A couple of days ago I received an email from a friend with the following joke in it:
1. Go to www.argos.co.uk , the website of a retail catalogue store
2. Type ‘Chav’ into the search box.
3. See what you get.
What I got was a picture of gold chains and easy chairs.
And I wondered why this was funny.
Seems I’ve been away from Britain far too long. I mean, sure, there are cultural institutions of which I’ve never had much chance of being a part – the British National Party for one (thanks to the Brooke brothers for pointing out this fine googlebomb).
There’s a lively and long lived tradition of class cultural warfare in the UK. Although, for alliterative purposes, it’d be great if it were to be characterised as snobs vs yobs, it’s far more complex. ‘Chav’, apparently, refers to “the burgeoning peasant underclass”, and simultaneously to urban working class women and youth. There’s even a website devoted to hate-filled polemic, which I won’t link to. I’ve long thought one of the most subtle interventions into this debate has been Kathy Burke’s Perry, of Kevin and Perry Go Large fame. Odds of her kind of subversion being replacing the Daily Mail’s drivel? Fat chance.
Interesting to see this tension rear its head, with an interesting inversion, in the US. And interesting to see how it’s countered:
The folks at Comedy Central were annoyed when Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly kept referring to “The Daily Show” audience as “stoned slackers.”
So they did a little research. And guess whose audience is more educated?