While I was at the coast yesterday, the Guardian’s Peter Jones addressed a matter of pressing import:
My girlfriend and I were watching TV at home when the advert for comparethemarket.com appeared on our screen. I had seen the ad before and not thought anything of it. However on this occasion, my girlfriend, who is Ukrainian, turned to me and said: “I don’t like this advert; it is very offensive to me.” I mentioned it to a friend who said his Latvian lodger also found it offensive.
The gravity of a claim to be offended should of course be measured by the rush to air it in the face of widespread bewilderment. It’s the modern way. In fairness, Mr Jones does go on to explain why the agency in question, VCCP, is propagating “racism”:
The advertisement centres on the word “market” – a word that eastern Europeans/Russians pronounce “meerkat” – using talking CGI-animated meerkats. The sole point of this… is to highlight the idea that east Europeans cannot pronounce the word market properly when they speak English.
Wait a minute. Do Latvians, Poles and Slovaks really pronounce “market” as “meerkat”? Romanians too, and Ukrainians, and Russians? This is news, at least to me. Still, it’s good to see a Guardian contributor making such bold assumptions in the name of anti-racism. And aren’t meerkats – actual meerkats, not imaginary talking ones in smoking jackets - found primarily in Africa? The plot thickens.
It struck me how racist it was to parody what is now a significant part of the British population in this way… It is also the case that as so many people from eastern Europe were so new to the country that they would not want to be seen to be causing trouble. It then dawned on me that this ad was targeting a sector of the population who would be unlikely to fight back.
Ah. It’s targeted oppression, see? A watertight case. The fiends.
I once attempted an affectionate parody of a friend’s Brummie accent. No doubt that confirms my barely-latent hatred of all people from or around Birmingham. And viewers in Iceland, Russia and Scandinavia are doubtless still fuming at the explicitly racist horrors of “Beware the Judderman.”