Someehow it seems appropriate that on the 46th anniversary of leaving England, the random number generator throws up a cartoon that pitches me right back to my short, pre-Australian childhood.
Even as a kid, Punch and Judy was horrific. Indeed, that’s part of its… I don’t know if charm is the right word, but certainly fascination.
It’s a grotesque, of course, a deliberate soft spot between what is acceptable and the dark mirror world where all is allowed and nothing is forbidden. As a tiny person on the cold, windy, pebble-coated beaches of — well, I’m not entirely sure, to be honest. The scratchy super 8 films in my possession don’t really make it clear, and both my parents are dead so they can’t tell me. Call it Bournemouth, or Brighton, or more likely as we were in Nottingham, Blackpool — the Punch and Judy show was right up there with riding donkeys and eating fairy floss as the maddest of mad shit my four year old brain could cope with. But holy hot damn, when you look at it objectively… depending on the professor, and the time, and just how closely parents and the authorities are watching, Punch is a coyote, a joker, an agent of chaos, or an outright monster from the same level of Hell that ‘gifts’ us Jimmy Savile and Denis Nilsen.
As you might guess, I have a deep and abiding love for the whole sick, twisted farrago.
Even so, like all fantastical narratives, it’s only when you translate it to contemporary mores that the true horror and otherness hits home, and like all childhood fantastical narratives… especially when you’re a child of good old Merrye Englande… especially when you’re a child of the 1970s… you don’t have to scratch too far beneath the surface to realise how racist, sexist, ableist, alltheists the narratives of your emotional and psychological upbringing were…
TLDR: Punch and Judy. Not suitable for children.
When Judy says ‘no’.