'The Great British Bake Off' Folds After Racism Accusations, Announces an End to National Themes


I have a great idea for the folks at Britain’s Channel 4: Why not call it “The Great White-Supremacist, Colonialist Imperialist Genocidal Privileged, Monarchical Nation Which Shall Not Be Named Bake Off?”

What — does that not fit neatly on the little chyron on the bottom of the screen that tells you what you’re watching if you press the info button? Well, that chyron software is obviously bigoted, too. Or are you not committed to doing the work of eradicating thousands of years of subjugation? Do better, Channel 4.

In case you’re not familiar with what I’m talking about, a quick explainer: Channel 4 is the British over-the-air broadcaster you’re probably not intensely familiar with. It’s kind of like the RC Cola of the Albion airwaves, right after BBC’s Coke and ITV’s Pepsi.

However, you may be familiar with a few of Channel 4’s shows. “Black Mirror” originated on the broadcaster before series creator/evil genius Charlie Brooker decided to take that sweet, sweet Netflix money and go to streaming. If your sense of humor is even bleaker than that of Mr. Brooker’s, “Peep Show” — an innovative sitcom that used point-of-view shots — garnered a cult audience in the U.K. and elsewhere in the English-speaking world.

And now, the network is host to one of the U.K.’s biggest television media exports: “The Great British Bake Off.” But don’t expect to hear many other nations named on the show beside Britain in the series going forward because that’s just tactless appropriation.

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In a Friday piece in The Guardian — because of course it had to be in the Guardian, the British outlet aimed at subscribers who think Jeremy Corbyn failed as a Labour leader because he was too much of a conservative reactionary — writer Michael Hogan discussed the changes going on behind the scenes at the immensely popular baking competition, including it getting thoroughly bewoked.

Mind you, much of the attention in the piece was focused elsewhere — particularly on a presenter shakeup, in which British reality TV vet Alison Hammond was brought in to replace former co-host Matt Lucas.

“‘The Great British Bake Off’ tent was already a happy place, populated by cheery contestants and grinning crew members who clearly love their jobs (free cake is a mere bonus). The arrival of new presenter Alison Hammond has lifted it to fresh heights,” Hogan gushed in the lede. “Thanks to her joyous presence and a back-to-basics approach, the upcoming 14th series promises to be the most show-stopping in years.”

Well, it’s certainly stopping something: namely, national-themed competitions.

Is ending this theme a good idea?

“This is a pivotal year for the hit cake-making contest. Recent series have been criticized for culturally insensitive theme weeks and challenges that had too much cooking and not enough baking,” Hogan noted.

“Executive producer Kieran Smith accepts these gripes. ‘I hold my hands up to the cooking complaint and the theme weeks,’ he admits. ‘We didn’t want to offend anyone, but the world has changed, and the joke fell flat. We’re not doing any national themes this year.’”

On, of course, a show called “The Great British Bake Off.”

I was under the impression that Britishers in general had a wonderful sense of the absurd. These are the people who gave us “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” “Mr. Bean,” “The Thick of It” and “Spice World.” (Although there’s always a chance the Spice Girls weren’t kidding.)

Heck, even Channel 4 has made hay off of this sort of thing; in addition to “Peep Show,” it also aired the aforementioned Brooker’s criminally underrated “Nathan Barley,” both shows which derive extensive humor from distinctly British characters who are pathetic and ridiculous in their inability to acknowledge how seriously pathetic and ridiculous they are.

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Those people are now no longer characters on shows being aired by the network. They’re running the network — and the production company behind the show, apparently.

“Having listened to feedback, the program-makers Love Productions have tweaked the recipe,” the Guardian reported.

Most of the backlash came, according to the BBC, after “Mexican week” — in which the hosts wore sombreros and spoke with fake accents.

Judge Paul Hollywood said he was “gutted” by accusations of casual racism.

“I’d literally come back from Mexico about three weeks before we filmed the episode,” he said. “I was all over the place, and we set the challenges based on what I’d seen there. The challenges were very good, and everyone did a good job.”

So, no more of that.

“We’re going very traditional,” Smith said, the Guardian reported. “We’re doing all the regular weeks: Cakes, Biscuits, Bread, Patisserie, Chocolate, plus Party Cakes is a new theme. No spoilers, but it features challenges I think viewers will love.”

Not only have the English forgotten irony, they’ve also forgotten the language they invented for the rest of us Anglophones.

As per Merriam-Webster’s definitions of traditional: “of or relating to tradition : consisting of or derived from tradition; handed down from age to age; following or conforming to tradition : adhering to past practices or established conventions.”

Do you know what the opposite of “traditional” is? Getting offended because your country is being represented as part of a competition about baking freaking cakes. That, in fact, is a profoundly new phenomenon supercharged by selective outrage on (here I use the platform’s traditional name) Twitter. In no way has this ever been a normative part of bake offs in general, and “The Great British Bake Off” in particular.

I’m primarily Irish by ethnic descent and was baptized as a Catholic, although I left the church. Both were brutally subjugated by the British for centuries. Do you know what my reaction — and what the reaction of most Irish Catholics — would have been to a weekly competition in “The Great British Bake Off” based off of making a cake for an Irish first-communion celebration, complete with bad attempts at Hibernian accents?

“Oh. Cool.”

But that doesn’t get angry retweets, and it doesn’t get Guardian write-ups, so guess what? We’re stuck with a stiffly woke show, where everybody tries to be cheerful and happy-clappy on the set of “The Great White-Supremacist, Colonialist Imperialist, Genocidal Privileged, Monarchical Nation Which Shall Not Be Named Bake Off” and not step on a cultural landmine.

Because I’m assuming there’s going to be a mid-season name change, after all. If the perpetually offended can stop national week baking competitions, they should darn well be able to pressure Channel 4 to rejiggering the title of the show to more accurately align with what they really think about Britain.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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