Friday 17 November 2023

Brady punch

Our central underfloor heating failed irretrievably many years ago, so it's work to be comfortable downstairs except in high summer. Accordingly, when Dau.II was resident up till recently a) she'd cook dinner b) choose entertainment and c) we'd sit in a row on the broken sofa eating a) and watching b). One season of Taskmaster featured Fern "never 'eard of 'er" Brady oh naaaw a Scots writer and stand-up hailing from Bathgate. There are quite nice sections of Bathgate, which is about halfway between Glasgow and Edinburgh, but Fern grew up dispossessed in the other part. Being assigned female at birth AFAB is a known handicap but happy girls can make the best of it by conforming to gender expectations: following the right bands, reading the right [fashion] mags, putting out . . . without, like, being a slag aboot it, getting married before falling pregnant and changing your fuckin' name while you're about it. Young Fern couldn't do any of that because she was autistic, so couldn't process the social cues to know what the expectations were, let alone sink her individual self to follow along. As a small child bright lights, cheap fabric, challenging food, pretty much any unexpected change in routine; were any-and-all of them likely to trigger a meltdown. A meltdown was likely to involve a lot of screaming, punching doors and stuff-destruction. The sharp-object self-harm came later.

As you may imagine, this was a massive pain in the tits for everyone in young Fern's orbit notably her nuclear family who had their own issues with social and financial deprivation. Aside from the challenged and challenging social issues, everyone recognised that Fern was bright as a button and read a lot of books. With increasing self-awareness, Fern was better able to conform to expectations by aping what went down in stories. She couldn't read faces or body-language or exclusionary codes but books taught her what to do - sort of - almost within the normal range - when in company. Of course, in a just society, Fern's divergence would have been recognized by her family, help would be at hand from competent social workers and psychiatrists, and accommodation could be sought. In Bathgate in the 90s? not so much. Or maybe not: her findings are that GPs are hopeless at coping with mental illness especially autism in females. And psychiatrists are not much better - perhaps because [see category binning in para below] autism is for boys. 19 y.o. tiktokers are the GoTo source for information and strategies because it is their lived experience.

How do I know all this about "never 'eard of 'er" ? Because, again on Dau.II's rec, I've just finished Strong Female Character, Fern Brady's interim autobiography. Interim? because she's still 30-something and we expect further great things from her. As a comic in Britland, the big break-through comes when you can land a few panel-show gigs on the TV. Everyone in media is for diversity but the hiring-and-firing still rests in the hands of left-leaning Oxbridge establishment types. You might think - see Venn diagram above - that Brady would conveniently tick a few div-boxes but it turns out to be an embarrasse de richesse. To play the Scots card you have to have a North Brit accent but the limited imagination of BBC directors second-guessing the expectations of the Great British Public needs the token Scot to be also overweight and boozy. Brady also plays an LGBT+ hand, but all BBC gays are either campy chaps or brosse-haired dykes - anything else provokes cognitive dissonance and makes the [Oxford-imagined] audience uncomfortable. Women can be a bit sweary but they defo have to larf at the blokey-jokers.

By reading a lot of a wide variety of books for social cue clues and with careful coaching from Conor, her Irish feller, Fern has been able to crack the code and burst through the glass-ceiling . . . to capture a spot on Taskmaster. It has been hard work. Richard Herring [BA Oxon. 1989] asks about that. Oli Dugmore [BSc Cardiff 2015] at Politics Joe ranges wider on inclusion and stereotyping. As Michael Rosen and Richard Osman concluded [last para], you can rise to the top as a mediocrity IF you went to Cambridge. If you [had to] work as a stripper to put yourself through college THEN you have to be The Best and work hard to get a seat in the recording studio.

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