Diary of an old cheeser

Hi there! Like other blogs, this is my chance to wax lyrical (some might say talk utter cr*p) about a) what's happening in my life b) all of my pet obsessions in particular music, tv, movies, books and other generally connected things, quite often of the retro, old and "cheesy" variety. Hence the title of my blog. Feel free to leave a comment if the mood takes you. There's nothing like a good chinwag about one's favourite topics and besides I love to meet new people! Cheers, Simon

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Ejected Ems

Well since my last Big Brother comment I’ve had a bit of a rethink, particularly in the light of watching it on Thursday night. As the entire nation probably now knows, contestant Emily Parr was ejected from the BB house for using racist language. The specific incident took place around 8.30pm, when Emily was with Charley and Nicky in the garden of the BB House, and said: “Are you pushing it out you nigger?” to Charley.

Mmmm! This is a very thorny issue.

On the one hand, racist language is very hard to condone in many situations. I actually found a pretty good definition of “nigger” in an online dictionary:

“Usage note: The term nigger is now probably the most offensive word in English. Its degree of offensiveness has increased markedly in recent years, although it has been used in a derogatory manner since at least the Revolutionary War. Definitions 1a, 1b, and 2 represent meanings that are deeply disparaging and are used when the speaker deliberately wishes to cause great offense. Definition 1a, however, is sometimes used among African-Americans in a neutral or familiar way. Definition 3 is not normally considered disparaging—as in “The Irish are the niggers of Europe” from Roddy Doyle's The Commitments—but the other uses are considered contemptuous and hostile.


1. Slang: Extremely Disparaging and Offensive.

a. a black person

b. a member of any dark-skinned people.

2. Slang: Extremely Disparaging and Offensive. a person of any race or origin

Regarded as contemptible, inferior, ignorant, etc.”

Victim or prejudice similar to that suffered by blacks; a person who is economically, politically, or socially disenfranchised.”

Interesting eh? As the above clearly demonstrates, the term “Nigger” certainly has highly offensive and negative connotations and there’s no getting away from that. Going off on a slight - but nevertheless related - tangent, I find the whole issue of language and meaning / association a fascinating one. As a gay man, I’m all too aware of the barrage of negative and derogatory terms which have so often been leveled at those of my sexual orientation: poofter, woofter, arse-bandit, fairy, shi*t stabber, sh*t dick, fudge-packer, fudge-packer, batty man… and countless other labels that the bigoted, narrow-minded and ignorant have blessed us with over the centuries. But you know what? I have actually, ahem, willingly used some of these terms when talking about myself and my fellow gay brethren – in an ironic, taking-the-p*ss out of myself/gay people kind of way. And some expressions once deemed homophobic or negative have actually been reclaimed by the very people at whom they were aimed – the expression “queer” for example, has been a great favourite of many Gay and Lesbian political groups in their stirling efforts to achieve equal rights. And in that type of context, the power of words to create a negative image or ideology is completely turned on its head. The negative impact of anti-gay language is seriously dimished when gay people themselves start using the very same words! Of course some dissenters might argue that taking on oppressive terms just reinforces existing prejudices, as well as society’s negative estimation of us…debatable I suppose. But the point I’m trying to get to is this: it all depends on WHO is using those so-called offensive words and the CONTEXT in which they are utilised. Not to mention the WAY in which such words are used.

Getting back to BB then, it certainly didn’t seem that Emily intended any actual offense or harm by what she said - a careless slip of the tongue. It's just unfortunate that such a word is so loaded with bad associations. As with my point about gay people using potentially offensive “gay” labels to refer to themselves, I have the feeling that, in Emily’s mind, she was attempting to use the “N” word in the same “cool”, ironic way that black people sometimes do when referring to their own kind – she was trying to prove that she had some kind of street cred - as with some black rap artistes/groups e.g. “Niggers With Attitude”!

The problem is, when a WHITE person brandishes such a term it becomes a different matter, especially when you consider the immense history of white oppression of blacks. In this respect it WAS naïve of Emily to think that she could get away with uttering the word - she clearly wasn’t thinking about its wider impact and meaning from a white-black perspective. And it was even more thoughtless of her to come out with it in the light of the whole Shilpa Shetty debacle that happened so recently. On entering the house, the latest batch of contestants were told in no uncertain terms by BB that any incidences of inappropriate behaviour would not be tolerated, so it was careless of Emily to forget this so quickly. Channel 4 have obviously clamped down massively since the last series and are being particularly vigilant with regard to any (however small) recurrences of racism. Fair enough.

But in spite of all of this, I do (now!) think that C4 has overreacted in its treatment of Emily, not to say panicked. They could have banned Emily from the bathroom for a week. Or made her do some demeaning household chores. Or took away all her privileges. I'm sure some kind of demoralising punishment could have been devised with a bit of thought. But booting Emily out of the house so abruptly was just too extreme. I take it all back.


  • At 12:53 am , Blogger TimeWarden said...

    You’re the second person to take a shine to my crop of that Emily Parr picture! Still, at least you didn’t lift my text as well, like the other blogger!! I’m more than a little cheesed off over the pilfering of “Par for the course”, my play on Emily’s surname!!!

    Anyway, regarding your interest in the meaning of words in the English language, don’t you find there is a conflict of interest between the true meaning of the word gay itself and its slang usage to mean a homosexual man? Gay used to simply mean merry and my English teacher abhorred its alternative use. I think he was right. It doesn’t necessarily mean he was against homosexuals as such, that’s a different subject altogether, but that he was against the bastardisation of our mother tongue.

    The word I dislike most of all is awesome! I loathe it with a passion because it is so misused and overused to describe things which are positively mediocre. Steam comes out both my ears when I hear Americans say “Gee, that’s like totally awesome, dude”! Dude is now the US equivalent of calling somebody, in England, mate!! “’Ello, mate!” I’m not sure dude meant quite the same thing back in the early ’70s when it didn’t, and still doesn’t, offend me as part of the song title “All the Young Dudes”.

    In last Tuesday’s “Inspector Wexford” repeat, on ITV3, Wexford in no uncertain terms admonishes a fellow officer for calling a suspect a poofter, telling him the term is highly offensive. I suspect that this education of the public doesn’t reach those who need to hear it. They’re too busy “pushing it out”, on a regular basis, to actually care about anything worth bothering with. Purely in the interests of completion, one of the derogatory terms you left off your list, to also mean homosexual, is shirt-lifter!

  • At 2:35 am , Blogger matty said...

    I don't know. I didn't see it, obviously. But, sounds like she needed to be booted. And, I think, after the last round of fiascos that the BBC would be more cautious.

    But, there is that odd part. You know. It's Ok for me and my queer friends to call each other faggots, but god help the str8 person who dares to do the same!

    this is also true in use of the N word.

    bottomline -- I think she should have known better.

    hey, someone just pushed me off my soap box!?!?!

  • At 11:07 am , Blogger Steve said...

    I have to say I'm rather upset by the insuation that I "stole" "par for the course" from your blog, TimeWarden. It was genuinely more of a case of great minds thinking alike... and when you think about it the pun on "Parr" is the most obvious one to make. Not particularly ingenious or unique of either of us but it did do the job rather nicely. I actually came up with the idea for my posting the evening after I watched the controversial episode of BB - there's no way I could have plagiarized your thoughts before you'd even published them. I did nick the photo though - that I do hold my hands up to - but we bloggers tend to nick photos from all over the place, don't we?

    At the end of the day our little group of bloggers read and comment upon each others blogs because we all seem to be intersted in similar issues and similar subjects. It is inevitable that sometimes there are going to be crossovers, disagreements and blurrings of literary orginality. It does seem a shame when, to all intents and purposes we share a similar view of the BB debacle, to let that shared viewed be soured by accusations of plagiarism...

    At the end of the day you cannot copyright or claim ownership of a pun that has been in common use in English for centuries...!

  • At 11:10 am , Blogger Steve said...

    I still think BB grossly over-reacted, Old Cheeser but you sum the point up nicely. Whatever the context or meaning that was intended by Ms Parr's use of the N word, BB had warned all contestants before going onto the show about using racially sensitive language... she was incredibly stupid to then not watch what she said...

  • At 6:49 pm , Blogger Old Cheeser said...

    Tim - Yep I did lift the pic, but then again it was the best one of Emily that I could find (and also her official BB one). I do think you're being a little bit hard on Steve though, as he explains below - not the end of the world!

    Regarding the alternative usage of "gay". Mmmm. I personally don't have a problem with it - I think the older generation (such as your English teacher) may have difficulty with its usage though - probably because in their day they were accustomed to it meaning something entirely different. Like for example, the wonderful 1945 film "Brief Encounter" when Celia Johnson proclaims: "I felt so happy and gay!" Yes the word did have a different connotation then. I think that changes in language and meaning are kind of inevitable though - words and expressions go in and out of fashion and new ones come along - kind of a fluid thing that just occurs, and difficult to control!

    And good on Inspector Wexford for what he said! Unfortunately I think there will always be ignorant pockets in our society - however if you look at general acceptance of homosexuality in the UK now in comparison with say, 20-30 years ago I think things have definitely improved. Part of that is to do with increased visibility (including the media), part of it do with other things like civil partnerships becoming law...it all helps.

    Matty - It's Channel Four that need to be cautious as that's the station on which BB is shown - though of course the Beeb and all channels should be on their guard too!

    And you're right about the faggot thing - precisely my point - all depends on who is saying it and to whom! And how! The world is a funny place eh?

    And nothing wrong with getting on your soap box - things like this are a great opportunity for debate!

    Steve - Oh dear, calm down now! You and Time Warden mustn't fall out. You're absolutely right, bloggers take photos from all kinds of sources (!) and I will admit I've taken some from you guys sometimes, just as I know you've taken from me - but I have absolutely no problem with that!

    And you're right re: duplicating ideas, I think it's definitely the case that people who are writing on particular topics will end up saying very similar things - that's inevitable (and cos we all have such fine, similarly-thinking minds in many respects!)

    And yep, poor old Emily has suffered but she is probably regretting her stupidity now...

  • At 11:42 pm , Blogger matty said...

    I wish I could see BB UK. ...but there is just no way.


    I guess it is a good thing -- otherwise i might be stuck to the TV. Tho, I seem to be always watching one DVD or another or to be at the cinema.

    ...tho, i've not seen a movie at the cinema since BUG and that must be about 2 weeks ago now. sigh.

    kisses from faggotty fag in GayTown,

  • At 6:45 am , Blogger TimeWarden said...

    I didn't say it was "the end of the world", Simon, just that I was "a little cheesed off"! I haven't, to my knowledge, posted any pic on my blog that has originally appeared on yours!!

    I think words are more important than fashion when fashion is considered to be, in the words of British playwright, poet, and librettist Ronald Duncan, "collective bad taste"!

  • At 7:19 am , Blogger Steve said...

    Just to make my position clear:

    "Dear Timewarden,

    There is aboslutely no way that either of us can prove who had the idea of "parr for the course" first. As soon as I heard her name on the BB launch day Karen and I were making jokes about "par for the course" and Emily being "below par".

    Does this predate your blog and therefore mean you have plagiarized my idea for the pun? No! Of course not! As said before there is very little one can do with "Parr" and what we both came up with in the end is the most glaringly obvious (and basically only) pun. I bet you a pound to a dollar it's been used on hundreds of other blogs and newspapers too.

    "knee jerk reaction" - another expression you took offense to me using - is an expression I personally exhaust to death in every day speech. It was also used by at least three of my work mates when I got to work on Friday (where incidentally I wrote my posting during my break). Do I need to cite these people as references?

    You cannot plagiarize literary or colloquial terms because they can not be owned by anybody! As well to claim ownership to other moderm expressions such as "soundbite" or "war on terror".

    At the end of the day you've accused me of plagiarism. You know that writing is very important to me - and therfore language is as important to me as to you - so I'm sure you can see how upsetting it is to be accused of theft. Being called a plagiarist / thief / word pilferer is as offensive to me as the N word is to Charley.

    For me plagiarism is the deliberate lifting of whole sentences, paragraphs and swathes of text - not expressions that entered into common parlance decades ago. Your blog is yours and yours alone - and personally (and to take any sting out of this posting) is one of the best ones I read; informative, incisive and intelligently written. But common expressions are for everybody.

    I do sincerely hope that this will not prevent us from maintaining what is, I hope, a very rewarding "blog-friendship". And you may quote me on that.

    Once again. No offense was ever meant. And I apologize if any was taken."

    Old Cheeser, apologies for using your blog as a debating hall (but just look at how many comments you are accruing!)... personally I'm hoping for a resumption of the allied front rather than a fresh break-out of hostilities...!

  • At 1:05 pm , Blogger Old Cheeser said...

    Matty - You Faggoty Fag!! Lol - great name - and another one to add to the list of "labels"...I guess you could watch BB on You Tube? I would imagine they might post some clips on there...But you're right, too much TV is not good for the soul! (Something I never seem to have learnt from...I seem to spend my life staring at a screen, whether it be a computer monitor, TV, whatever...it's a wonder I haven't got square eyes...)

    Timewarden - That's fine, understood. I think you did use one of my pics as your avatar for a short while didn't you - a pic of a girlie, can't remember who, but hey, it's neither here nor there! I really don't mind...

    Steve - Thanks for clarifying, although yep I feel the conversation is getting slightly heated now...! I'm not meaning to be rude in any way, but I think it might be better if you carry on this conversation with Timewarden privately? I'd prefer that anyway, rather than using my blog for that purpose...just a friendly request.

    For the record I do agree with many of your points on plagarism,I think apportioning blame is a bit silly really. At the end of the day we all write about similar things and sometimes share similar views - therefore there's bound to be some duplication of ideas, as well as images.

    And you know that the majority of the time I appreciate all the comments that you and the others make on my blog, it's all good...just as I enjoy reading and commenting on your own. I'm very glad to have made some good blogging pals! So now you know!

  • At 2:46 pm , Blogger Steve said...

    :-) Understood, my friend. You'd make a fine counsellor, Mr Cheeser... and that's a compliment.

  • At 5:33 pm , Blogger Minge said...

    Over-reaction, indeed! If only they'd dealt with Jade similarly, they'd not be accused to hypocrisy.


    Though I didn't actually like Emily, so am not sad to see her go. She is a cu*t of the highest order.

    I'm zipping up my boots, going back to my roots.


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