Man, what a different world it was just over 4 decades ago. In 1969, the same year that millions of people across the world gathered to protest the war in Vietnam, therefore showing (at least on the surface) that social responsibility and a belief in peace for all people was increasingly becoming the norm in our society, prejudices against many minority groups was still high. Homophobia, for example, seemed not only common, but generally accepted. A great example of this was Monty Python’s Flying Circus, which also first hit screens in 1969. Monty Python’s Flying Circus is one of the greatest and most influential series in history, but 43 years later, it is interesting to look back and view it through the lens of the differences in society that almost half a century in time can afford.
Take for example this classic sketch:
When we get to the point where “stinking homosexuals” are brought up, the crowd stands and cheers as they play a game called “Shoot The Poof”.
Also there’s this famous sketch:
Here, a British man comes to Australia and joins the Philosophy department of the University of Woolloomooloo, where “no poofters” takes up about half of their list of rules.
Times change, people’s perceptions of what’s right and wrong changes with that. Morals and ethics develop, and we become more tolerant as a result. I get all that. It’s a good thing. The reason that I find Monty Python interesting to use as an example though, is Graham Chapman.
Graham Chapman was a founding member of Monty Python, and a very gifted comedian. Graham Chapman was also gay, which begs the question of how he must have felt about the gay-bashing humour included in quite a bit of the material Monty Python created. Especially when he was a major participant in it. Take this sketch for example:
Here we see Graham playing Biggles, dictating a letter to his secretary. When he finds out his long time friend Algy is gay, he pulls out his gun and shoots him in disgust.
Viewing it as someone who knows about Chapman’s personal life, you have to wonder how he felt about sketches such as these. Was he a willing participant, or did he hate doing them? Was he involved in the writing process of sketches such as these? Did he just simply approach these with a good sense of humour? Perhaps there was even something therapeutic or cathartic about working on this material.
The most likely answer is that he knew that this was the way it was in the late 60’s and early 70’s, and decided to, as Monty Python themselves would say, “GET ON WITH IT!”
Unfortunately, since Graham Chapman passed away in 1989 after suffering from throat cancer and secondary spinal cancer, he could not be reached for comment.
What do you think, Dear Reader? Can we accept that that’s the way things were back then, so it’s OK for those sorts of prejudices exist? If so, does that justify the prejudices that many people in our society hold today? Most importantly, are we all Monty Python fans, and can we drop some quotes in the comments for a bit of fun?
Let the discussion commence.