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Home > Media

The media's misguided bishop-bashing

2 April 2004

On an average Wednesday night, the head of the Church of England, Rowan Williams, sets aside his copy of The Cloud of Unknowing with a sigh of contentment, gets up, stretches, shifts to the sofa, loosens his trousers, flicks on Footballers’ Wives, and lets out a wail of anguish at the spiritual paucity of the modern world.

Never one to refrain from poking his hairy nose into the business of decent, honest folk, Dr Williams, we are told, has launched an Easter broadside at the programme that gave us all the things we wanted, but never got, from Last of the Summer Wine – blackmail, adultery, assault, lashings of sex and near-fatal accidents.

Naturally, everyone is incensed. Just who does the man think he is – the Pope? What right has he to attack the most compelling drama to hit our screens in years?

Except he’s done no such thing. He merely pointed out that the characters in the programme are greedy, shallow and selfish. As Eileen Gallagher, of the production company behind the series, admitted: “He has made a good point”.
Brian Park, the executive producer, was more defensive: “We agree that the show presents a shallow, selfish, monetarist lifestyle. But I don’t think that the vast majority of viewers are accepting or embracing of those values.” Brian Park should get out more. That is precisely what everyone wants. Cars, cash, coke, crack, cock, rocks and totty.

Of course, the media have a great story in an up-himself Archbishop lambasting a much-loved hit series. And perhaps that’s more palatable than what he really said: the Archbishop was criticising us. Not for watching Chardonnay & Co, but for being like them.

There is nothing special about Footballers’ Wives. There have been murdering slappers before Tanya. We find them in Shakespeare and in the novels of Kathy Lette. In fact, Williams’ key point, generally skipped over in the media coverage, was his challenge to examine how we regard foreigners and refugees.
With this in mind, his comparison becomes much clearer: the dirty wives “treating each other as rivals for the same space” are not unlike, he is suggesting, the bitter old men who sit in pubs and bemoan the fact that Johnny Foreigner is taking all our jobs.

Williams’ comments are a timely warning that such sectarianism may not be all that far from the shallow, money-oriented attitudes played out in the fictional world everyone is so keen to defend.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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