FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Judging Jimmy Savile

by MIKITA BROTTMAN

Like many teenage girls growing up Britain in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I wrote in to “Jim’ll Fix It,” the popular BBC television show in which entertainer Jimmy Savile made children’s dreams come true. To my friends and I, Savile was a kind of funny uncle, like no adult we’d ever known—a man who lived a kid’s version of a grown-up life. He dyed his hair white, hung out with pop stars, wore crazy-colored clothes and presented “Jim’ll Fix It”, from a huge, gadget-laden chair, like the Fool King on his throne. I can no longer remember what I asked Jim to “fix” for me—my letter wasn’t chosen for the show—but I was sent a Jim’ll Fix It patch, which I wore with great pride.

Looking back, I realize Savile’s style of boisterous showmanship was descended from the British music-hall tradition, the same pedigree as saucy seaside postcards, the popular “Carry On” film series and comedians like Benny Hill, best known for the television show in which he was chased by a gang of half-dressed girls. The main element of this tradition, tame by today’s standards, is sexual innuendo of the sniggering, nudge-nudge wink-wink variety. In this kind of comedy, women have two roles. If older, they are nagging wives or screeching harridans. If younger, they are objects of furtive lust—and the younger the better. The most famous scene in the “Carry On” films is one in which actress Barbara Windsor plays a 16-year–old camper in pigtails whose bra flies off during an exercise class, and the long-running series of St. Trinians films featured the exploits of sexually precocious schoolgirls.

It is ironic that one of the first newspapers to brand Jimmy Savile a “twisted pervert” was the Sun, well known for its semi-naked Page Three girls, the most popular of whom—Samantha Fox, Maria Whittaker and Debee Ashby—all appeared topless at age 16. Another popular tabloid, the now-defunct Daily Sport, sometimes counted down the days until it could feature a teenage girl topless on her 16th birthday, as it did with model Linsey Dawn McKenzie in 1994. In 2003, the Sexual Offences Act raised the minimum legal age for topless modeling to 18.

Like similar British entertainers, including Ken Dodd and Benny Hill, Jimmy Savile embodied the puer archetype, the eternal child. None of these men ever married, all were deeply devoted to their mothers (oddly enough, both Benny Hill and Jimmy Savile—like Norman Bates—kept their mother’s bedroom exactly as it was when she died). It comes as a shock to us, then, when these boy-men, whom we’ve trusted with our children, turn out to have adult sexual needs of their own. Moviegoers were mortified when Charlie Chaplin, another entertainer of the puer type, displayed a predilection for teenage girls. He married his fourth wife, Oona O’Neill at 54, when she had just turned 18.

In retrospect, however, it should hardly be a surprise to learn Jimmy Savile liked young girls. If you’d asked anyone in the 1970s what they considered to be the perks of celebrity, teenage groupies would have been top of the list. In the 1970s, there were plenty of teenage girls eager and willing to have sex with pop stars and DJs, who were happy to oblige. Today, we refer to this behavior as sexual abuse. Young girls who happily bedded stars are looking back as adults, and realizing they were taken advantage of. I’m not talking about unwanted sexual advances, which are a different matter, but situations in which the teenage girl is an eager participant, even the initiator. It seems wrong to prosecute someone retroactively, for something that happened in a different cultural climate. We need to remember things as they were, not as they have been subsequently reconceived.

It seems almost too obvious to state, but the stars Savile introduced on Top of the Pops—teenage heartthrobs like Mick Jagger and David Bowie—surely had their share of fawning groupies. They have escaped censure because at some point they traded in groupies for monogamy and a more conventional life.  Had Savile done the same, he’d still be saintly Sir Jimmy, knighted by both the Pope and the Queen, charity worker, hospital volunteer, champion of needy children. Instead, a year after his death, he’s been described as “one of the most prolific sex attackers ever,” a “cunning rapist and abuser.” His headstone was recently removed in the middle of the night, for fear of vandalism.

Jimmy Savile, it appears, had many willing teenage partners, and he also abused many underage girls. Neither fact makes the other less true.

Mikita Brottman is professor in Humanistic Studies at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, and a psychoanalyst in private practice. Her latest book is “Thirteen Girls.” She can be reached through her website

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
Brian Cloughley
What Money Can Buy: the Quiet British-Israeli Scandal
Mel Gurtov
Donald Trump’s Lies And Team Trump’s Headaches
Kent Paterson
Mexico’s Great Winter of Discontent
Norman Solomon
Trump, the Democrats and the Logan Act
David Macaray
Attention, Feminists
Yves Engler
Demanding More From Our Media
James A Haught
Religious Madness in Ulster
Dean Baker
The Economics of the Affordable Care Act
Patrick Bond
Tripping Up Trumpism Through Global Boycott Divestment Sanctions
Robert Fisk
How a Trump Presidency Could Have Been Avoided
Robert Fantina
Trump: What Changes and What Remains the Same
David Rosen
Globalization vs. Empire: Can Trump Contain the Growing Split?
Elliot Sperber
Dystopia
Dan Bacher
New CA Carbon Trading Legislation Answers Big Oil’s Call to Continue Business As Usual
Wayne Clark
A Reset Button for Political America
Chris Welzenbach
“The Death Ship:” An Allegory for Today’s World
Uri Avnery
Being There
Peter Lee
The Deep State and the Sex Tape: Martin Luther King, J. Edgar Hoover, and Thurgood Marshall
Patrick Hiller
Guns Against Grizzlies at Schools or Peace Education as Resistance?
Randy Shields
The Devil’s Real Estate Dictionary
Ron Jacobs
Singing the Body Electric Across Time
Ann Garrison
Fifty-five Years After Lumumba’s Assassination, Congolese See No Relief
Christopher Brauchli
Swing Low Alabama
Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones
La Realidad: the Realities of Anti-Mexicanism
Jon Hochschartner
The Five Least Animal-Friendly Senate Democrats
Pauline Murphy
Fighting Fascism: the Irish at the Battle of Cordoba
Susan Block
#GoBonobos in 2017: Happy Year of the Cock!
Louis Proyect
Is Our Future That of “Sense8” or “Mr. Robot”?
Charles R. Larson
Review: Robert Coover’s “Huck out West”
David Yearsley
Manchester-by-the-Sea and the Present Catastrophe
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail