Wednesday, May 2, 2012

"Just A Bit Of Fun...": The Rise and Rise of "Laddish" culture

I recently heard about "The Sun" headline poking fun at new England manager Roy Hodgson's slight speech impediment (he can't pronounce Rs properly, like TV celebrity Johnathon Ross), and it really demonstrates a deep ugly under-current to English culture - an under-current of careless prejudice prevalent in our society.

I'll come back to this specific example later. I want to look at other examples of the same ugly prejudices. Staying on football, it's interesting that racial comments allegedly made by footballer John Terry to Anton Ferdinand received such strong condemnation from the media; yet a man convicted of assault and with a vicious reputation, footballer Joey Barton (Anton Ferdinand's club captain at QPR) still has no problems getting employment despite his criminal past, in fact having over a million followers on Twitter.

This is another example of lazy prejudice: the casual glamorisation of violence. I can go on. There's also the case of the Sheffield United player convicted of rape, receiving many supportive/misogynistic comments as a result. Not only that, but the victim's name was casually passed around (which is a criminal offence - rape victims are guaranteed anonymity), so this demonstrates another prejudice that exists in the dark corners of English psyche - not only glorifying violence, but also misogyny.

Moving on to the police, and the Met in particular, this is an institution still rife with casual prejudice. After all the years of reforms, racism still exists lurking under the surface. I've read of a number of anecdotes of black people receiving casual racial abuse, with police officers ignorant of how insulting these words really are.

 There is this "laddish" culture that runs through much of contemporary life, and making fun, throwing casual insults, making light of appalling behaviour is all part of the same issue.

So "The Sun", making a cheap insult at the England manager the day after he's appointed is just another example, but it demonstrates a lot. Roy Hodgson is not an ordinary Englishman. As a football coach, the large majority of his plus-thirty years of experience has been abroad, often at the highest club and national levels. He is cultured, modest, well-spoken and multi-lingual - in other words, everything that the average contemporary Englishman is not. In character, he seems similar to Sven-Goran Eriksson. But also, he is like a welcome throw-back to the days when English managers were "gentlemen"; the likes of Sir Alf Ramsey, for example (and the only one to win anything with the national team).

I'm not going to wax lyrical about the values lost in recent decades, don't worry. I'm making a wider point. The rise of fashionable "laddish" culture in the '90s happened after a clamp-down on the prejudices and behaviour like rampant racism and hooliganism that existed in previous decades. So "laddish" culture became a sort of glamorisation of the back-lash against "political correctness" - magazines like "Loaded" and "Nuts" are the archetype, but tabloids like "The Sun" more or less continued as normal, just minus the obvious racism.

"Laddish" culture is about being "part of the gang". "The Sun" knows this well, because many of its male staff have the exact same mentality, and assume (often correctly) that many of their male readers share it.

So the hype about Harry Redknapp being the "obvious" choice for England football manager shows us another side to the same coin - the face of reverse snobbishness. Redknapp is a hero to "laddish" culture because he openly admits to being barely literate and practically innumerate, while talking in the same way that many "Sun" readers do. Furthermore, he has an easy charm and comes across as being "one of the lads". He also had a recent run-in with the law, which would add further to his "laddish" social standing. This added to the "laddish" culture's fascination with Harry Redknapp as a "lovable rogue".

That also reminds me of the incident some time ago on "Sky Sports": when Andy Gray and his colleague were caught on camera making misogynist remarks and behaviour. They were quickly fired, but the fact is that this type of "laddish" behaviour in engrained into the English male psyche.

Phrases like "just a bit of fun" are still being used to condone behaviour that some thought had been kicked out of contemporary Britain with the coming of the 21st century. I'm no Feminist (being a man, that's hard to pull off...), or moralistic kill-joy - I just find the casual attitude of "laddish" culture to prejudice and the glamorisation of violence and drunken excess sad, embarrassing to behold, and collectively pathetic.

Grow up, guys!

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