Snowflake generation

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AFTER-SCHOOL TUITION: A teenage Brian Bovell with his teacher David Smith, who died in 2015.

LAST week I was banned from Facebook for 24 hours for violating its ‘community standards’ by posting a picture of a topless model on a page I manage for the atheist journal, the Freethinker, which I have been editing for more than 20 years. I thought long and hard before posting the photo of Belgian model Marisa Papen posing naked on a balcony overlooking the Western Wall in Jerusalem. I even checked Facebook’s rules concerning nudity, and this is what it says: “We understand that nudity can be shared for a variety of reasons, including as a form of protest, to raise awareness about a cause, or for educational or medical reasons. Where such intent is clear, we make allowances for the content.” Well, as it happens Papen WAS registering a protest: she said she was all for breaking down walls ‘built to keep all our wandering souls on this planet somehow under control.’ She added, “freedom is becoming a very luxurious thing.” I then decided that the photo, linked to the story of Papen’s protest, could not possibly be in breach of Facebook’s rules, and I duly posted it. How wrong I was. “Ah, don’t get too upset,” said a friend, “some snowflake probably reported you. You’re constantly walking on eggshells when you post on social media these days.” He was, of course, using ‘snowflake’ as the newly-coined pejorative term for young adults who stand proud on a platform of extreme political correctness and are offended by the most trivial of issues. They can be an absolute pain in the butt, or as my husband Marcus says ‘total tw*ts.’ If ‘Generation Snowflake’ had been around in the 1970, the Thames Television sit-com Love Thy Neighbour, made for ITV, would never have seen the light of day. Ironically, it was on this show that I first heard the word ‘snowflake.’ It was used in the series by a black character, Bill Reynolds (played by Rudolph Walker) to describe his racist white neighbour Eddie Booth (Jack Smethurst). He also called Booth ‘honky,’ ‘paleface’ and ‘big white chief.’ Booth would retaliate by calling Reynolds a ‘nig-nog’ and ‘Sambo.’ The first episodes I saw of Love Thy Neighbour made me uncomfortable because, having escaped apartheid South Africa, I saw a reflection in the Booth character of the many white racists I’d grown up with in that country. On the other hand, the fact that Reynolds was shown to gain the upper hand in every episode delighted me no end, for no black man in South Africa was ever allowed to backchat a ‘superior’ white man. At about the same time, I became friendly with David Smith, who taught at a comprehensive in Tottenham, and he often gave after-school tuition to many of his black pupils. As he lived in the bedsit next to mine, I got to know a number of these youngsters well. They loved the show, not least because in those days there were so few black actors on the small screen. One of the children, a lad called Brian Bovell, who was around 15 at the time, cockily said to me: “Watch that screen Barry, one day I’m gonna be on the tellie.” And he made it, big time. From the beginning of 1980, he began appearing regularly on TV. In 1982 he won the London Critics’ Circle Theatre Award for Best Supporting Actor of 1981 for his role in a play called Where There is Darkness. He then landed parts in movies such as Love Actually and Secrets and Lies. Some of his most famous roles have been DC Rob Thatcher in The Bill, Jez Littlewood in Gimme, Gimme, Gimme, and Detective Andy Sharp in My Dad’s the Prime Minister. More recently he landed the part of Bishop John Thornber in ITV’s Coronation Street. Brian, now 58, does not have a presence on Facebook, and I have to say I cannot blame him. I’m beginning to think Facebook is more hassle than it is worth, now that today’s snowflakes appear to be calling all the shots.

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