John Cleese has attacked the decision to remove an episode of sitcom “Fawlty Towers” from a streaming site as “stupid,” as well as taking a swipe at those who take a revisionist view of history in the context of the Black Lives Matter debate.
On Friday, BBC-owned TV network UKTV announced on Twitter that it had temporarily removed an episode of “Fawlty Towers,” “The Germans,” from its Gold download service as it contained “racial slurs.” The service said it wished to “review” the episode, and “consider our options.” It said some shows “carry warnings and others are edited.”
It is believed the “racial slurs” are contained in a scene in which the character known as the Major uses the N-word when referring to Caribbean sportsmen.
Speaking to Australian newspaper The Age, Cleese said: “The Major was an old fossil left over from decades before. We were not supporting his views, we were making fun of them. If they can’t see that, if people are too stupid to see that, what can one say?”
He slammed BBC executives for yielding to pressure from protesters. “A lot of the people in charge now at the BBC just want to hang onto their jobs,” he said. “If a few people get excited they pacify them rather than standing their ground as they would have done 30 or 40 years ago.”
Cleese also said it was wrong to judge older works of art by modern standards. “The Greeks in 500 B.C. felt that culture, or any kind of real civilization, was only possible because of slavery – does that mean we should take down all the statues of Socrates?”
Cleese repeated this view on Twitter, saying he was “very confused about toppling statues.”
He added: “Similarly, the Romans enslaved the British for 400 years. So are we due reparations from the Italians? And Sir Isaac Newton was a shareholder in the South Sea Company, which included slave trading among its activities. What do we do about his statues? It’s rather complicated.”
This Tweet was met by a barrage of rebukes. Hieronymus Brock replied: “It isn’t. Our civilization is a direct beneficiary of chattel slavery. Direct. You can equivocate about other forms of slavery, but none of those were directly responsible for the privilege you/I now have or the oppression of those of color now. You’re smarter than this, sir.”
Despite his criticism of revisionism, Cleese applauded the Black Lives Matter protest movement. “At the moment there is a huge swell of anger and a really admirable feeling that we must make our society less discriminatory, and I think that part of it is very good,” he told The Age.
“It seems to me the best parts of the George Floyd protests have been very moving and very, very powerful,” he added.
“There are looters, just as there are rogue police, but if we let our focus be on the 10% who are always trying to f— everything up, we might forget that what it’s really about is trying to behave a bit more kindly towards everyone.”