Jonathan Pie and the fight for Free Speech

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Recently, comedian and character actor Tom Walker, has used his newsreader character, Jonathan Pie, to enlighten his audience. He’s been vocally critical of both the gender pay gap and the prison sentence of Mark Meecham. Satire is integral, and personally I think Pie as a character is one of the freshest and most involving political characters of all. He’s almost exceeding the levels of Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi – The Thick of It). I would’ve given the example of a chat show host, but Pie isn’t something that can be contained to a desk and a prompter. Aside from brown-nosing my favourite comedians, I do like to report what’s been going on, so lets get to that.

As of the past week or so, Pie and also Walker himself, has come under heavy fire for sticking up for free speech. Not just that, he’s also calling out the illusion of the gender pay gap. Both of these statements come at a delicate time in the news. A YouTuber named “Count Dankula”, realistically known as Mark Meechan, has been sent to prison. We’ll get to that in a minute. The gender pay gap statements come at a time when Hollywood, the BBC and, well, pretty much everywhere, is under scrutiny for not paying women the same as men.

The Gender “Pay Gap”

Now it sounds all well and good, it shouldn’t kick up too much of a fuss. But for the past week or even longer, Twitter has escalated into a metaphorical war zone. We’ll start out with the most recent story though, the gender pay gap. In a video interview, Walker’s character Jonathan Pie interviews a feminist, and asks questions about the gender pay gap. The feminist goes on to disprove the gender pay gap, something that, to be honest, needs to be done.

This isn’t the place for details, I’m more focused on uncovering the Twitter outcry, but from what I’ve gathered the gender pay gap falls down to this. As the video states, it’s illegal for men and women to be paid different amounts for the same work. If you could pay women less for the same job why would anyone want to employ men. On top of that, the overall average adds every male salary together, and every female salary together. Getting the mean pay does not factor in higher up positions. They’re comparing workers to managers, different jobs and different pay checks.

Applying context to the Gender Pay Gap

I’ll put it into a film context, because that’s what I think will help the most. Let’s take Whiplash (2014) for an example. Are you going to pay the main character, Miles Teller or J.K. Simmons, the same amount as Kavita Patil, who features in the film for about five minutes. These differences are never factored in to the overall average, and it’s why this myth of the gender pay gap has come about. Most recently there has been disgust that Matt Smith is getting paid more than Claire Foy. The difference there though is that Smith is an established actor and household name because of Doctor Who, whereas Foy is a less recognised actor.

Regarding regular business though, there are far too many factors and facts to add in to get a genuine total. It is not a gender pay gap, it is a gender earnings gap. This is not forced upon people, it’s usually down to lifestyle choices, how they work and what they do for the company. Everything is interchangeable, and to have one system for every single company is going to be impossibly messy. Why would you pay a male or female intern the same amount as a male or female CEO at the same company. In essence, that’s what a majority of these reports are comparing.

Free Speech and Context

Mark Meechan has came under prosecution and will be arrested for making a joke. The court ruled that context is irrelevant. It is relevant, but we’ll get to that later. In essence he uploaded a video a few years ago of his pug doing a Nazi salute after he states “Gas the Jews”. Context is clearly relevant in a joke like that. Stephen Fry, Ricky Gervais and a large portion of the public (myself included) have stated their support for freedom of speech. There have been those critical of Meechan, and, by extension, Pie. Notably is Graham Linehan, who tried using the argument that Meechan’s political views make the joke horrific and something between mockery and a hate crime.

Although some of the photos that show Meechan laughing it up with Tommy Robinson are questionable, my two questions are:

  1. Why does it matter what his political affiliation is?
  2. Even if he does have a differing opinion to you, that doesn’t remove context from a joke, does it?

Linehan’s argument seems to suggest that, because Meechan is a Trump supporter, he can’t make jokes. Political opinion has nothing to do with this story whatsoever. Nazi’s are horrible, disgustingly vile creatures, that’s the joke. He’s poking fun at the cause. Of course context is relevant. The point I’m making with that image below is that context in comedy is severely important. If you look at that scene on its own then it probably isn’t funny, it’s the context that surrounds the image and the episode of Father Ted that makes it funny.

No context needed I suppose (Father Ted, written and created by Graham Linehan/Arthur Mathews)

Context is key

Meechan is facing a prison sentence because of a joke, the court ruled against him saying context doesn’t matter. This ruling is, for lack of a professional word, utter bollocks. Remember that episode of Fawlty Towers where Basil Fawlty does the “funny walk”? That has context, much like Meechan’s video. It’s a world gone mad. But fair enough if it’s caused offence then to some minute degree something should be done. It shouldn’t go as far as a court case or even police involvement, but here we are.

Nobody actually asked the police to investigate Meecham. Apparently they did it of their own accord and it was found out to be offensive to them. What this whole news piece has taught me is that we should just send people to prison for being bell-ends. I would completely understand upset if there was any ground to actually make a feasible case against Meecham. But there isn’t. A pug waved their arm in the air. That’s all.

And as much as I respect and appreciate the work of Graham Linehan, a notable opponent of Pie during this time, context is never irrelevant.


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