Virginia Ironside's Dilemmas: Is dressing up as Jimmy Savile a fancy-dress joke too far?

This reader's partner has a great sense of humour that sometimes strays close to the edge. But can he pull of this exceptionally bad taste choice?

Share

 

Dear Virginia,

We’ve been asked to a Heroes and Villains party. I’m going as Tony Blair but my partner wants to go as Jimmy Savile. He’s got a great sense of humour and most of our friends know he can go a bit near the edge, but there’ll be quite a lot of new people at this party who don’t know him and I really don’t want him to go like this. I wouldn’t be upset – I think it would be quite funny – but I think it’s too risky. My partner doesn’t get my concerns. How can I argue him out of it? Or should I just go along with it and see if he can carry it off? He usually does!

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Jim

Virginia says...

Yes, I think I would cringe a bit, too. It’s the fact that Jimmy Savile’s crimes are so recent that makes the idea particularly distasteful, plus, of course, the fact that his villainy comes from sexually abusing children, a subject about which many people are exceptionally squeamish. Would he go as Myra Hindley? Or Ian Brady? I wonder. Wouldn’t even he draw the line at that?

You won’t know if there’ll be anyone at this party who was abused as a child. Or whether there might not be some super-sensitive souls who would just draw the line at making a joke about such a man. (But similarly, it must be said, there may be those among the party who are Blair fans and may find your own casting of him as a villain rather distasteful, too. Be prepared for fights and brawls.)

And yet I can understand why your partner’s drawn to Savile. With a blond wig, a cigar, a pair of silky trackie bottoms and a vest, he’s easy to impersonate physically.  And he’d be a much more original choice than going as the Devil or Sweeny Todd or one of the Borgias.

I’ve got a friend who gets away with saying incredibly offensive things. On opening the door to a Pakistani friend of mine he said: “Oh, I thought you were from the Indian take-away.” He often asks my Polish cleaner when she’s going back to Poland, and has asked a black friend of mine whether she lived in a grass hut in Africa. He even pinched a friend’s bottom. Naturally, whenever this happens, I’m eaten up with embarrassment and shame but when I apologise to the people concerned, and try to distance myself from his behaviour, their faces all light up and they say: “Oh, he’s just like that. He’s a great guy! I really like him!” so I don’t know what’s going on. Some people have such generosity of spirit, energy and charm that they get away with it. You see the point of him, after all. Why shouldn’t other people? Maybe they’ll be more perceptive and accepting than you think.

If he’s got enough humour to be able to pull this off, then I’d keep quiet. At those parties anyway, people usually ditch the disguises early on, and without the cigar and the wig he’ll just look like any other guest. After all, he is your partner and unless a partner’s planning to commit fraud or murder it’s generally better to let them have the space to be themselves, however unconventional that may be.

Virginia will appear in ‘Growing Old Disgracefully’ at the Edinburgh Assembly Rooms on 12 August

Readers say...

The real villain

Jimmy Savile brought joy to many and, it seems, committed abhorrent acts against some vulnerable children while doing so. Tony Blair was, at minimum, complicit in the deaths of more than 100,000 people. You shouldn’t be too concerned over your partner’s costume.

Robert Butt, by email

He might cause pain

Your partner might get lots of laughs – or he may cause real pain to somebody at the party struggling with a past history of abuse. You are concerned about the party guests who you don’t know but these issues may even have affected one of your friends. It’s his choice, and you also have the choice of whether you wish to attend if he goes ahead with his plan.

Barbara Alstead, by email

What about you?

If Jim is going as a “hero” then I reckon to many of us his choice of Tony Blair would be almost as offensive as his partner’s choice of Savile. In which case, they’ll both get pelted with eggs. Go as Batman plus Robin. Much safer.

Sara Neill, by email

Next week’s dilemma

Dear Virginia,

I have recently been on a trip to China organised by a friend of mine. We uncovered a pretty amazing story when we were out there, and I’d been thinking of writing it up for a magazine, but he says he wants to do it. He argues that as he booked the trip, it’s his story. The problem is that I’ve had work published, and I can write, while he, though he’s a lovely person, has never written anything in his life and I know, from experience, will never get around to it. Do I risk losing a friendship by going ahead?

Yours sincerely,

Frances

What would you advise Frances to do?

Email your dilemmas and comments to dilemmas@independent.co.uk. Anyone whose advice is quoted or whose dilemma is published will receive a £25 voucher from the wine website Fine Wine Sellers

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Labour's Jeremy Corbyn arrives to take part in a Labour party leadership final debate, at the Sage in Gateshead, England, Thursday, Sept. 3  

Jeremy Corbyn is here to stay and the Labour Party is never going to look the same again

Andrew Grice
Serena Williams  

As Stella Creasy and Serena Williams know, a woman's achievements are still judged on appearance

Holly Baxter
The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea