Banning Fawlty Towers Doesn't Solve Racism

In response to the Black Lives Matter protests, various streaming services have taken to removing British comedy classics from their sites. Yet is this really the way to tackle racism? or is it just another shallow charade?

In a response to UKTV’s decision to axe an episode of Fawlty Towers, actor and creator John Cleese has chastised the company for its “cowardly and gutless” decision.

The 1975 episode ‘The Germans’ was recently removed from the site due to the use of racial slurs by one of its characters, although UKTV have stated the episode will soon be reuploaded with “extra guidelines” in the coming days.

According to UKTV, the decision to take down the comedy classic was made due to its use of “offensive language”, yet many members of the public, including Cleese, have found the decision not only unnecessary, but completely absurd.

WATCH: A clip from the 'controversial' episode

In a recent tweet by Cleese, the actor openly attacks the BBC for jumping on to what is becoming a bewildering cultural trend amongst many media outlets, whereby the distinction between sincerity and satire has been completely lost under the stomping of marching feet.

In the now infamous episode, Major Gowen, a regular visitor to the hotel and a notorious bigot, uses the racial slurs whilst recounting an anecdote to Basil Fawlty, the owner of the hotel, and also a notorious bigot. To many familiar with the show, it simply seems bizarre that anyone could have gotten to season 1 episode 6 of the show without having realised who’s really being made fun of. So why the need for so-called ‘guidelines’?


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In many ways, what makes the show so funny is its status as a satire upon what was then the slow and agonisingly funny disappearance of an older, and by then unfashionable, England. As Cleese remarks in his tweet “there are two ways of making fun of human behaviour” and in this case it was to represent a figure of old England, Major Gowan, as worthy of ridicule. It would seem that some have simply forgotten that Britain, more than most nations, has a remarkable history of political satire.

Rather than directing his frustrations towards the Black Lives Matter movement however, Cleese’s criticisms were laid heavy at the door of the BBC. In criticising their decision to drop the show, he stated that such "…decisions are made by persons whose main concern is not losing their jobs... That's why they're so cowardly and gutless and contemptible. I rest my case."

Of course, there is usually merit to be found in “doing what you can”, but with issues on such a scale as structural racism, it simply shows a lack of real effort by an establishment as large as the BBC to go for such low hanging and superficial fruit. What is blindingly apparent however, is the repeated preference of large companies, businesses, and media outlets to perform cheap gestures and virtue signalling over concrete action and decision making.


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Although UKTV has thankfully decided to reupload the episode to their streaming site, many will be left wondering what the establishment media will do next to appear like they’re doing something. A few pathetic pride flags here? A few axed shows there? So long as everyone thinks you’re doing something it doesn’t seem to matter. JUST DON’T MENTION THE WAR!

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