TV’s Morse plunges knife into Mary Whitehouse

Rewriting history. It’s not new; scriptwriters have been doing it for decades – just think of blockbuster films Braveheart, Pearl Harbour or U-571.

But in Sunday night’s episode of Endeavour – the prequel to Morse – there was striking evidence of how much that has crept into the small screen.

The episode, entitled ‘Canticle’, takes aim at devout Christian Mary Whitehouse who stood against the moral slide in TV and radio entertainment during the 1960s, 70s and 80s.

Joy Pettybon is the character used to ‘gleefully send up Mary Whitehouse’, as The Telegraph puts it.

Whitehouse is depicted throughout as a hateful woman driven by furthering her own reputation and fearful of the skeletons in her own closet.

The episode sees the main character, the young Endeavour Morse, on duty protecting Pettybon while she visits Oxford as part of her ‘Keep Britain Decent’ campaign.

From the start her supporters are shown as drab and dull, while later some physically attack a homosexual writer.

She herself is portrayed as forging her own death threat in order to “gain sympathy” for her cause.

Her husband – who in real life strongly backed her views and died just a year before her – commits suicide to avoid a gross indecency trial.

But ITV’s portrayal leaves no room for sympathy from Pettybon as she callously remarks: “It was what he deserved. Better that than bringing shame on the family.”

Colin Hart, Director of The Christian Institute, said: “Many people surely enjoy Endeavour, but this episode is a stain on the reputation of the series.

“The programme writers have plunged the knife into Mary Whitehouse. She may not have been murdered, but her character has certainly been assassinated.

“Sadly we often see Christians being badly portrayed in the media. This is another warning that we must exercise wisdom in the entertainment we consume.

“Scriptwriters seem to be going out of their way to twist Christian values in order to be achingly politically correct. Viewers need to be on their guard.

“It’s also a reminder to all of us to pray for Christians in the arts; that they would be salt and light in their work.

“Mary Whitehouse did much to stand against declining moral standards. It was only after her death that previous critics such as Dame Joan Bakewell and Lord Roy Hattersley acknowledged that she was right.

“Her legacy should be of someone who stood for righteousness and truth, and was decades ahead of her time in recognising the potentially corrosive influence of television.

“Programmes like Endeavour should not attempt to strip that away.”