Who’d have thought things had changed so much in two decades?
We’re not talking here about community standards — chances are as many people would have found the Hey Hey blackface sketch as offensive in its original mid-eighties incarnation as they did last night. The real thing that’s changed has been the audience’s capacity to make its feelings and displeasure heard.
Once upon a time an outrageous piece of live, prime-time television would have had no more publicly conspicuous consequence than an invisible stream of complaint calls to the Channel Nine switchboard.
It’s not so easy to manage complaints in the online world. Hey Hey is now a subject of international discussion and heated rebuke, thanks to the meme spreading rapidity and the all-encompassing involvability of the internet. That’s what has really changed since Big Media first thought it was funny to use the outraging of minority sensibilities or even the broad sweep of taste for their shock value and ratings. You just can’t do that today and hope to get away with it.
The lonely voice of outrage has a pretty powerful megaphone and a lot of friends/Twitter followers/commenters/bloggers and forwarders.
Just ask Kyle Sandilands. And Daryl Somers.