Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Excess of PC beats a fall into cesspit of misogyny

This week, we've seen the best and worst sides of drunken excesses. What have we learnt? Just like in life: llamas good, racism bad.

You wake with a headache and a burning sense of shame. You cast your mind back to the wee hours and recall the things you shouldn't have done. And then you remember the llama.

Forget stealing traffic cones. The five French teenagers in Bordeaux who drunkenly borrowed Serge the llama from a zoo and took him for a tram ride have shown that a drunken escapade can be something joyful and genuinely inspired.

Millions of people around the world had their day cheered by the now-famous picture of a llama being cuddled by a bunch of smiling boys.

On our side of the Channel, however, things haven't been so rosy. Two 19-year-old girls in Chester dressed up as the Twin Towers, mid-attack, complete with people falling out of the exploding buildings – and they won the costume competition.

Students in Birmingham were reportedly refused access to a "Fab n Halloween" night after showing up in apparently racist costumes. Some were dressed like Mexicans, some as Native Americans, the women's basketball team wore bat costumes (in blackface) and one dressed as a Muslim – although he was apparently a Sacha Baron Cohen character.

There is a fine line between pushing the boundaries of comedy and reinforcing prevalent racial stereotypes. As someone who writes a satirical blog called Stuff White Brits Like, I'm used to unfounded accusations of racism from anyone whose sense of humour doesn't quite correspond with mine. But what, exactly, is showing up to a Halloween party dressed like a Mexican trying to prove?

The standard comeback is "Just lighten up, it's just a bit of fun". But student nights have increasingly been attracting behaviour that is downright dangerous. A night club in Leeds recently attracted criticism for its 'Freshers Violation' night, which appears to encourage rape. Humour is used insidiously to normalise extreme viewpoints. These particular Holloween students probably didn't intend to cause anyone distress, but an excess of political correctness feels like a welcome respite in an environment where misogyny is the norm.

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