate and other negitive ideas to people who do not really know any real gay people and their relationships. And having to fight for your basic civil rights is not funny.

  14. I agree that gays, lesbians and bisexuals don’t need to be the butt of every joke

  15. theotherone 30 Nov 2009, 5:41pm

    but I take it, chester, that Trannies can be (the but of jokes)?

  16. to theotherone

    Sir Ian, I believe, wasn’t critcising campness as such, but rather media attitudes. Remember that Graham Norton once said that his producers instructed him to camp it up.

    I don’t quite understand why you feel the “only gay in the village” sketch is funny and insightful, but the gender variant and lesbian sketches are not.

  17. theotherone 30 Nov 2009, 6:04pm

    The Only Gay sketch, like the Gay man in love with the PM, offer views of Gay Men in which there is some alternative to ‘let’s laugh at their sexuality’ whereas we are supposed to find the naming of Tower Blocks after Lesbian celebrities funny, we’re supposed to laugh at the humiliation of Lesbian Activists and we are presented with images of Cross Dressers where their humiliation and degradation is the subject of the joke.

  18. The broader issue that Sir Ian raises is, I believe, the lack of balance in the portrayal of our community in the media. There is nothing wrong with camp and we should embrace that as part of our culture but the fact is that Norton, Carr, 4 Puffs & a Piano, Winton etc are the predominant images of gay men on TV. As for lesbians, good luck looking! When was the last time you saw balanced professional gay characters where their sexuality was not the most significant factor of their character accurately portrayed on TV against the overwhelming onslaught of sexless and camp characters? And this stuff matters – kids looking at figures of fun like Little Britain, Catherine Tate and others are more likely to view us as marginalised and ridiculous – ripe for name calling and bullying. The BBC in particular represents poor value to the majority of its GLBT viewership in terms of accurate representation – unless of course you think the legacy of Larry Grayson, Are you Being Served and Dick Emery are all we should be worthy of…

  19. dO i need to list everyone who shouldn’t be the butts of jokes?

  20. theotherone 30 Nov 2009, 6:25pm

    no but you seem to think that only Gay Men, Lesbians and (to your credit) Bisexuals need protection so do you think Trannies need protected to or can we be laughed at?

  21. Ian is right. While people are being attacked and killed for their sexuality, we are failing to get across the message that it is OK to be gay. The use of “gay” to mean “lame” might appear like a small thing, but small things matter – they contribute towards bigger things. Homophobic attacks work by dehumanising the victim. And one way to dehumanise someone is to consistently make fun of them. Matt Lucas contributes to this – Daffyd is a high-profile ridiculous stereotype, and there aren’t enough non-stereotypical representations to counter it. Little Britain is so popular because it’s cruel. It’s lazy, 1970s humour, dressed up as “postmodern” and multi-layered because one of the leads is fat and gay himself. They had a term for that when black comedians made fun of black stereotypes – Uncle Tomming. Matt Lucas is just another Uncle Tom.

    The current homophobia is a drip by drip effect – and all the more insidious and difficult to prevent because there are so many apologists, from within gay ranks, who fall over themselves to prove how strong and thick-skinned they are. Just because they don’t take offence, they think there’s no problem. Well tell that to Michael Causer. Oh except you can’t because he’s dead.

  22. @Stewart

    I’d agree with much of what you say. In some instances the portrayal issues you mention fall foul of the BBC’s current editorial guidelines. I’m thinking of some of Little Britain and issues to do with the house band on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross.

    The BBC is revising its editorial guidelines, and it seems the proposed new guidelines will take care of the anomolies. For some of the details see my blogs on 26th November and 29th November 2009.

  23. Yesterday, I very patiently explained to somebody why it’s not ok to use the word ‘gay’ to mean ‘lame’. This person has a spastic sister. So when I reminded her that people used to use the word ‘spaz’ to mean ‘lame’ in the same way I think she understood. That’s something that needs working on.

    Ian McKellen is a fine actor and somebody who has done a lot for gay rights. But I’m wondering if this really helps. I’ve only seen Little Britain once, so I may have missed the point here. What I saw seemed to be an ironic bit of humour about a man desperately trying to be as ‘gay’ as possible in his clothes and mannerisms while his ‘straight’ village clearly wasn’t shocked by any of it and completely accepted him for what he was. It seemed as if he was upset that there wasn’t any outrage about him being gay. Am I reading this storyline right or did I miss the point?

  24. @Rose

    What I saw seemed to be an ironic bit of humour about a man desperately trying to be as ‘gay’ as possible in his clothes and mannerisms while his ‘straight’ village clearly wasn’t shocked by any of it and completely accepted him for what he was.

    I’d agree with this. Most of the other gay/lesbian characters that crop up from time to time in that sketch (eg the barmaid or the priest) are portrayed as fairly normal well-adjusted people. IMO the show itself is more progressive than people give it credit for – the problem is that what tends to stick in people’s minds is the big fat camp guy saying he’s the only gay in the village. and there are very few prominent non-stereotypical portrayals of LGBT people on mainstream TV to counter that sort of image.

  25. ” Am I reading this storyline right or did I miss the point?”

    That’s pretty much the BBC line on Little Britain. Jana Bennett puts it like this: “.. in the comedy Little Britain, what makes Daffyd funny is not the fact that he is gay but that he is determined to remain the only gay in his Welsh village.”

    Irony was the term ‘intellectuals’ used about Johnny Speight’s Alf Garnett character.

    LGBT is the last minority that broadcasters think it’s cool to routinely ridicule. Where is the house band called 4 Pakis and a Piano?

  26. the otherone – I listed a few groups not everyone
    do you think transgendered are ok to target then? no group should be the butt of stupid stereotyped ignorant imagery!

  27. Chester: “agree that gays, lesbians and bisexuals don’t need to be the butt of every joke”

    Maybe, but we can be the joke of every butt. *fnar*

  28. I’d like to see his comments in full – I’m always wary of quotes in the news these days. So I’m not sure whether he was saying that camp is bad (which I rather doubt, given his mention some time ago in his X-Men diary about a marvellous drag performer, and his enthusiasm for playing Widow Twankey, not to mention his anti-bullying work in schools in which he cautions against picking on anyone because they seem different), or whether he’s saying we need lots more diversity on screens rather than having camp gay men as objects of derisive laughter as the only visible face of not-straightness.

    He’s got a perfectly good point about the use of the word “gay” to mean rubbish. I don’t hear “straight” being used in that way.

    I’d like to see a lot more diversity on screens. And male sexuality and sensuality needs to be more broadly portrayed – there are plenty of flamboyant straight men, and it’d be nice to break straight guys out of the narrow confines of our current attitudes to how they should act.

  29. Paul - England 14 Apr 2011, 1:44pm

    The thing is, you need to have two brain cells to understand the satire. It works against homophobia if one watches and then realises that their stereotypes are rediculous. The problem comes when some idiot watches and doesn’t understand the humour, but instead laughs at the character.

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