At the risk of sounding like a shiny suited refugee from the 1970s’ club circuit, it does appear that the parameters of what we are allowed to laugh about in public are narrowing fast.
A prime example of this came in the shape of regulations which were introduced last week to prevent the use of ‘harmful’ stereotypes in broadcast advertising.
Examples used include adverts depicting men as clueless dads who have no idea how to put on a disposable nappy or those which suggest that women are not very good at parking cars.
While both examples are extremely well worn stereotypes and would probably never again feature in an advertising campaign for a product of any real value, this does seem like a particularly po-faced move.
At a rough guess, I must have changed the best part of 500 nappies in my time but, like a good few of my mates, I never, ever really got it right and I can’t ever recall Mrs Tapp putting one on back to front, which was an everyday occurrence when it was my watch. While I am by no means an expert at parking, and am the last person many would choose to assist them when trying to park the people carrier, I have indeed been called upon to squeeze a motor into a space. On every occasion, not one of those who asked me to help them park goes to the toilet standing up - although those doing the asking will, without a shadow of a doubt, always wash their hands. Yes, they are stereotypes, and lame ones at that, but some find them amusing because, like me, they can relate to them in some way.
What I object to most about the Advertising Standards Authority’s new guidelines is that harmless ones such as those highlighted are outlawed while advertisers are still allowed to use impossibly beautiful people to flog their wares. Surely laughing at a hapless halfwit who does know one side of a Pampers from the other is more acceptable than selling people an impossible dream.
There was a time when we would all have a good laugh at the pickle that we find ourselves in but it simply isn’t funny anymore.