So Jim Davidson is the latest casualty of reality TV, pushed before he could jump from the current incarnation of Hell’s Kitchen because he made offensive remarks to a fellow contestant. I’ve never been a fan of the man personally, but incredibly he managed to fall short of the very low standards I already expected of him.
Jim’s response has been entirely predictable. There were double standards because apparently people were also offensive to him on the show, though examples were not forthcoming, because they don’t exist. He said that the pressures of the show made him “play up to the worst of my perceived image”; this is known as the “Chubby Brown defence”, and was bollocks when he originally came out with it to differentiate his “stage persona” from the “real him”, when they’re essentially the same. He was appalled that now it appeared that he had become the victim, as if this were some terrible, unjust reverse contrary to the laws of nature. If he was now a victim, then he wondered where all the other “heterosexual, white, normal” people like him should go now; oblivious to the fact that he could have stayed put as long as he stopped acting the dick, but that even if he had to move on his specific demographic doesn’t appear to be struggling overall so he has plenty of options. He was of an earlier generation he said (“before racism was bad”, as that line in The Office had it?) as if there were a time when rudeness was once in fashion. In the end, of course, Jim complained that this was all down to “politically correctness”, of which he knows nothing.
But I think we should give thanks to Jim Davidson for his foray into the debate on political correctness, because it has helped me in my understanding of what it actually means. There are some egregious examples of PC “gone mad” – often more urban myth than reality, in my experience – but at its heart I believe that to be political correct simply means that you don’t use terms that other people find offensive, and that you treat others with respect. It is about politeness and decency, and Jim’s behaviour has confirmed me in this opinion. Regarding the specific incident that resulted in Jim Davidson’s expulsion, it should be obvious to all that it is less than courteous to refer to other people as “shirt-lifters”, and pretty stupid to do so while in the presence of a gay man; that when said gay man admits that he finds the term offensive, apologising is generally preferred to saying “I don’t care” and accusing him of “playing the homophobic card” as that is unlikely to calm the situation; still less is it recommended to then call him a “fucking disgrace”, as that term is typically frowned upon in polite society, and absent from most good books on etiquette. This is all common sense, the basic principles of human engagement that we really should learn at our mother’s knee, rather than have battered into us on some Diversity course or other.
ITV, in sacking Davidson as he was walking out of the door, was probably trying to earn easy brownie points while avoiding the kind of furore Channel 4 was embroiled in during the last series of Celebrity Big Brother. There was no need to fire him, and to do so seems an overreaction in my opinion; but from the (admittedly) little I saw of Hell’s Kitchen, by my definition of political correctness Jim Davidson certainly failed the test, but not because on one occasion he used an offensive and homophobic term. The problem was that he came across as a picky, condescending and arrogant character who didn’t appear to understand anyone else, his fellow white middle-aged male contestants being as baffled by his behaviour as anybody; in fact he cut such a sad, confused and misanthropic figure that you could almost feel sorry for him, were he not acting the twat, all the time. It was his shitty attitude and lack of respect towards other people in general that was the problem; the supposedly PC-specific complaints such as the hateful misogyny that appeared so entwined and intrinsic to his being, and the thoughtless, casual homophobia that he brushed off, only seemed to come with the territory.