Nobody from Liverpool? Morrisons’ PR disaster

01 April 2016

If I don’t find this funny, I expect I’ve got no sense of humour!

When Morrisons’ casting agency put the call out last week for actors who were ‘proper working-class people’, clearly there were some people who really are beyond the pale: the ad ends with the line ‘And nobody from Liverpool please’.

Did you roll your eyes? I did.

Unfortunately this wasn’t an early April Fools prank. It’s one of those moments that capture how deeply ingrained stereotypes are. And, yes, I am from Liverpool.

Where to begin? I’m sure those of us who find this offensive have already had people respond with any or all of the following: ‘You haven’t got a sense of humour’, ‘It’s political correctness gone mad’, ‘You can’t tell a joke anymore’, ‘It’s all gone too far’. Maybe all of these phrases could be put together to form one hashtag, so we can get them out of the way in one go?

#youhaven’tgotasenseofhumourits politicalcorrectnessgonemadeyoucanttellajokeanymoreitsallgonetoofar

Or something like that.

Is the Scouse accent so offensive? Are the stereotypes of us being thieves, scroungers, or just plain daft so prevalent that it would inevitably put people off shopping at Morrisons? Are we such caricatures that we can no longer be authentic? It seems we’re doomed to play pantomime characters – not subtle enough to appear in a supermarket ad, never mind as rounded characters in plays and films, and in businesses.

Ultimately this kind of thing negatively impacts on people’s chances, not just in the acting profession but in the job market generally. And the stereotype of Liverpudlians is perpetuated and their unfair treatment goes on.

These moments happen to all groups who are discriminated against. And they feel very familiar to those on the receiving end because they happen so frequently. They’re patterned events. The good news is that the best companies ensure that their people really understand how advantage and disadvantage works, and when mistakes are made, they own up, apologise, and do the right things to make sure it doesn’t happen again.