Stephen Fry's 'bag lady' remark may have been mean - but the Twitter backlash was downright ridiculous

He's traditionally not shy of making controversial remarks, once saying that women only have sex with men as "the price they pay for a relationship"

Charlotte Gill
Monday 15 February 2016 17:54
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Fry "quit" Twitter after the controversy
Fry "quit" Twitter after the controversy

Stephen Fry has said some bad things in his time.

Like in 2010 when he told Attitude magazine that women don't like sex as much as men. "I feel sorry for straight men", he quipped, before adding: "The only reason women will have sex with them is that sex is the price they are willing to pay for a relationship with a man".

Oh Stephen, I thought to myself, that's not very nice! I wondered how he even came to this conclusion, given he's not female. I mean, I don't think goats like sex as much as people, but I'm not a goat, so how would I know?

But the point is, Fry’s got away with controversial comments for years. In fact, up until today he's been one of the most celebrated voices in media culture, and immune from criticism. The Fry was the limit!

Until last night.

During his stint at the BAFTAs, Fry managed to stir up a huge Twitter storm after calling costume designer Jenny Beavan a "bag lady" as she collected her award for Mad Max.

Defending himself, Fry told everyone Beavan was a "dear friend" who didn't mind the remark. But the backlash has been so fierce that Fry ha felt it necessarily to quit Twitter.

I get it, I get it - "bag lady" wasn't a charming thing to say. But Fry is a comedian, and anyone who's going to the BAFTAs should think of themselves as fair game for Bafta banter. Even lesser-known individuals.

Besides, if you don’t want to be picked on, here’s how not to be: wear the school uniform. I’m sure Beavan is a wonderful designer, but the BAFTAs clearly requires its attendees to turn up wearing formal attire. And call me Mrs Specsavers, but a scarf and leather jacket is not that. Ironically, it was this low-key choice of outfit that brought her to Fry’s attention.

The Twitter backlash has been enormous and arguably more embarrassing for Beavan than Fry’s original comment. I understand people’s sympathies with her, but we have to remember she is a costume designer – so hardly naïve to the impact of clothing.

Many have called Fry sexist for the joke, but I think he could have picked on anyone, whether that was Simon Pegg in some sneakers or Leonardo DiCaprio in a tank top (I wish).

It’s just that, perhaps, it would have been kinder to select someone happier in front of the camera, rather than behind it.

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