It had to happen. As night follows day, wherever there is tragedy, there is also, eventually, some comedy, however macabre.
And when the focus of the tragedy is the mad Colonel himself, a man given to waving an umbrella at adversity and creeping around his own capital city incognito at night, the hunt for Ghaddafi looks like it is going to produce as much irreverent humour as the former no. 1 public-enemy-in-hiding, Osama Bin Laden. Unless they catch him soon, of course.
Sometimes, though, that humour raises eyebrows. Is it right to take a potshot at a baddy by invoking stereotypes used to bash other groups with?
Thus, this morning, a blogger, whom i mostly respect a great deal for his wit and insight, referenced the Telegraph report of some of Ghaddafi’s family slipping over the border to Algeria with the comment: “The woman in the centre of this photo is said to be Mrs Gaddafi. But is it the colonel in disguise?”
Yep. I see where he’s coming from. There is a certain pantomime dragginess to Mrs G: but is it a good idea to mention it? Since there seems to be no likelihood whatsoever that this IS the Colonel, isn’t that comment just code for “ain’t she ugly?”?
And therefore basically misogynist?
In this instance, the blogger has not been so gross as to bring trans-ness into the equation. But how long before the likes of Richard Littlejohn spot the chance to have a gentle dig at two of the favourite targets of his spleen in one fell swoop? Can it be long before a comedian or columnist steps up to the plate and graces us with the observation that Ms Ghadaffi looks like a “bad tranny”, or some similar charming description.
At which point we will most certainly have cause to be pissed off.
But have we yet? Is any reference to cross-dressing in a non-serious way something we have reason to be cross about? Or do we, should we recognise that, along with panto dames, the spectacle of great men being forced into female clothing is quintessentially funny.
Now, let me stop you there: i’m well aware that there’s an enormous amount of analysis that can go behind that last sentence. For starters: the fact that feminisation is either the topic, frequently, of sexual fantasy or comedy; whilst masculinisation, apart from creating occasional shivers of outrage from the Daily Express reading sections of the public, is seen very differently.
So yes: there are whole PhD’s to be written about that simple question. But this is a cheap and cheerful start-the-week blog, and i leave the academic musings to the academics!
As far as i recall, the first time i encountered this concept (of the great and the good cross-dressing) was with the story of Roman politician Publius Clodius crashing an all-women festival in drag (and fleeing in same when he was outed).
Latterly, i quite enjoyed the line – and image – in Genesis’ “Supper’s Ready” album which referenced “Winston Churchill dressed in drag”. Yes. I like that.
Which brings me back to the start. Is the idea of Ghaddafi in drag itself funny? Is it something we can or should be laughing at because, quite simply, there are times when the humour is not poked at us…women or the trans community…but at the primary object of derision.
Or is this slippery slope? The road back to Walliams and a dangerous continuation of populist myths about transgender?
Don’t ask me: i haven’t a clue. But i hoped one or two of you might.