Give 'em Muck
Sunday, 15 December 2002
Before I learned that it was not correct line, I used to annoy my lefty acquaintances of university days with remarks about how funny I had found last Sunday night's Benny Hill Show. There's one skit of Benny's that I've recently remembered: in it, he plays a television producer on the telephone to a writer called Will. We never see Will, just Benny responding to Will's story ideas which he rejects one after another because the viewers might not like them. Such as the one about the black war hero who is married to a white woman, whom he kills at the end of the story. This is an idea that the viewers are definitely not ready for, but above all, they really want to see a happy ending. Which rules out the plays of William Shakespeare as television fare.
Which makes you wonder why Will ever wrote them in the first place: surely he knew that all those plays, (technically known as tragedies) where all the stars are dead at the end of the show with only a minor character or two to provide a eulogy, weren't going to play in Stratford-On-Avon (Elizabethan England's Peoria) no matter how many bits of comic business he inserted to get the groundlings through the box-office turnstiles. Apparently he woke up to himself at some stage in his writing career, because he seems to have turned out a lot of comedies too. Including The Merry Wives of Windsor which (so I read somewhere) was written at the behest of Good Queen Bess herself.
I can only speculate about how Will might have felt about this: did he ever have a quiet bitch to Anne Hathaway or Mr WH about how the punters only ever wanted to see the bloody comedies, never the serious stuff? Were there ever any stand-up rows with other members of the company about changes to the script to make them more acceptable to the populace? I don't know, nor I suspect does anyone else, because this is the kind of stuff that rarely makes it into any sort of written record. Although there are signs that this is changing, as this page that I found via Catallaxy shows.
Yes, this post is about that article by Fiona Scott-Norman and her allegedly elitist slur against the producers of Cabaret and popular culture in general. Because there are some serious points in here article and Scott-Norman's final question is a serious one: what sort of culture do we want? And is the assumption, made from Dame Nellie onwards, that we want muck true? Asking questions like these doesn't strike me as an elitist position, nor is making the assertion that we don't want muck. This bricklayer's son certainly doesn't.