At a time when debates about free speech feel increasingly polarised, we look back to 1963 when a Midlands housewife and teacher named Mary Whitehouse became the original ‘cancel culture’ warrior. Armed with just a typewriter, she began a 30-year campaign to turn back the tide of the permissive culture she saw sweeping through society with the advent of the sexual revolution.
This series revisits Whitehouse’s campaigns, from her attacks on the BBC and boycotts against films like Last Tango in Paris to conflicts with feminists and the gay liberation movement, and her contention that pornography, made mainly by men for men, was not going to lead to greater happiness for society. Whilst her views on some issues are a long way from the prevailing attitudes today, questions about the after-effects of the sexual revolution continue to resonate.
Using a vast campaigning archive housed at the University of Essex, and featuring contributions from Gyles Brandreth, Michael Grade, Beatrix Campbell, Ken Loach and Peter Bradshaw, the series hears first-hand testimony from the people who knew her, who studied her work – including author Ben Thompson – and who took her on: from activist Peter Tatchell to millionaire pornographer and current co-owner of West Ham United David Sullivan.