The Trainspotting author has never been one to shy away from controversy. In this one-off special on Sky Arts, he asks: “Are we more offended than ever these days?”
By Laura Rutkowski, Staff Writer
Even Irvine Welsh’s tweet encouraging people to watch his show tonight contains an expletive, one that definitely has the power to offend, which is why we can’t replicate it here. In tonight’s documentary, Offended by Irvine Welsh, he explores whether the potential to offend and “cancel culture” are affecting artists’ ability to express themselves creatively.
He believes the right to offend – but not abuse – is a vital tool for artists. He’ll ask whether there is an “industry of offence” and if this detracts from the things we should really be offended by.
What is “cancel culture”?
It’s a modern form of ostracism where people withdraw their support for public figures or companies after they have done or said something that is offensive or problematic. It can be a type of shaming that occurs on social media, in real life, or both. Those on the receiving end are said to be “cancelled.”
Who is Irvine Welsh?
Irvine Welsh is a Scottish novelist and playwright, known for work that depicts Edinburgh life, often told through Scottish dialect. Trainspotting, which later went on to be a cult film, was his first novel, published in 1993.
It revolves around a group of heroin-users based in Edinburgh. It was pulled from the Booker Prize shortlist after two of the judges threatened to resign over it, while posters promoting his 1998 novel Filth were seized from an independent bookshop by the police. The central character is a racist and misogynistic detective sergeant.
What does he say about offence?
Welsh told Esquire: “It’s a human right. We have the right to be offended. We’re in a world where people are trying to avoid pain and trying to avoid feeling uncomfortable. And you can’t avoid pain. Pain is one of the best things you can have in life. There’s no growth without it. You’ve got to be hurt and dust yourself off and learn from all these different experiences. A lot of [that attitude] comes from the anti-bullying thing. People don’t like bullies and tyrants – and that’s a great thing. But you have to have hurt as well.”
He added: “If something’s being censored you’ve got to think “Who is doing the censoring? Why are they doing it? And what power are we investing in people who do that?” Having everything out there can be quite hurtful and damaging but in a way it’s the least hurtful or damaging [option]. The only thing I would draw a line at would be abuse. If you’re inciting abuse against other people then you don’t deserve to have a platform.”
Who stars in the documentary?
- Geoff Norcott (comedian): “Comedy clubs are still one of the most uncensored places you can go.”
- Jake Chapman of The Chapman Bros (visual artists): “Being offended is like a marker of panic, isn’t it?”
- Sarah Maple (visual artist): “If men make something provocative, it’s intellectualised, where when women do, it’s like, “What an attention seeker.””
- Andrew Doyle (comedian, playwright, journalist): “Looking for authenticity from a comedian is the last place you should go. Comedians lie all the time because jokes aren’t literal.”
- MIA (rapper): “The most creative thing you can do right now is… get off social media.”
- Nadifa Mohamed (novelist): “People have disgusting views, they get away with them. They have power, they use that power.”
When is Offended By Irvine Welsh on TV?
Offended by Irvine Welsh airs on Sky Arts/HD (CH 123/156) tonight, Tuesday 17 November, at 10pm. It is also available for 30 days in Catch Up > Channels > Sky Arts.
TV channels: Channels, content and features available depend on your chosen package. Channel line-ups and content are subject to change at any time and to regional variations.
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Catch Up TV: Catch Up TV content available for up to 7 days or up to 30 days after broadcast, depending on content.
Interviews: Any opinions expressed in interviews are those of the interview subject and not those of Virgin Media.