When Christopher Tookey suggested in the Daily Mail that the film "Crash" should be banned, he became a hate figure of the liberal establishmentby Christopher Tookey / February 20, 1997 / Leave a comment
One perk of being a freelance journalist who writes for the Daily Mail is that there is always the chance of becoming a leftwing hate figure. Last month, it happened to me. I was denounced in the Guardian, Observer and Time Out. Normally friendly fellow critics accused me of being “very, very, very, very bad” (Ann Billson, Sunday Telegraph) or setting myself up as “moral guardian to the nation” (Alan Frank, Daily Star).
I grew tired of repeating that I was not seeking to impose my moral or religious-or, in my case, irreligious-views on anyone. I see probably 100 films a year that I find offensive: I do not think they should be banned. But nothing I said made any difference. My media alter ego had been created, and he seemed to be a bastard child of Mary Whitehouse and Senator Joe McCarthy.
I became aware of my doppelg??nger when I opened the Guardian one morning and found somebody with my name caricatured as a member of the Ku Klux Klan, complete with hood and flaming torch, apparently about to set fire to a cinema.
Now, I am not Candide. I had known my review of Crash would create controversy-especially when I expressed my opinion that the film should not go on general release, even with an 18 certificate. I was surprised, however, to find that this was sufficient to brand me as a rightwing arsonist.
Francis Wheen’s article accompanying the cartoon accused me of arguing that if the public is allowed to see Crash “thousands of us will immediately yearn to have sex in a multiple pile-up on the M25.” In a similarly satirical vein, he suggested that I would be calling next for the banning of The Wizard of Oz.
I soon became accustomed to having my views quasi-humorously distorted and exaggerated, in such a way that anyone reading them would consider me a dangerous half-wit. As one of his predictions for the New Year, Time Out’s film editor, Geoff Andrew, claimed that in 1997 “Mail hack Christopher Tookey will continue to pursue his self-promoting opportunism by demanding that The Crucible and The Portrait of a Lady be banned.”
Perhaps the weirdest response was a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission by a media studies lecturer convinced that I was prejudiced against disabled people having sex. Actually, I used to be director of an ATV programme about…