24 MARCH 1979, Page 26


Dead ends

Richard Ingrams

The BBC continues with its interesting experiment, first noted in a dialogue between Clive James and Gore Vidal, of turning people towards religion by showing them the sad effects of unbelief. Everyman on Sunday featured a group of unnamed women discussing the allegedly pernicious influence of the cult of the Virgin Mary. Each one had been specifically selected for her air of unkemptness and lack of humanity. There was a black divorcee who, finding herself trapped by her marriage, 'decided to walk out of the situation', a working-class woman who insisted on being sterilised when she was 23 because her husband beat her up, an Irish rape victim, etc. All of them moaned and whined about the plight of women, putting an especial blame on the Blessed Virgin and the role of selfless motherhood promoted by the Church and male dominated Society.

The misery that the Womens Liberation' movement has caused by urging women to deny their natural instincts was much in evidence among these sad forlorn looking girls, one or two of whom seemed to have finished up as lesbians — the logical end product of their propaganda. Even doubters and agnostics would have felt impelled to offer up some form of prayer after the programme on behalf of these lost souls. I was left, too, with a feeling that the modern feminist movement has reached a dead end. In a few months time, I bet, television programmes will feature rosy-cheeked mothers surrounded by children, hymning the joys of family life.

It has in fact been Womens Week in illY Television Year. The latest Muppets series has ended, leaving an ugly gap on a Friday evening. It was therefore pleasant to catch Dame Edna Everage on Arena (BBC-2) on Monday. She is a kind of marsupial Miss Piggy, a ferocious and frightening hunk of womanhood. There was a very Piggy-like gesture as she was thumbing through her album of snaps, mostly recording her meetings with the Royalty. Suddenly she came .to a picture which made her face contort with emotion and she wrenched the page over with a snort. What did the offending photo show? Perhaps her daughter Valmai, who. we were told was recently breathalised Ill Australia having been found drunk in charge of a supermarket trolley. It was a pity that Barry Humphries did not provide very much new material for the programme, most of which was devoted to clips of earlier films. The Dame however did express an ambition to embark on a Lord Snowdon-Derek Hart type project. d like to make a film', she said 'about something that really matters. Like Death. Or The Old. Or Dwarfs. Or an Old Dead Dwarf.' I hope the BBC will provide the facilities.

In the same way that I find Miss PiggY more life-like than Anna Ford, I felt better able to accept Dame Edna as a real person than Barbara Cartland, who appeared on the Book Programme (BBC-2) with Robert Robinson. Now 77, and rattling with vit" amin pills of every size and shape, the Old dragon shows no sign of age. Bedecked with pearls, a faithful pekinese at her side, she dictates her books to one of her ten se. eretaries in a state of what looks like creative ecstasy, as if acting as a medium for some force greater than herself, if such a thing IS possible to imagine. Last year she completed no less than 24 books which are read. she claims, by peoP,_le. of all shapes and sizes including Mrs Gancint and President Sadat. After five minutes 01 her company I felt utterly exhausted, and even the irrepressible perky Mr Robinson seemed pretty flattened by the ginseng,' enriched old battle-axe. The only person 1, know who has ever stopped Miss Cartlatin in her tracks is the mastermind of Call MY Bluff Patrick Campbell. He once was on a radio show with her and Malcoline Muggeridge. La Cartland got onto one °I her favourite subjects — Mummy. On she, gushed about this wonderful, wonderful person who had instilled in all her children the lesson that they had to do something in the world. When she finally paused to draw breath, Campbell stuttered: 'She sounds like a p . . . pretty good b . b . bitch to me!'