Brendan O’Neill Brendan O’Neill

The madness of censoring shows like Little Britain

(Photo: Getty)

Cancel culture is out of control. Over the past 24 hours Little Britain, The League of Gentlemen and Chris Lilley’s brilliant comedy shows have been shoved down the memory hole by Netflix and the BBC. Why? Because the kangaroo court of correct-thinking has found these comedy classics guilty of offensiveness. Punish them, purge them, cast them out into the wilderness of ‘problematic’ culture.

The speed with which the justifiable, righteous anger over the police execution of George Floyd in Minneapolis has turned into yet another culture war against offensive art is staggering. And terrifying, to be frank. One minute people are taking the knee in solidarity with a black man murdered by ruthless cops; the next they’re saying: ‘Remember when David Walliams dressed up as a fat black woman on Little Britain? Let’s get him!’ It feels kind of deranged, like censoriousness on steroids.

Little Britain is getting it in the neck largely because of the Walliams-played character Desiree DeVere, a grotesquely obese black woman that Walliams played with extraordinary aplomb in a fat suit and with copious amounts of skin-darkening make-up. No one will admit this now – for fear of being dragged into the stocks – but the character was really funny. Desiree was not a caricature of black people; she was a caricature of a deluded woman who thinks she’s hot stuff, and who loves to mix with wealthy men.

Indeed, Little Britain’s first morbidly fat woman with delusions of beauty and grandeur was white – Bubbles DeVere, the first wife of Desiree’s husband, played with fantastic gay abandon by Matt Lucas. There was nothing racist in these depictions – it was a jokey commentary on class and grasping aspiration and, well, fatness. We laughed at it, not because we were racist, but because it was funny.

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