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What Comedy Can Learn From 'Plebgate'

Posted: 27/03/2013 13:39

There was a point a few years ago when I started to wonder whether we'd had one too many 'gates'. It was a decade or so past the glory days of 'squidgygate' and 'zippergate' and we'd begun to veer precariously into the realm of 'nipplegate' and 'sachsgate'. The media seemed poised and ready to suffix the holy hell out of anything that even approached a minor scandal. It started to get out of control, snowballing into the ridiculous with 'pastygate', a scandal so undeserving of a 'gate' I began to fear for the journalistic integrity of the press as a whole.

But, just when you thought it was safe to go back in the newspaper, the overused ending has reared its scandalous head once again, with the atrociously named 'plebgate', a furore that managed to touch on a topic so hotly relevant it felt like the new pope had just got a cameo on Made in Chelsea in order to discuss tax cuts.

The latest development to come to light is that the officers involved could've simply made the whole thing up in order to oust Andrew Mitchell from his job. It's a bizarre conspiracy that deftly reveals the last thing that you can really attack someone for: being posh.

If you look at entertainment and media today, the underlying current is that it's okay to rib someone for being anywhere upper-middle-class or above, as it's assumed that they have enough cash to soften the blow and are all so powerful and arrogant anyway that you can say whatever you like. It'll probably just bounce off them like another drinks bill from Boujis.

Where there used to be a warmish reverence for the upper class, since the 1970s or so there is now only disgust. The posh are only allowed as nostalgic relics, as the deliverers of quips in Downton Abbey or Kate Middleton opening a school (as long as she doesn't wear the same outfit twice).

One of the prominent modern celebrities from a public school background is Jack Whitehall, who is only allowed to exist as a caricature of everything people hate about the over-privileged.

Nowadays you're more likely to have Old Etonians like Dominic West up in arms trying to shut down private schools so their own children wouldn't be afforded the same head start that they got than the 'old boys club' chuckling at the unwashed masses going to their free schools.

A girl I know had her hopes dashed of ever being a children's TV presenter by being told by producers that she was 'too posh'. You can't throw a cat into entertainment at the moment without hitting someone with a jauntily regional accent.

We have developed a shame around being posh. It's okay to laugh at someone who calls their father 'daddy, but not at someone who calls them 'dad'.

Now, you probably now think I'm going to dive into a diatribe about how this is terrible and the posh should be just as wrapped in cotton wool as everyone else against being made fun of, but I won't. Go for it. The posh should have the mickey taken out of them, but so should everyone else. It's only fair.

I was discussing guilty pleasure with a friend the other day and I ended up admitting that mine is, I'm ashamed to say, Glee. 'Guilty' because it involves a lot of show tunes and cheesy endings about believing in yourself, but 'pleasure', because at its best it's hysterically funny. Why? Because they take the piss. Out of everyone. For everything.

With a cast including every minority you could possibly think of, the show is a celebration of diversity, so allows itself to celebrate the inherent comedy involved in the differences between people. Mostly through the voice of cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester, creator Ryan Murphy lays into every single character about whatever their most prominent feature is, and it's hilarious, because he understands that it's in a way that's never going to cause a hate crime and that, when it comes down to it, comedy is an all or nothing business.

We will always instinctively see dissimilarities between people and want to comment on them. Of course there's a limit, when it goes beyond comedy and you end up forcing a man out of his job because people will believe that all posh folks are awful, but you can't say that it's only okay to make fun of certain things otherwise we'd just be left sitting around making jokes about turnips or something. And that's a future none of us really want to see.

 
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