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Ban This Filth: Letters from the Mary Whitehouse Archive - Faber and Faber Print E-mail
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Written by Jay Creepy   
Monday, 08 May 2017
Creepy's Retro Bookshelf Corner: Ban This Fith by Ben Thompson on Severed Cinema


Book: Ban This Filth: Letters from the Mary Whitehouse Archive
Edited by: Ben Thompson
Written by: Ben Thompson, (with material by) Mary Whitehouse, Sir Michael Swann, and more.
Art by: Faber and Faber
Year: 2012

Published by:
Faber and Faber

(Sir Hugh) Greene saw Whitehouse as dangerous to freedom, tolerance and adventures. I thought that Mrs. Whitehouse was the sort of person who would have been at home in Nazi Germany or at home in Communist Russia. (….) I saw Mrs. Whitehouse as a sign of an unattractive degree of filthy madness in this country as shown later in such things as the National Front, they would tend to approve of her.”

Mary Whitehouse: Her name was known through many decades in the United Kingdom as the name you would put side to side with any arguments for and against censorship. Her name has been hated, loved, feared, and made into a joke by the public, filmmakers, comedians, politicians and many more.

A posh, comfy living housewife found herself rather annoyed by changes she noticed in the programming of the BBC way back in the 1960s and decided to put pen to paper, or click clack the typewriter in a fury, sending letter after letter to the director's of programming, chairmen, the writers, in fact anyone she could think of that may care. Loyally backed by her husband, Ernest, whom crusaded alongside her all the way. Not many did care at the BBC. She received numerous replies which boiled down to a simple 'Go away, you are out of touch!'

However, they did not realise the power of publicity. As she grew known in the newspapers and the television, usually mocked or ignored, thus rose a likeminded army of housewives and husbands, forming a network of letter writing individuals soaring via herself. Suddenly it was becoming harder to ignore Mary Whitehouse and her military-like wave of disgusted and angry legion of citizens.

Ban This Filth: Letters from the Mary Whitehouse Archive, is a very different take on the incredibly narrow-minded but extremely organised woman and her rise to power. This lady and her servants of purity snowballed, gathering supporters in the world of politics, religions and more. For her failures, she practically singlehandedly caused the witchhunt of the early '80s in the UK where 'video nasties' were removed from sale, retailers arrested and trialled, and the tapes were supposedly burnt.

Sadly, the one downside of this book is the lack of that era. It is touched briefly upon once or twice as she gathered a supporter from one, Margaret Thatcher and God's own Chief of Police, James Anderton. Mind you, I suppose so much has been documented in other books and VHS Nasty DVDs over the years. Ignoring Mary's own volumes of memoirs, there hasn't been much that has covered her works as a kind of balanced opinion.

Ban This Filth narrates throughout 406 pages how she took on the BBC, Channel 4, play-writers, pornography, movies, anything she and her nest of vipers (the NVALA) saw as crude, offensive, wrong or lewd. This is done via printing so many of her letters, plus letters from others to her, replies from the unfortunate targets of her venom, and much more. It is brilliant. Most of the time, Mary did not even view the material, she relied on prudish information given by her friends and this usually tripped her up, making her appear a fool.

The same Mary Whitehouse was also famously 'chatted up' by Mick Jagger on TV, and, in one of her books, had to chuckle when finding herself face to face with her 'repulsive' Spitting Image parody puppet.

What is made clear is her own personal homophobic and racist viewpoints. Critics were quick to take these facts to their winning post when fighting Mary in the public arena. She did herself no favours with some of her comments.

However, it's hard not to agree with her fears as Satellite TV reared up, and music changed. Fast forwards to nowadays and kids can view way too much in films, music videos, games, etcetera. A lot of values have faded away with the power of the voices who used to cry out.

The tale ends rather sadly with the death of her husband and herself a year later due to extreme ill health. I like the way the writer states: “Let's not remember them that way...” and follows with more letters and clippings. Cool.

The reason I haven't quoted much from the book is because, out of context with all of the chapters, any I tried would seem rather lifeless. Once read all the way, it's left to sum her up. Mary Whitehouse was, and still is, very easy to dislike. Her views were atrocious and ridiculous for most of the time. However, what her name could also stand for is the power of a voice. She began as an offended lady living in the suburbs. Due to very hard work, she became one of the most recognisable names from the '70s and '80s. Ban This Filth is recommended to anyone with an in-depth or passing interest in censorship.



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3.22 Copyright (C) 2007 Alain Georgette / Copyright (C) 2006 Frantisek Hliva. All rights reserved."

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