More sexist scum: Johnny Vegas *UPDATE* – in dispute

Update Friday 9th May: The Guardian has taken down the blog post and article featured in the following post. The original report has been challenged strongly and no-one else has come forward to support the allegations. I will leave the body of the post for the record, but I’ve struck through the text to make it clear that the facts are in dispute.

Johnny Vegas, sexist pig. There are plenty of blog reactions to this incident where he invited a young audience member on stage and sexually assaulted her, while no-one in the audience came to her aid (though many drew audible breath, or hissed, or booed, no-one came to help her).

I haven’t kept track of where I read this, so please let me know who to credit if you know who first had the idea: Johnny Vegas is one of the major voice artists on the British advertising for PG Tips tea products (which features costumed chimpanzees), and the suggestion has been made that anyone offended by Johnny Vegas‘ sexual assault on an audience member should boycott PG Tips until he is dropped from their advertising campaign.

I want to extend that: PG Tips is owned by Unilever, who own many brands of everyday household products all around the world – mostly food & beverages, ice-cream and personal care products. Check out this list and see whether one of the products you normally use is from a manufacturer owned by Unilever, and let Unilever know that you won’t buy any of their products until Johnnie Vegas is no longer used in their advertising of PG Tips (presumably he has a contract that they can’t just renege upon, but I’m sure that the highly paid attorneys whom Unilever has on retainer can negotiate something to ensure that his voice does not appear, which means he can’t place the role on his CV).

Make sure you attach the link to the Guardian blog story, and the new feature story, so they know why you’re taking the action.

For my fellow antipodeans, here’s the homepage for Unilever in Australia and New Zealand. I’m sad to learn that it includes Streets, but I won’t be buying any more of their products until Vegas disappears from the advertising for PG Tips.



Categories: gender & feminism, media, violence

Tags: , , , , , ,

27 replies

  1. …presumably he has a contract that they can’t just renege upon
    Actually, I would presume his contract has an “if you act like a moron and bring our product into disrepute, we can sack you at a moment’s notice” clause in it.
    David Jackmansons last blog post..Brisbane Politics: May 1968 Seminar, Friday 16th May, Ahimsa House, West End

  2. Oh, good point. Yes, expensive lawyers usually provide for that contingency, don’t they?

  3. That’s why they’re expensive 🙂

  4. From their Australian Website:
    Purpose & principles
    Our corporate purpose states that “to succeed requires the highest standards of corporate behaviour towards our employees, consumers and the societies and world in which we live.” (my emphasis)

  5. Why pull your punches? The correct way to describe Johnny Vegas is as a sexual assault perpetrator, not just a scumbag. He’s a criminal who committed his crime in front of a room full of people… and got away with it. As if I wasn’t ticked off enough at life.

  6. Odanu, I described the incident as sexual assault in the first paragraph. I used “sexist scum”in the title because I used the term on a post just before this, and I’m planning on using it as a category in future.

  7. The police have been contacted, but all they can do is ‘have a word’ with him.
    When is this casual disrespect of women’s boundaries going to stop?
    http://www.agentofdesire.com

  8. This is how the matter was reported on Chortle, which is a popular English website about comedy:

    http://www.chortle.co.uk/news/2008/05/01/6719/did_johnny_vegas_go_too_far%3F

  9. I think my previous comment is in the spaminator.

  10. It was – just fished it out.

  11. Thanks for that. More interesting than The Chortle piece is the article in The Guardian by Jackie Clune. Here’s a short bit of it:
    [Moderator note: this piece has been taken down from the Guardian’s website, so until the situation has been further clarified I’m not displaying it here either. The text has been saved, however.]

  12. That’s actually the whole article, by the way.

  13. I had a read of a few of the comedy-site reactions. Having once been part of the “scene”, I can see why people are hedging their bets all over the place: they know him personally, they have a financial interest perhaps in his success, they hope that he will put in a good word for himthem somewhere perhaps.
    I think it’s pretty crass that several of them are saying “well, if it was that bad why hasn’t the girl come forward to lay a complaint?” as if there isn’t centuries of history of women keeping quiet about sexual assaults because of the shaming that happens when people know. If no-one in her everyday life knows that it was she whom Vegas groped, she might very well like to keep it that way.

  14. Johnny Vegas did not commit a sexual assault. Mary O’Hara’s Guardian piece has been comprehensively discredited by numerous eyewitnesses who contributed to the Guardian Blog. The victim here is Vegas who’s reputation has been damaged by the chinese whispers provoked by the original article. Clune’s piece is based on O’Hara’s article which she takes as being the truth of the matter. Interestingly O’Hara’s article, the subsequent blog contributions and Clune’s Observer article have now been removed from the Guardian/Observer website.

  15. Thank you for the heads-up, Mick. I’ve updated the post to indicate that the facts are in dispute.
    From what I’ve read there is no doubt that some groping on stage went on. Even if it does not legally constitute sexual assault, it still seems to be offensive touch, so I’ll let the sexist scum title stand. Using the performance power of celebrity to coerce someone into tolerating him copping a feel on stage is still damn shoddy.

  16. Well, this is a reminder about why one should always be careful about such things.
    Of course, comedy that relies on groping (even consensual) is usually pretty crap.
    The notion that stand-up is about power remains true. It’s just that the power can be shifting depending on the quality of the performance and the nature of the audience (and let’s not pretend that gender does not play its part in such power dynamics).
    Perhaps you should remove my comment featuring the Clune piece, tigtog.

  17. What does Mary o’ Hara say?
    Has the article been taken down because of sub judice? Is there any retraction in the Guardian?

  18. I haven’t seen anything, Helen. I may have missed it. Hypothetically, if an injunction has been taken out, then perhaps no-one is allowed to mention the incident at all.

  19. Wow, “Mick” has been around a LOT of blogs lately defending Mr Vegas… management? friend? or just another guy who thinks that what Vegas did is totally acceptable and we pesky women should all shut up?

  20. As his IP resolves to Ireland, I’m presuming that he’s this Mick Hannigan, in which case as a showbiz person he probably is personally acquainted with Michael Pennington (the real name behind the Johnny Vegas persona) in some way.
    Not that any such acquaintance would mean that he was wrong to make rebuttals against what he sees as a factually incorrect smear.
    As I said above, using one’s celebrity power to cop a feel on stage is still sexist scum territory, as is uninvited frottage (which is the allegation heavily disputed). It’s a violation even if it is not legally sexual assault.

  21. It’s also just lazy old comedy…same old same old.
    And comedians wonder why so many people don’t bother to go see comedy shows anymore.

  22. That’s at least partly a trickle-down effect from the managers of venues and the promoters – the acts that they feel comfortable building and rebooking. They’re always having open mic nights and new talent competitions, but they rarely actively promote anyone genuinely fresh in the traditional formats of these shows. MCs can boost a new comedian or kick their legs out from under them with a few well/ill timed words.
    Unless an innovative comedian has the extreme good fortune to find the perfect showcase for their talent that generates such huge word-of-mouth that the managers/promoters feel obliged to add them to the roster, genuinely fresh faces find it really hard to break into the scene of actually getting booked for paying gigs, and if you don’t get paid you eventually give it up.

  23. Some more on the story from Female Impersonator (via Feministing’s Weekly Reader). It’s now been acknowledged that Johnny Vegas has retained top legal firm Schillings to act on his behalf with respect to the articles by O’Hara and Clune.

  24. ”Wow, “Mick” has been around a LOT of blogs lately defending Mr Vegas… management? friend? or just another guy who thinks that what Vegas did is totally acceptable and we pesky women should all shut up?”
    No, not management nor a friend. If I believed that Veges indeed commit the crime of sexual assault which the Guardian accuses him of then of course I would not find that totally acceptable. That is a crazy thing to say.
    It is because numerous eyewitnesses who were at the the gig contradicted the report on the Guardian blog that I have come to the conclusion that he did NOT commit a sexual assault.
    And if he did not commit a sexual assault,that he is innocent, that on the contrary, he is a victim of a shameful smear… well then what should our attitude be?

  25. That he may not have actually committed the crime of sexual assault, even though there appears to be no argument that he did actually grope this girl through her clothes on stage after saying he would only give her a kiss?

    The attitude on a feminist blog is that the groping still makes him a manipulative sexist scum, Mick.

  26. Interesting to see Mick’s response.
    I understand where he is coming from (and the case reminds me of why I’m not in favour of things like Hollaback).
    However, I don’t think Mick has addressed issues to do the “groping” (as tigtog has just addressed) or why so many comedians resort to such sexist old methods to try and raise a laugh.

  27. I agree with Darlene re: Hollaback (i also have my doubts that it is sustainable long term – all it would take is one negative court judgement against any of the Hollabacks)
    I agree with tigtog that Johnny V is a sexist arseh*le – abusing the power of celebrity and the group mentality of a crowd

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