Entertainment, Reviews, Theatre, Film & TV, Topics|January 17, 2011 9:37 am

Spud gives his two ‘sense’

Spud's in trouble

You may or may not have heard about the controversy currently playing out in the media regarding Spud, the Movie.
Well, we’ll give you a little run-down so that you’re in the know.
Despite being one of the most popular novels (and films) in South Africa (and abroad), Spud: The Movie came under fire this week after Constitutional Court judge Edwin Cameron sent a letter of complaint to director Ross Garland.

The judge, who has since refused to comment to the media regarding the letter, apparently felt that the film contained homophobic references that could condone violence against gays and lesbians.
Although the letter was written in late December and published soon after on the Spud blog, it seems the media have just cottoned on.
In the letter, Judge Cameron criticises the director for what he saw as the “denigration” of gays and lesbians in certain parts of the hit film.

There were two scenes in particular that raised the ire of Cameron, who had taken his godson to see the film.
In the one scene, John Cleese’s character, English teacher ‘The Guv’, tells his pupils he has nothing against lesbians, whom he would like to give “a thorough rogering”.
The second scene involves the gay art teacher (who incidentally) coaches the worst rugby team at the school. As he issues instructions to the players during training, the teacher shouts: “That’s better, more pressure from the rear.”
Garland published a response to the letter on the blog too, saying (amongst other things) that it was “alarming to have a Constitutional Court judge demonstrate such disregard for free expression and artistic works”.
He also apparently said, “In the five years since Spud was published, and with millions of people having read the book and seen the movie, Justice Cameron is the first person to ever publicly take the view that the film is homophobic. With readers and audiences across the country being moved by the story of a vulnerable boy who learns to find his own voice and thereby overcome the bullying and bigotry at his school in 1990, it is hard to fathom how Justice Cameron arrived at his opinion.”

Just a storm in a teacup?

On Friday afternoon though, a surprise development occurred when Spud (the fictional character) entered the debate himself, but publishing a letter of his own to Judge Cameron.
The letter, signed by ‘Spud Milton, Senior Dorm’ contains an ‘apology’ to the judge.

“Let me first begin with a sincere apology on behalf of The Guv for his insensitive treatment of lesbians and gays in his English class. I agree that the term “rogering lesbians” was totally uncalled for and that our English teacher deserved finger tongs (or worse) for his poor form and obvious intolerance. (There’s probably a good chance that The Guv was drunk at the time and he was most probably showing off like he always does with his bizarre references and shocking opinions.) Remember he’s a cranky guy and often strange sentences pour out of his mouth. He frequently uses the word “rogering” like in first year when I was a still a spud and he advised me to “Roger the entire chorus line before the end of the month.” I don’t like his occasional bigotry, or his heavy drinking, but he has still changed the way that I look at the world around me. It’s tempting to say that I shouldn’t have written that offensive statement down in my diary and then it never would have reached the screenplay and now the papers. I could have simply replaced it with a line as tame as a sleepy orange house cat. But that would not have been my true account.”

Spud: the character

In his (pretty funny) letter, written in the same style as the famous novels (and with reference to his fellow characters) Spud makes light of the incident by emphasising the fictional context of the book.

“I guess the point I’m making is that it would probably be impossible to read any of my diaries or watch Mr Garland’s film without being slightly offended by something or other if you feel really strongly about that particular cause or standpoint. Seeing other people laughing at something personal and serious to oneself is difficult, like when people repeatedly mocked my late development and its nasty repercussions. My limited experience of life is that many people say offensive things, like Rambo, who deliberately tries to antagonise people with his verbal abuse and ultra cool demeanour,” Spud says.

Well, Spud: The Movie just passed the R15m mark at the South African box office with over half a million tickets sold in just six weeks, so I guess the makers can afford a sense of humour.

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