Saturday, 29 November 2014

Reflections on the 1970s

One of the television programmes I like to watch from time to time are the repeats of Top of the Pops on BBC 4 which is currently covering the year 1979. The edition on this week had quite obviously been edited and had narration added by Peter Powell, to remove certain presenters like the Saville creature who turned out to be such a monster.

Not that I or most other people knew at the time.

The seventies was quite a different era and a recent two-part documentary It was alright in the 1970s highlighted much that would be considered "tasteless" today. Matt Lucas reintroduced to rampant sexism, racism, xenophobia and homophobia that was literally part of mainstream society.

Take Butterflies for example. This gentle family comedy with a young Nicholas Lyndhurst had a scene in which  a frustrated housewife played by Wendy Craig suddenly shouted in one of her rants that she wanted to be raped. It even attracted the obligatory canned laughter that was used for such shows.

Shocking, yet even though I vaguely recall seeing the first time round seemed not to have registered as misplaced by most, if any viewers way back then.

They have been repeating this series on some channel recently and it wasn't edited at all.

But should it have been?

Social attitudes to women's rights have changed as has societies views on racism and homophobia.
Take this little gem from Till Death do us part:

Now I was then and remain a fan of Alf Garnet as played by Warren Mitchell. The whole idea in this particular case was to ridicule the bigot that he was. Some people "didn't get it" and I'm not sure that this show would get past today's censors because of the language.

Yet it was real to many peoples experiences if "stereotyped" for comedy purposes.

The show that I certainly did find offensive even back then was Love thy Neighbour, ITV's botched attempt to copy the format. Quite rightly it has never been repeated.

The seventies also saw the rise of a strong feminist movement which like many I came into contact with as a student in the late seventies. Attitudes to sex/sexism were certainly quite different as many of us had grown up watching the wonderful Carry On film franchise and shows like Benny Hill were all the rage.

These still attract repeats, though less so in Benny's case. But he did have a number one hit which is remembered fondly by many:

The seventies was quite a contradictory time. The far-left which had an attraction for many and started to influence me by the end of of the decade was growing in influence, but was hostile to many of the radical developments taking place in politics. Feminism was a "distraction", the Militant Tendency was quite homophobic and racism seen by many as purely a "class issue".

Even the "left" was generally quite backward then. Though some of it it hasn't changed much comrades of the Socialist Workers Party please take note!

Then of course there was the music. "Progressive Rock" was my main interest, though mainstream music still held its' occasional attractions. With "Glam Rock" being a major genre in the mid seventies. So I thought I'd end with a track from the late, great Marc Bolan.

Despite it's seemingly bad reputation, the seventies wasn't as bad as many pundits made it out to be. As part of the generation which had it's formative years in this decade there were good things as well as bad.

The same could be said for any decade in history.

Just don't revive flared trousers, OK.

1 comment:

  1. Re the TOTP being without a host, there was a dispute at the end of 1979 which meant only videos being used.