Sunday, June 08, 2008

Prude, not prude and old Mrs Whitehouse

To sneer at Mrs Whitehouse is no longer as it easy as it was

"Hey you Whitehouse, ha ha charade you are", sang Pink Floyd on their legendary Animals album. Thirty years on, and the queue of commentators conjuring tricks to suggest Mary Whitehouse wasn't that wrong after all is growing.

It's a bit like growing older, turning dull, and seeing sense. As your chins multiply, it clicks that yes, your folks were right about cannabis turning your brain cells into gorgonzola. Or that, really, your daughter routinely looking like a slut at the age of 15 isn't on. Even the most liberal-minded chap has got to find it quite perplexing. To sneer at Mrs Whitehouse, the rabid guard-dog of decency, morality and prudishness, the bitter old lady who'd be thrown into spasm by glancing at Sid Vicious pulling faces, is no longer as it easy as it was.

Something in our uber-libertarian society has conked out - may that be the bloodcurling vortex of Jade Goodyes and Jody Marshes, the vertigo-inducing succession of Big Brothers and tits'n'arses, or "streetcred" now routinely stemming from boasting how paralytic you were the night before (and ha ha, you puked all over the taxi mat), or the "familiarisation of violence", as Howard Jacobson puts it in a brilliant article for The Independent.

"If we are to argue that television and the trash subculture of magazines and papers which it has spawned contribute to the national tone", he writes, "then we cannot neatly separate sex from violence, or sex and violence from celebrity, or celebrity from fame and greed, or fame and greed from triviality, or triviality from worthlessness, or any of the aforementioned from the all-round cheapening of life which was ultimately the target of Mrs Whitehouse's Christian campaign".

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