of course the BBC is ageist
July 21, 2009
Everyone’s jumping to the defence of Arlene Phillips, but where were all these folks when my mum (and no doubt some of yours) were made to stop work when they reached 60? And wouldn’t you think most people would be glad to stop work as soon as they can, particularly if, like Arlene, you’ve made a bob or two? In most walks of life men are made to stop work at 65 and women at 60. There are a few exceptions; and the two most prominent seem to be showbusiness and politics.
Ageism is a weird one to pin down. Sexism? Racism? You know where you are with those two devils. You don’t suddenly become female as you get older (well, ok, some do, but you know what I mean). And unless you’re the departed Michael Jackson, you don’t change skin colour halfway through your life. No! Sexism and racism are evils that some have to battle for all their years on Earth, whereas ageism creeps up on us slowly, in the shape of the grim reaper (aka BBC controllers).
I was the “victim” of BBC ageism a few years back. We (Trev and myself) were approached to take part in BBC3’s Celebrity Scissorhands (a reality show for Children in Need where a bunch of idiot P-listers like myself are trained to become hairdressers). Trev, ever the wise one, didn’t have to think once. It was a no from him. But, surprisingly since people can only ever seem to think of as a couple, they were still interested in me. I’ll do anything as long as it doesn’t hurt or exploit anyone but myself. I have nothing to lose. Sure, it was for no pay, but no one was paying me for anything anyway. And it gets me out of the house, and it might be a bit of a laugh. Oh, and I learn a new trade, so at least I might be employable once I’m booted off.
I went and met the people from Endemol and we talked for two hours and they seemed keen. And they kept seeming keen, until a good few weeks later they got in touch to say they were very sorry. They wanted me, but BBC3 had the final say, and they said I was “too old.”
Oh well. It was only a barbers after all, and for no money. It’s hardly the jungle. And who knows? Maybe they were just trying to let me down gently. Maybe it wasn’t the truth. Maybe I’m too ugly for BBC3. Or too untalented. Or not celebrity enough.
A far more sinister side of ageism is how old people are treated by younger comedians now. A trend has developed for caricaturing oldies as incontinent. Particularly old women, who’ll gush all over the floor anytime, anywhere. But the joke seems to begin and end there. And now young people happily joke about old people smelling of wee. It’s a joke that’s taken as a truth.
And maybe that’s why Arlene had to go. Some daft producer, younger than you or I, got it into their head that Arlene might struggle to hold it all in. And then, before you know it, there’d be murder on the dancefloor.