Anyone who watched ‘The Day Today’, ‘Brass Eye’ or even the more obscure ‘Jam’ several years ago may have wondered of late where Chris Morris is. After his involvement in the prophetic ‘Nathan Barley’ and suicide bomber comedy ‘Four Lions’, he seems to have been inactive; not true, of course. I suspect he’s currently the criminal mastermind behind the world we live in, creator of comic characters as wide-ranging as Ed Miliband and Boris Johnson, and perhaps his greatest work of fiction, Donald Trump. He also scripted the long-running saga of Samsung’s exploding mobiles and the recent clown craze, and was even making his mark at the United Nations last week by pulling off a magnificently mischievous conceptual art stunt in persuading that august institution to make a comic-book superhero an ambassador.
Okay, so there’s no evidence Mr Morris was involved, but surely he had to be, right? Wonder Woman belongs to the same DC universe as Superman, Batman, The Flash and The Green Lantern – in other words, she exists only when an artist draws her. She’s not real. She was played on the small screen by Lynda Carter in the 70s and will shortly be portrayed by another actress on the big screen as the Wonder Woman character is added to the never-ending superhero cinema franchise. Yet, the key point is that neither Lynda Carter nor the weirdly-named Gal Gadot has been nominated as a UN Ambassador, whereas the character they’ve played has. Imagine Sherlock Holmes being given a peerage. Granted, probably more deserving than most recipients, but that’s the ball-park of unreality we’re in.
For all the Nobel Prize Committee’s whinging about Bob Dylan’s silence on winning the literature gong, Bob’s failure to fly down to Stockholm and collect his award was probably to be expected, knowing the kind of erratic and unpredictable individual he is; but the UN will be waiting forever if it expects Wonder Woman to take up her ambassadorial role for the simple reason that she doesn’t actually exist.
The official title that the creation of William Moulton Marston and his wife Elizabeth has had bestowed upon her by the UN is that of ‘honorary ambassador for the empowerment of women and girls’; giving that role to a fictitious character suggests either the UN doesn’t regard it as an important task or that an organisation formed to be the ultimate arbitration service between warring nations has been reduced to a subservient marketing tool for the forthcoming Wonder Woman movie.
Wonder Woman will be used to promote women’s rights and gender equality, apparently; this is one of the UN’s ‘sustainable development goals’. The UN’s Under-Secretary General for Communications and Public Information (yes, unlike Female Superhero, that really is a job title), Cristina Gallach, was quoted as saying ‘Gender equality is a fundamental human right and a foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world.’ And the way to achieve it is to hire a cartoon woman with the vital statistics of a young Pamela Anderson, who walks around in nothing more than a bodice, skin-tight knickers and knee-high boots. The UN couldn’t have scored a greater own-goal if it had borrowed a couple of bunny-girls from the Playboy Mansion.
The initial early 40s creation of Wonder Woman by a prominent psychologist and his missus, both of whom were involved in a polyamorous relationship with the same woman, was supposed to introduce an emancipated feminist heroine into the men-only club of superheroes; in that respect, their creation was genuinely groundbreaking, especially when the best a female character in a comic-book could hope for at that time was to be the Lois Lane girlfriend figure. But the character has developed such ridiculously perfect physical proportions over the decades (mirroring the similar transformation of her male counterparts) that for her to make the transition to the movies an actress probably has to submit herself to the kind of intense daily work-out regime beyond the budget and available leisure time of most girls who will see the film. She is as unattainable a physical ideal as Barbie, and this is one of the more prominent objections to her adoption by the UN – once the fact she doesn’t exist is put to one side, that is.
An in-house petition by UN staff protesting against the decision cites this aspect, claiming ‘It is alarming that the United Nations would consider using a character with an overtly sexualised image at a time when the headline news in the United States and the world is the objectification of women and girls.’ Some of those behind the petition turned their backs on the ceremony (attended by Lynda Carter) announcing Wonder Woman’s appointment, and there was a predictable storm on social media decrying the decision, coming as it did in the aftermath of the latest ‘Trump tape’ revelations.
If the aim is to move away from the common media and advertising image of a woman’s sole role outside of motherhood as being a desirable sex symbol, a character whose visual appearance embodies the latter certainly seems a strange choice. But for me it is the simple fact that the UN opted for a fictional character rather than a living breathing human being that remains the oddest element of this whole PR disaster. Then again, at least they recruited Wonder Woman rather than that other fictional character and parody of feminine assets, one who doesn’t even possess any super-powers, Kim Kardashian.
JIMMY PERRY (1923-2016)
I’m actually old enough to remember seeing some ‘Dad’s Army’ episodes when they first aired. I only say this because there will now be more than one generation tuning in to the most beloved of British sitcoms who have only ever known it as a classic series; the permanent rerun slot on a Saturday evening has a devoted following, perhaps amongst those allergic to the mystifying charms of the talent show. But as much as I enjoyed ‘Dad’s Army’ as a child, I was never as devoted to it as, say, ‘The Goodies’. Like fine wine, it has matured along with me, so that I can now genuinely appreciate the genius of the casting and the undoubted genius in the writing. The combination of the two is a truly magical alchemy that doesn’t happen on television very often, and the last living half of the writing side has now joined the majority of the cast in the cathode ray Necropolis where TV immortality is the reward for gifting the viewing public with such a gem.
The death of Jimmy Perry at the age of 93 brings to an end the era of the TV comedy scriptwriter whose University of Life was the battlefield. As with contemporaries such as Eric Sykes and Johnny Speight, Jimmy Perry’s youth was shaped by the Second World War, and Perry drew on that experience to forge some of the BBC’s most successful sitcoms. Like Private Pike, he had been in the Home Guard at the outbreak of conflict; his time serving in Burma inspired ‘It Ain’t Half Hot Mum’ (now rarely seen due to the PC brigade’s disapproval); and his stint as a Butlin’s redcoat was recalled when he created ‘Hi De Hi’. Working on all three with long-term collaborator David Croft, Perry was responsible for numerous memorable comic characters in an ensemble setting that belonged to an age when the compulsion to ‘shock’ was not an essential ingredient within the TV comedy framework. It was about character and the interaction between those characters – between Mainwaring and Wilson, between Williams and Lofty, and between Jeffrey and Gladys. You have been watching, and will continue to watch.
© The Editor