BBC BLOGS - The Ouch! Blog It's a disability thing
« Previous | Main | Next »

Little Britain: what about disablism?

Post categories:

Vaughan | 16:06 UK time, Wednesday, 29 October 2008

In writing this post, I should first confess that I'm not a fan of Matt Lucas' and David Walliams' comedy series Little Britain. Not at all. Humour is a very personal thing, and I just don't find it funny. The few times I watched it, I ended up wondering what all the fuss and critical acclaim was about.

However, I was interested when I read an article on the UK comedy site Chortle, entitled Little Britain 'panders to prejudice'. It reports on a new study by an academic at the London School of Economics, which criticises the show's grotesque characters such as teenage mum Vicky Pollard and Daffyd, 'the only gay in the village', for the way in which their stereotypes "promote a sense of disgust at people of a different class, sexuality, race and gender ... Little Britain does far more to promote racism, sexism, homophobia, ageism and classism than it does to satirise them".


There a lot of terrible 'isms' in there, but it struck me that there's one notable omission. What about disablism? After all, aren't wheelchair user Andy Pipkin and his carer Lou two of the most instantly recognisable faces from the series? And in the years that Little Britain has been part of the nation's TV viewing, there have been frequent debates about them on Ouch, and whether or not the portrayals are disablist or, indeed, whether they themselves highlight the subject of disablism.

But what do you think? Taking the findings of the research mentioned in the article, and extending it to disability, did Lou and Andy did far more to promote disablism than to satirise it? Tell us in the comments.


  • Comment number 1.

    Vaughan - read this on my facebook by any chance?

  • Comment number 2.

    Like all material exposed to the public it can be taken, understood, portrayed, and acted on according to personal resultant effects. A bit like art and music only more personal. One needs to ask in media, "just exactly what are we trying to achieve here, and what are the possible consequences on a mass audience?". The greater the audience the greater the reaction to the content and portrayal according to their knowledge or ignorance.
    I feel that the motto should be "If in doubt - leave it out", with regard to the scripts that you could find yourself in court for, - hence the need for an Editorial Department to appraise the content 'cause and effect' ratio, and a director to edit potentially harmful or damaging media ideas on people and society in general. Your audience is your future and your future audience is the generations growing up today (at all ages). You can do it BBC. Be-Be-See!

  • Comment number 3.

    Wheelchair user Andy Pipkin, is not disabled, that is the joke.

    I don't like Little Britain either, too much trying to shock and not enough subtlety for me and that was on first viewing, the second problem is once you've seen one episode the joke is the same in every one.

    However I do see the point of it, more often than not it is not the affliction of the charachter that is being satirised but their attitudes.

  • Comment number 4.

    I have always seen Little Britain as something which sets out to shock: it plays with our own perceptions of things by taking things people think to varying extents (perceptions of gay people, fat people, disabled people, bigoted people - the 'not the WI at all, honest' characters) and extending those characterisations to the point of being obviously false and thereby trying to find the comedy.

    It's comedy on the edge. Some people will find it offensive. I don't find it offensive, but I do find parts of it crass and vulgar. But then again, I enjoy other parts.

    So for example, I don't like "urinating lady", but for some of the other sketches, I'd have to echo Andy Pipkin and say "I want that one..."

  • Comment number 5.

    Oh, and can I ask why the text size for the comments is different to the article text size? I mean, if you want to make it easier to read, shouldn't you make the whole thing easier to read...?

  • Comment number 6.

    Oh, and can I ask why the text size for the comments is different to the article text size? I mean, if you want to make it easier to read, shouldn't you make the whole thing easier to read...?


    Agreed, if the proper size units are used then we can change it ourself anyway, this way just makes one part of it permanently difficult to read for everyone.

  • Comment number 7.

    I honestly think that if you're a fan of Little Britain then you get the irony.

    Don't think it's disablist but does come close to it at times.

    Anyways, you should see the looks I get when out and about in my chair, on my own...I get back to my car and have to fold the chair up and heave it into the boot. No-one's called me "Andy" yet but you see what people are thinking-and sometimes I get an offer of help from a passing "Lou"!


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.