This is why we can’t have nice things

Late last night after the predictable comments on Twitter about the awfulness of the panel for BBC Question Time, I Tweeted this:

And on next week’s #BBCQT panel, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Jabba the Hutt, The Eye of Sauron, Mr Blobby and Davros.

It was intended as a throwaway humorous comment, and the names were the first ones that came into my head. But almost immediately came a response that my fantasy BBC Question Time panel was all male. Worrying that I’d thoughtlessly committed a sexist microagression I deleted the tweet and apologised if I’d caused any offence.

But it’s been gnawing away at me all morning. It’s most unlikely that the comment in response was an actual demand to take down my tweet, but it was from someone I barely know, and the 140 characters of Twitter don’t allow a lot of space for nuance. The comment may well have been as innocently intended as my original Tweer, and probably was. But the level of “performance outrage” on Twitter puts me on a hair-trigger, and I delete things on a reflex.

I don’t blame the person who responded. But I do blame the wider outrage culture that’s developed, making good people walk on eggshells. Nobody wants to be the next Justine Sacco or Tim Hunt. Is performance outrage killing spontaneous humour?

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9 Responses to This is why we can’t have nice things

  1. Do we know for certain that Hutts are a species with two genders and that Jabba self-identifes as male?

    For reference, Terran slugs are hermaphrodites.

  2. (That was humour, by the way, before any Hutts express outrange at being compared to Terran slugs.)

  3. Tim Hall says:

    And if The Eye of Sauron is a psychic construct with no physical body at all….

  4. Synthetase says:

    Ah see, obviously you should have included Miss Piggy.

    Personally, I’d have left the tweet up. I figure if people want to deliberately take things the wrong way or get their nickers in a twist about something that isn’t even there, that’s their bag.

  5. Tim Hall says:

    Admittedly I chose the first names that came into my head and didn’t expect a throwaway tweet to be scrutinised for diversity targets.

    But I can’t thnk of that many obvious cartoonishly over-the-top female villains that loom anywhere near as large in popular culture. But that might be because it’s harder to do a female Jabba the Hutt or Blofeld that doesn’t come over as a sexist stereotype?

  6. Synthetase says:

    I think at the end of the day most of those sorts of characters are stereotypes anyway.

    How about Cruella de Vil?

  7. John P. says:

    Well, you certainly hit the ethnicity target.

  8. Tim Hall says:


    Cruella de Vil was The Guardian’s nickname for Edwina Currie, who I’m sure must have appeared on BBCQT at some point,

  9. John Hunt says:

    How about Zelda from ‘Terrahawks?’ Showing my age there.