The #metoo movement, which has sprung up in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, has given voice to the myriad women who have for generations suffered misogynistic abuse and mistreatment at the hands of powerful, predatory men. It has forced us to look again at many of our accepted social norms, and given us cause to re-evaluate some of our much-loved films.
It can been a painful and cathartic experience to view through new eyes some of our old favourites and realise that many aspects of them would simply not be acceptable or tolerated today. But one series of films has apparently remained immune from such retrospective criticism: the Carry Ons.
The Carry On films were a cultural sensation and introduced the country to such legends of comedy as Sid James, Barbara Windsor, Kenneth Williams and Hattie Jacques. Most of the movies featured dirty old men and randy young lads lusting over and sexually harassing a parade of nubile young women. Such on-screen behaviour would certainly raise more than a few eyebrows today, but it seems that the #metoo movement, when it comes to the exploits of Sid James et al, is prepared to make an exception.
“I don’t care how politically incorrect they are now,” stated women’s studies lecturer and feminist campaigner Amanda Imelda, “that bit in Carry On Doctor when Barbara Windsor comes tottering up to that ambulance driver and says: ‘Ere, what a lovely looking pear’, and he says: ‘Took the words right outa my mouf’, cracks me up every time. And Sid James slapping Joan Sims’ arse all the way through Carry On at Your Convenience. Classic.”
But didn’t those films objectify women and normalise abusive behaviour?
“Well, maybe, but that bit when Barbara Windsor’s bikini pings off and goes in Kenneth Williams’ face? Christ on a bike, I nearly wet myself!”