Just when you thought the Brexit debate couldn’t possibly get any madder, there comes a call to ban Dad’s Army — one of the greatest TV comedies ever made — because it ‘encouraged’ people to vote Leave.
Perhaps our growing prison population should be blamed on Porridge? The decline of the High Street department store on Are You Being Served? And the rise of the far Right on Till Death Do Us Part’s Alf Garnett?
So who is guilty of such a lunatic pronouncement?
Step forward Daisy Goodwin, the writer and creator of the ITV drama Victoria.
In an article in this week’s Radio Times, she admits that Dad’s Army is still ‘gloriously funny’ and hugely popular —every repeat gets two million viewers, which is ‘about ten times the number of people who watch Newsnight’. But she worries that its legacy is ‘not a benign one’.
In an article in this week’s Radio Times, she admits that Dad’s Army is still ‘gloriously funny’ and hugely popular —every repeat gets two million viewers
Is she serious? Yes, deadly serious. That’s the trouble.
At such times, some good old British sarcasm is a comfort, and one irritated Twitter user confessed yesterday that, yes, he did vote Brexit because he had been brainwashed by watching too much Dad’s Army, adding: ‘I also invested several thousand pounds in fire-damaged smoke alarms whilst watching an episode of Only Fools And Horses.’
Laughing at the idiocies of our self-appointed cultural elite is perhaps the best riposte. But it’s worth looking more closely at Goodwin’s arguments. Because this isn’t just a look-at-me! piece of journalistic provocation. It is an illustration of the increasingly fanatical and humourless times in which we live.
The antics of Captain Mainwaring and his merry men have given utter joy to millions, from the first episode screened on July 31, 1968, to the last — the 80th — on November 13, 1977.
As a character comedy it is so pitch-perfect — both the writing of the late David Croft and Jimmy Perry and the ensemble acting — that it has proved impossible to recreate with any other cast, despite several lacklustre attempts.
In a terribly British, self-deprecating kind of way, yes, it could be argued that Dad’s Army also stands as a sort of wry testament to the war effort, when we stood virtually alone as a free country against Hitler’s monstrous Reich. But it’s hardly the stuff of strident jingoism, as Goodwin implies.
Yet she wants the incomparable comedy banned because its vague whiff of bumbling old-school British patriotism and its storyline about opposing invasion from an evil European power, might mysteriously have triggered a ‘Leave’ mentality in the poor, credulous, uneducated voters.
Step forward Daisy Goodwin, the writer and creator of the ITV drama Victoria. she wants the incomparable comedy banned because its vague whiff of bumbling old-school British patriotism and its storyline about opposing invasion from an evil European power
In a particularly dotty conspiracy-theory moment, she even suggests the Brexit Party logo of an arrow bears a sinister resemblance to the arrows that feature in Dad’s Army’s memorable title sequence.
Remember that opening image as the Union Jack pushes back the Nazi swastikas gathering along the coast of France as Bud Flanagan sings: ‘Who do you think you are kidding, Mr Hitler’?
Inherent in Goodwin’s argument is the self-assured conviction that her view — that Brexit is a Bad Thing — is the only view of any importance. It doesn’t seem to enter her head that, actually, millions of people think Brexit is a thoroughly good thing, and would be quite at ease with the idea that the boys from Walmington-on-Sea inspired our flight from Brussels .
But I would counter Goodwin’s argument with the following: that its legions of fans have never thought of Dad’s Army in relation to the EU referendum in any way.
On the contrary, Brexit has become such a punishingly tedious business, such a slough of bureaucratic despond and shameful political prevarication, that we fans turn back to Dad’s Army as a happy, apolitical escape from it all.
So how dare Goodwin bring politics into this lovably non-partisan, carefree, innocent and timeless comedy!
How dare she taint our gallant band of Home Guard immortals with the petty political concerns of the day!
Her article reads like one long, supercilious sneer at popular taste — or populist taste, as she might refer to it.
‘Forget Game Of Thrones, Dad’s Army is the show that is embedded in this country’s imagination,’ she wrote.
‘The world of Dad’s Army is a comforting place — it was reassuring during the mayhem of the three-day week and it’s soothing to those of us who worry about a No Deal Brexit.
‘But while David Davis may sound like Corporal Jones, Philip Hammond has Sergeant Wilson’s hangdog look about him and there is more than a touch of wide-boy Walker to Boris Johnson, perhaps the Conservatives, indeed the whole nation, need to be reminded that we are not living in Walmington-on-Sea. Our current difficulties will not be resolved with a comic flourish and a jaunty burst of Bud Flanagan.’
There you have it. Rarely in recent history have the chattering classes, our political and cultural arbiters, been so contemptuous of the British people, denigrating their beliefs at every opportunity.
But taking on the much-loved cultural institution that is Dad’s Army for not being sufficiently Europhile is a risible step too far.
So what are Ms Goodwin’s qualifications for this attack?
Her latest venture is the lavish melodrama about Queen Victoria — a series so far removed from the historical truth that it makes Dad’s Army look like a scrupulous World War II documentary.
In a terribly British, self-deprecating kind of way, yes, it could be argued that Dad’s Army also stands as a sort of wry testament to the war effort, when we stood virtually alone as a free country against Hitler’s monstrous Reich
Goodwin’s Victoria is a kind of proto-feminist, battling for women’s rights in a man’s world (she wasn’t.) She’s infatuated with her prime minister Lord Melbourne, even going to his house to propose marriage (she didn’t).
Nor did Lord Melbourne look like brooding Rufus Sewell: he was by then enormously fat.
Perhaps some found it entertaining enough. But I doubt people will be watching repeats in 50 years’ time, as we do with Dad’s Army.
And in another 50 years, people will still be watching Dad’s Army, and still guffawing when Cpl Jones declares: ‘They could put a hundred bombs down my trousers and they would not make me crack!’
We need to send a message, loud and clear: hands off Cpl Jones’s trousers, and the rest of the Walmington platoon!
Try to ban Dad’s Army and you may just push us a step too far. We will take to the streets with our garden forks raised aloft, a box-set collection of Dad’s Army tucked under our arms.
We shall fight on the beaches and on the landing grounds . . . but we shall never surrender our sense of humour!