I have to confess that to start with I did find the BBC Three comedy show This Country amusing. The slow-witted antics of Kerry and Kurtan Mucklowe who are, according to the BBC, “growing up poor in the Cotswolds”. Which is where it started to leave me more than a little uneasy. Television has a long history of taking the piss out of poor people.
Even some of the classics are about poor people and get many of their jokes from poverty, shows like Steptoe and Son and even when I was growing up Coronation Street, with many of its main characters, like Stan Ogden and Eddie Yeats being frequently ridiculed as half-witted bin men. Whilst you could argue that Corry was a kind of a semi-comedy representation of northern working class folk, it nonetheless employed working class people for people to laugh at. The whole point of This Country is to ridicule Kerry and Kurtan specifically because of their ‘chav’-like lifestyles.
We know that the very use of the word ‘chav’ is to ridicule and demean those perceived to be of a lower social order. And in televisual terms, it was defined by the truly appalling Little Britain, where the main ‘jokes’ always seemed to revolve around mental illness, chavs, homosexuality, obesity and dragged up women. Whilst Matt Lucas is undoubtedly far more talented than the sneering, patronising David Walliams, it was hardly a high point in his career, either.
I never found Little Britain to be remotely funny on the grounds that I never find programmes that seek to get chief laughs from minorities and the poor particularly amusing. I used to find This Country amusing until it dawned on me this was more poverty porn, giving the more fortunate the opportunity to take the piss out of people who don’t have very much.