14 May 2021 2306 Views

Defending John Barrowman. Cancel Culture strikes again?

by James Murphy

Barrowman is a good man. He is being treated disgracefully. 


So, BBC and in turn, their independent audio production company counterpart (Big Finish: not owned by the Beeb, but dependent on contractual cooperation) just deleted Captain Jack Harkness.

Why? Well, put simply, when the Noel Clarke business hit (ghastly, awful, under investigation etc), the media started raking up old press conference materials. One featured Clarke recounting how Barrowman liked to get his lad out. Adolescent, innocuous stuff. Acceptable: no. Appropriate, definitely not.

Someone should have said ‘Noel, stop doing that with your microphone. It is not funny’. Instead, the clip lingered and resurfaced, thereby unleashing a tsunami of disapproval on John Barrowman in the wake of the Clarke affair. What is chilling about this is that on the day the Noel story broke, people were already predicting the Barrowman downfall.

‘AND THEN THEY CAME FOR BARROWMAN BUT I DID NOTHING’, noted one prophetic tweet. It is as though we have now come to accept, either seriously, or satirically, the immediate judgment by media (social and actual) of otherwise untainted celebrities. Careers, reputations and lives can be ruined at the click of a mouse and launch of hashtag. That really should worry all of us and may even deter tomorrow’s budding performers, artists, writers, politicians, sportspeople, musicians and so on from entering the limelight. A society and media fused by fear is at odds with our newly found zeal for ‘mental health’, too. 

I am not excusing Noel Clarke. He is, it appears, under investigation on multiple fronts, though not under arrest or on trial. I am shocked by the fall from grace and very sad for anyone who was made to feel vulnerable to whichever behaviours he may have exhibited.

John Barrowman is a different matter.

He has been an evangelist for the UK and its charitable endeavours, whilst staying true to his Canadian and American connections. The man adores Scotland! John has performed in multiple media and never treated any job as either above or beneath him. From chat shows to panto through to high level super-hero genre product: Barrowman has been a model of prolific work throughout the last 20 odd years.

John’s Hollywood leading man good looks, buoyant charisma and versatile talents were a key ingredient in the re-launch of Doctor Who from 2005-9. His subsequent absence, even in cameo, left a gaping gap in the brand. Had he been banished? No. BBC brought him back in an attempt, presumably, to rescue the show last year.

And they were happy to hire him up to a week ago, when they had him record a segment for a ‘Who’ themed event. Only to delete the content this week, with the Big Finish audios following suit and halting the release of his upcoming TORCHWOOD range.

Let’s get something straight. Barrowman admitted revealing his torch-woody back in 2008, I think? Is that acceptable: of course not! And it could traumatise those who witness such behaviours. But it was done was in a spirit of childish, laddish horseplay. He regretted it immediately and apologised. No indication of any further action being taken or prosecuted. The end, surely?

And in any event: That was back in the day when the likes of Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand ran riot at the BBC, culminating in ‘those’ phone calls to Andrew Sachs. Bad behaviour was not only acceptable, but as good as promoted, the moment there was any inconsistency in the systems through which it was defined and redressed, surely?

John was in some senses, therefore, blending into an ethos. That very adaptability enabled his longevity in the business. He is just as capable of fitting our new puritanism and his work ethic deserves that chance to match whichever template is in vogue.

Had the BBC objected so much to John’s behaviours, why was he not exiled over a decade ago? They didn’t. He wasn’t. So taking him down, now? It’s exploitative imho.

This is not a sexual predator or someone who is accused of compromising the health /safety etc of fans, kids or families watching his work. He has always been a gentleman according to most anecdotes. I met him once. Well, twice in one day, after seeing him in the funniest pantomime ever, opposite the Krankies.

I compared him to Warren Beatty then went back to explain /apologise as he was left looking a tad confused. A text from my Mom alerted me to the fact that Warren was pushing 80 and as Barrowman approached 50, might have thought I was insinuating something about advancing age rather than heyday movie idol looks and talent. John was amused by my qualifying things the second time around. Lovely chap.

I hope that Barrowman is reinstated to the worlds of Doctor Who. Big Finish: you just lost a customer if not. BBC: You lost me from your substandard Timelord content years ago but the same principle stands. All you did today was damage your own brands and goodwill attached. Far worse crimes go unpunished, both in media and in other sectors of life.

John Barrowman is a happily married, hard working, funny, decent and talented man. He loves his husband, sister, family and his work. And the fans adore him, equally. Hopefully, he can take some comfort in knowing that support base still stands, during this newly charged climate.


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