More on Jonathan Ross and the Hugos

The debate about Jonathan Ross and his brief reign as Hugo Awards presenter is still going on and has in fact lasted longer now than Ross has actually had the job. Still, while I’m waiting for the Oscars to begin (and debating whether I’m going to watch at all), here are the latest links.

Seanan McGuire’s tweets following the announcement of Jonathan Ross as Hugo presenter have been storified by Jim Hines.

At TwitLonger, Lis Mitchell reiterates her problems with the appointment of Jonathan Ross.

Part of Farah Mendlesohn’s letter of resignation has just appeared at The Passive Voice. Just don’t make the mistake of reading the comments.

File 770 has a summary of the events from an American perspective. Teleread also offers a summary.

Rich Johnston at the comics site Bleeding Cool offers a pro-Jonathan Ross perspective by pointing out that Jonathan Ross has written comics and presented both the Eisner and National Comics Awards (scroll down past a lot of Twitter screenshots for a clip of Ross presenting the Eisners). Rich Johnston makes an important point by reminding us that Jonathan Ross is not a genre-outsider (and indeed the whole “He’s not a true fan” bit left something of a sour taste in my mouth) and has indeed hosted genre awards before, though he dismisses those who criticised the decision a bit too blithely as haters, since there were genuine concerns about Jonathan Ross and his brand of humour.

Finally, Foz Meadows echoes my own post of yesterday and points out that the Loncon organisers could have prevented this whole unpleasantness by preparing Jonathan Ross beforehand for the fact that his appointment would draw criticism due to the ongoing debate about sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, etc… within fandom. This would have given Jonathan Ross either the chance to decline privately or respond to his critics by reassuring them that he wasn’t going to be a jerk and that he loves SFF as much as anybody else at Worldcon. Instead, Jonathan Ross ended up doing his version of “Hollywood star makes an arse of himself on German cultural programme”* on Twitter, because he had no idea he would be criticised.

What is more, the Loncon organisers also bungled the announcement, because they might have prevented at least the whole “He’s not a true fan” debate by pointing out that Mr. Ross is a fan, that he has written comics and presented other genre awards, that he is friends with Neil Gaiman, that his wife is a screenwriter who has worked on genre films and a Hugo winner. Because a lot of people, including me, didn’t know these things. I mostly knew Jonathan Ross as “that BBC chat show host who always causes controversies” without knowing anything about the man himself and judging by the Twitter reaction, it seems I wasn’t the only one.

There are a few people who come out of this uproar looking bad, but – and this is something of a surprise to me – Jonathan Ross is not one of them. I still don’t think he would have been suitable as a Hugo host, particularly during such a politically sensitive time for the genre, but who knows? He might have surprised everyone. After all, it wouldn’t have been the first time that I would have had to revise my opinion of a TV personality after seeing them live, as my experience seeing Thomas Gottschalk and Günther Jauch live attests.

*It happens quite frequently that Hollywood stars who are interviewed on cultural programmes on German TV manage to behave like jerks, because they have no idea what kind of programme it is (namely serious cultural programming instead of gossip shows blindly fawning about celebrities – though we have those, too), and thus react stunned or downright snappy, when faced with critical questions and interviewers who refuse to fawn about them.

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4 Responses to More on Jonathan Ross and the Hugos

  1. Daveon says:

    Good post, pretty much sums up my various positions and the bits that leave me pissed off, especially the lack of nuance by the con chairs in handling this. The only difference is I think he’d have done a good job and I say this as somebody who’s not a terribly big fan of his chat show persona.

    I’m not a huge fan of trying to do the Hugos in the big award format, it’s hard to do and hard to pull off even for people who are used to being on stage – it’s also really easy to get wrong. When I saw that it was him, ironically in Farah’s resignation, I actually thought this could be great. Certainly family members who were on the fence about coming to Loncon got excited about that.

    Anyway, between the reaction and the lack of competent handling by the con we’ll never know. It’ll give me some spare time on Sunday night to go for a curry with friends though.

    • Cora says:

      It’s probably Oscar envy that every awards show tries to be the Oscars, even if it’s not remotely suited to the format. Jonathan Ross could certainly have pulled off the Oscar format and he would have been a draw for people who wouldn’t care otherwise. Of course, there is the risk that it would have become Seth MacFarlane hosting the Oscars rather than Hugh Jackman hosting the Oscars.

      Still, we’ll never know. Curry sounds like a good alternative, though.

      • Daveon says:

        I think we’ve just hit a fault line in fandom over the Hugos. I’m seeing two camps full of odd bedfellows. On the one side we’ve traditional old school Worldcon fans and people at the forefront of the work to make fandom safer and inclusive. On the other we’ve people who want to work to make fandom safer and inclusive and make Worldcon fandom more relevant to the mainstream. Then there’s a bunch of people feeling a bit uncomfortable in the middle.

        The want for an Oscars approach seems to be in both sides but they want different things from it.

        Meh. It’s a horrible mess.

        • Cora says:

          The old school Worldcon people are probably the ones who don’t want Jonathan Ross, because he’s not “a true fan”, whatever that may be. Those who want to make fandom safe and inclusive had legitimate concerns about Ross’ past behaviour (which the Loncon chairs and/or Ross could have tried to dispell, but chose not to). And those who want SFF and Worldcon to become more mainstream were probably pro-Ross, because whatever you think of him, he would have brought mainstream attention to the Hugos and Worldcon, for better or for worse.

          And yes, it is a horrible mess.

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