Only Fools and Horses

‘I watched Only Fools and Horses for the first time and was just mortified’

I was approximately 30 seconds into the episode when I gave up hope

I was approximately 30 seconds into the first episode of Only Fools and Horses when I gave up hope.

To say it was a disaster from the start would only be minutely unfair – John Sullivan’s upbeat soundtrack playing over bustling markets, old-school pubs and other dim yet colourful shots of 1980s London was a first class introduction.

The iconic three-wheeled Trotters van panning out to views over high rise council estates based in Peckham (that were actually in Acton) set the scene for a vibrant, charismatic comedy.

And in many ways, I am sure it is.

But watching what is arguably London’s (and even one of Britain’s) most-loved comedy of all time, I expected to never be left without a smile on my face.

Instead, I was never left with one.

Starting series one, episode one with ‘jokes’ at the expense of black people immediately sets the sinister tone for yet another racist and sexist show.

Grandad’s inability to pronounce a black man’s name is unkind and frankly boring. The fact it turns out to be another black man they are talking about is even more so.

Make all the excuses you want, but three white men saying such things is completely uncomfortable and unnecessary.

And the discrimination only grew worse.

“Old dog” and “some Chinese tart” are just a couple of the phrases used to describe women.

But not to their faces, of course.

“Chinese, Japanese, it’s all the same to me,” Del Boy adds.

More racism, but at this point am I even surprised?

Of course, many will rush to defend the much-loved show, including some of the stars themselves.

Sue Holderness who played Marlene has defended the show
Sue Holderness who played Marlene has defended the show (Image: BBC)

In 2018, actress Sue Holderness who played Marlene told PA: “There have been people saying you could never make Only Fools and Horses now, that it was racist. It wasn’t remotely racist. Del and Rodney and all that community, there wasn’t a racist ounce in their body.”

Use this as evidence all you want, but we are talking about the same woman that said while she supports the #MeToo movement, she “feels sorry for men” nowadays.

“The very first episode, Del gave me a big hug, kissed me fondly and pinched my arse and nobody took any offence at it,” she said. “Except Boycie who looked daggers.

“And every time we met that would happen. It’s quite fun.”

Thanks for the insight, but I think other women impacted by the #MeToo movement may say otherwise…

Granted, all the humour in the episode isn’t at the expense of race or sex.

And we’re certainly not expected to respect anything that comes out of cocky, uneducated Del Boy’s mouth.

So, while I don’t condone or justify attitudes for simply being ‘back in the day’, I think the writers would make a much more enjoyable series written today.

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