Recently, I found out that the proposed Channel 4 ‘Famine Sitcom’ which caused so much controversy in January 2015 has been quietly shelved. At the time, I stated my position quite clearly. To create comedy gold out of the Famine would be a very tall order and I doubted whether it would be possible. But just because it’s problematic doesn’t mean people shouldn’t try. And it certainly doesn’t mean that others have a right to censor creative endeavours in advance just because they don’t like the concept. As a journalist pointed out in the Guardian, the right not to be offended does not exist.
Anyway, it came as no great surprise that the project wasn’t going ahead.
However, looking through some of the material about the controversy, I came across a truly lousy piece of ‘satire’ by Niall O’Dowd on IrishCentral. It purports to be a parody of what Channel 4’s script might be like. However, if you were going to do a parody of a script which you think might be insulting to the Irish, wouldn’t you concentrate on the Irish themselves? Wouldn’t you show stage Oirish characters who are stupid and childlike and responsible for their own poverty? I would.
Instead, O’Dowd ‘treats’ us to a conversation between Queen Victoria, George Trevelyan and Dean Swift. God alone knows why Dean Swift is here. O’Dowd knows (because he says so) that Swift died long before the Famine and that his Modest Proposal is a satire, a humorous treatment of the appalling cruelty and mismanagement of Irish affairs by the British administration in his day. Let me just repeat that. A humorous treatment of famine and poverty and British misrule.
Which, according to O’Dowd and the rest of the vicarious victims should be out of the question, completely forbidden, too politically incorrect to be permitted. And then there’s the conversation between Victoria and Trevelyan, which depicts Queen Victoria as a fat greedy cow and Trevelyan as a vicious psychopath feeding her anti-Irish bigotry. So … this is a parody of what Channel 4 might produce? Hang on … isn’t that what you would like them to produce? Wouldn’t you like a portrayal of Victoria and Trevelyan as imperialist pigs?
In other words, what the fuck does O’Dowd think he’s doing here? My first thought on reading it was, don’t give up your day job. My second thought was Shag a fucking walrus, this is his day job …