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:
June 28, 2016
Jonathan Cook
The Neoliberal Prison: Brexit Hysteria and the Liberal Mind
Paul Street
Bernie, Bakken, and Electoral Delusion: Letting Rich Guys Ruin Iowa and the World
Anthony DiMaggio
Fatally Flawed: the Bi-Partisan Travesty of American Health Care Reform
Mike King
The “Free State of Jones” in Trump’s America: Freedom Beyond White Imagination
Antonis Vradis
Stop Shedding Tears for the EU Monster: Brexit, the View From the Peloponnese
Omar Kassem
The End of the Atlantic Project: Slamming the Brakes on the Neoliberal Order
Binoy Kampmark
Brexit and the Neoliberal Revolt Against Jeremy Corbyn
Ruth Hopkins
Save Bear Butte: Mecca of the Lakota
Celestino Gusmao
Time to End Impunity for Suharto’s Crimes in Indonesia and Timor-Leste
Thomas Knapp
SCOTUS: Amply Serving Law Enforcement’s Interests versus Society’s
Manuel E. Yepe
Capitalism is the Opposite of Democracy
Winslow Myers
Up Against the Wall
Chris Ernesto
Bernie’s “Political Revolution” = Vote for Clinton and the Neocons
Stephanie Van Hook
The Time for Silence is Over
Ajamu Nangwaya
Toronto’s Bathhouse Raids: Racialized, Queer Solidarity and Police Violence
June 27, 2016
Robin Hahnel
Brexit: Establishment Freak Out
James Bradley
Omar’s Motive
Gregory Wilpert – Michael Hudson
How Western Military Interventions Shaped the Brexit Vote
Leonard Peltier
41 Years Since Jumping Bull (But 500 Years of Trauma)
Rev. William Alberts
Orlando: the Latest Victim of Radicalizing American Imperialism
Patrick Cockburn
Brexiteers Have Much in Common With Arab Spring Protesters
Franklin Lamb
How 100 Syrians, 200 Russians and 11 Dogs Out-Witted ISIS and Saved Palmyra
John Grant
Omar Mateen: The Answers are All Around Us
Dean Baker
In the Wake of Brexit Will the EU Finally Turn Away From Austerity?
Ralph Nader
The IRS and the Self-Minimization of Congressman Jason Chaffetz
Johan Galtung
Goodbye UK, Goodbye Great Britain: What Next?
Martha Pskowski
Detained in Dilley: Deportation and Asylum in Texas
Binoy Kampmark
Headaches of Empire: Brexit’s Effect on the United States
Dave Lindorff
Honest Election System Needed to Defeat Ruling Elite
Louisa Willcox
Delisting Grizzly Bears to Save the Endangered Species Act?
Jason Holland
The Tragedy of Nothing
Jeffrey St. Clair
Revolution Reconsidered: a Fragment (Guest Starring Bernard Sanders in the Role of Robespierre)
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
A Blow for Peace and Democracy: Why the British Said No to Europe
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lines Written on the Occasion of Bernie Sanders’ Announcement of His Intention to Vote for Hillary Clinton
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail