What Went Wrong With… Censoring Sky Arts’ Urban Myths & Double Standards On Freedom Of Speech?

What Went Wrong With... Banning Sky Arts' Urban Myths Michael Jackson Elizabeth Taylor Marlon Brando episode?

The weirdest plot for the strangest show has now had the most unbelievable conclusion. If you don’t already know, a comedy show, a satirical comedy show I’ll point out, has now had one of its episodes “pulled” due to a few tweets and a petition. This show is ‘Urban Myths’ and in the style of Channel 4‘s ‘Star Stories’ it is supposed to look (according to its press release) “at remarkable stories from well-known historical, artistic and cultural figures, which may or may not have happened in real life”. The programme which will air this month on Sky Arts will include episodes focussing on various celebrities, ranging from Bob Dylan to Adolf Hitler, and oh yes, did I mention this show is a frigging SATIRICAL COMEDY!

In this obvious comedy show, there was apparently one episode about Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor, and Marlon Brando taking a road trip after 9/11, the lead roles in this episode were played by Joseph Fiennes, Stockard Channing, and Brian Cox (the actor not the scientist). This episode titled ‘Elizabeth, Michael, And Marlon’ has now been removed from the lineup and it will not be aired anywhere in the world. A spokesman for the show said “We have taken the decision not to broadcast Elizabeth, Michael And Marlon, a half-hour episode from the Sky Arts Urban Myths series, in light of the concerns expressed by Michael Jackson’s immediate family.”

“Jackson’s immediate family” I assume was daughter Paris Jackson who tweeted; “I’m so incredibly offended by it, as I’m sure plenty of people are as well, and it honestly makes me want to vomit” and “where is the respect? they worked through blood sweat and tears for ages to create such profound and remarkable legacies. shameful portrayal”.

So hold up, the white child of a Vitiligo-suffering black entertainer (explain that genetic coincidence) tweets their opinion about a white actor playing their father, someone then starts a petition citing the distasteful reverse blackface, and an episode that has already  been written, acted, shot, and edited – finished for all intents and purposes – is placed in some vault never to see the light of day?

Let me get this straight, all it takes is twenty thousand signatures on a petition for seven billion people to be prevented from watching a TV show? You can get two hundred thousand signatures to try and repeal something as repressive as the Snooper’s Charter and nothing happens, but offend the sensibilities of a celebrity and a few thousand of their fans and a piece of art gets banned? What kind of twisted world are we living in?

Numerous journalists jumped on this story and they brought the issue of whitewashing into the mix, convincing the masses that banning a TV programme is the right thing to do. This horridly skewed article for the Independent on the face of it tackles the issue of blackface but it fails to mention censorship, at one point the writer writes that she is “thankful” that the show is “cancelled”. This so-called journalist who works for a so-called liberal newspaper essentially agrees with the censorship of art on the basis that it offends people of colour, but I’ll point out, this is the only article she’s written for the publication and the link to her Twitter account links to a 404 error page. Is this mystery-raced Claudia Tomlinson to be taken seriously when she hasn’t mentioned the issue of blackface before? We’re supposed to agree that ‘Urban Myths’ should be “pulled”, quietly filed away never to be seen, just because a few crappy broadsheets and a few dodgy journalists approve of censorship?

I must point out that nobody seems to give a toss when Jesus or Moses is played by a white actor but Michael Jackson is somehow sacred. I’ve been talking about whitewashing in Hollywood for years but never has this issue been actively “tackled” by the entertainment industry. Just last year we had Ewan McGregor playing Jesus in ‘Last Days In The Desert’ and Tilda Swinton played The Ancient One in “Doctor Strange”. Were these films “pulled”? No. Should the casting have been changed before production? Yes. But should these films be banned now that they’re made? Hell no.

With this particular show being put away in storage it makes me wonder, was the portrayal of Michael Jackson by Joseph Fiennes the real reason the episode was “pulled” or was it because of the 9/11 plot line? Either way we’re in 2017 and we as a society are apparently okay with the banning of art under certain circumstances. Nazi Germany would be so proud.

Looking at the bigger picture, we’re now seventeen years into the twenty first century but it feels more like the early twentieth. Having an opinion these days is all but dead. As I’ve said elsewhere speech is being oppressed, initially by calling its proponent a “troll” or a “hater”, quietening people until they give up speaking their mind. Today we’re fine with mocking or hushing unorthodox points of view but people won’t be happy until we banish everything that bucks the trend of “normal” thinking. As a society we’ve become very efficient at maintaining the status quo; only if the majority agrees is it okay to think or speak a certain way, and only if the state approves is an opinion openly listened to.

Strangely, we’re in a world where it’s okay to be Islamophobic but wrong to be homophobic, it’s okay to be anti-Police, but watch out if your anti-Military. To prove this inconsistency let’s bring up the little incident that occurred earlier this month. A few weeks ago, singer Kim Burrell was dropped from The Ellen Degeneres show and then her radio show was cancelled because of a homophobic sermon she once gave. Pharrell Williams who was to perform with her said “I condemn hate speech of any kind” adding “There is no room in this world for any kind of prejudice”. But hold up, before you start shouting “Yeah!” and holding up your LGBT placards, let me point out that this is the same Pharrell Williams who once stated in an interview that he “always wanted to work with Eminem”. What does this have to do with anything I hear you ask? Well apparently Pharrell “No Prejudice” Williams made some music for an Eminem track; yes the same Eminem that made a racist song, a racist song that was not boycotted, a racist song that was defended by many “artists”, and a racist song that didn’t affect his career in any way shape or form. Is racism not as serious as homophobia? Are racist lyrics about black women not as hateful or offensive as homophobic sermons? Or are we only supposed to care about certain types of prejudice in 2017?

Apparently these days you can be a xenophobic, racist, and sexist presidential candidate, and your Twitter account is not only kept open but you also become the U.S. President, but a singer says a few racist things and her Twitter is shut down. Why is it that the white Donald Trump isn’t held to the same standards as the black Azealia Banks and what makes a white Eminem any different than the black Kim Burrell? If these mainstream, cock-sucking sellouts are supposed to have any credibility shouldn’t they at least be consistent with their bullshit stance? But I digress.

In a free world or a free country you have the right to be offensive and you have the right to be offended; if someone says something you don’t agree with, you can state how and why you don’t agree with them, but none of the conversation should ever get censored. That’s the whole point of opinions, you won’t agree with all of them but it shouldn’t stop all of them from being aired. If you censor speech or suppress art, the next step will be censoring ideas and then thoughts. We’re supposed be so proud of living in this day and age, but it seems we’ve devolved somewhere along the line. These days you can say what you want, do what you want, watch what you want, as long as it’s the same thing as the masses. How mother-fucking free.

Mythed Opportunity.

2 replies »

    • Hatred of Paris aside, my point is that you complain about something until you’ve watched it. We only saw a screen grab and a short trailer for ‘Urban Myths’ and therefore Paris Jackson (or anybody else) can’t really judge its content. We can only criticise the show for being racist/offensive once we’ve all seen the whole episode – which we now can’t.

      For all we know the show is funny, surely the time to complain about the casting or the reverse blackface was when the show was in pre-production, but once something is finished it has to be aired.

      If you ban something you can’t criticise it. Yes Bo Selecta! was “worse” in that it was an unfunny, bigoted fake-satire, but I wouldn’t know that if the show was “pulled” or “shelved” so I now can’t really compare the two.

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