Jimmy Savile, a not so familiar name outside Britain, was one of the most famous entertainment hosts for almost 60 decades. Starting his career as a disc jockey, he was loved by people of all ages throughout Britain. He not only made people laugh through shows like Top of the Pops, but also helped the needy via his philanthropic work. But that is the Jimmy Savile from the television, there is another less humane side to the man that Jimmy Savile: A British Horror Story seeks to present. The two-part documentary is a detailed exploration of the entertainer and child sex offender’s life and psyche, as well as the British people’s blindness to his true nature.
The first part begins with Jimmy Savile on his show Top of the Pops, as he is interacting amusingly with a crowd that consists mostly of young people. Then the screen shows him interacting with people like the Pope, Prince Charles and Princess Diana, the Beatles and Margaret Thatcher. Coming from a humble background of a miner, who joined showbiz after a spinal injury, this was a huge thing for a common person. The documentary then goes on to show the making of the people’s favorite human in Britain.
The biggest incident which made Jimmy famous and loved overnight was his raising of 10 million pounds for the Stoke Mandeville Hospital which is known for its spinal injury wing. It made him grow close to the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and the Royal family, who saw him as an unofficial advisor on matters of public interest. For someone with no expertise in matters of the state or healthcare, it was a bizarre thing for him to take him so seriously, for nobody to question his motives. To think that a person would work to make other’s lives better is such a heartwarming thought that we forget there can be ulterior motives to such actions too.
Throughout his 60 years career in showbiz, Jimmy Savile continued to volunteer for various children’s hospitals, charities and schools across Britain. To think that the only motive he had for all his volunteer work and charities was to gain access to vulnerable children and young girls is horrible in itself. And to see him on screen, during interviews dropping all kinds of hints about his character and conduct is even more chilling.
During various interviews, he keeps on giving predatory and lewd comments about young girls and children and jokes about how these girls throw themselves at him when in reality he is the one following them. It is and is not a surprise that Jimmy Savile’s criminal behaviour remained under wraps for such a long time. It is a surprise because, as shown in the documentary, there were several victims who wanted to come forward, but were either suppressed by the police or by their families.
It is not a surprise because so many journalists and other prominent people had hints, or probably knew about his conduct, but gave him the benefit of the doubt. The latter also included BBC, the main broadcaster of all of Jimmy Savile’s shows.
The second part of Jimmy Savile: A British Horror Story starts with the gradual unveiling of the monster within Savile. Various testimonies of his victims or their loved ones began to come forward. It is the 90s now, and the internet has begun to spread among the public. Along with it also spread his stories of sexual abuse. It is then that the police finally begins their investigation, which goes through several hurdles.
It turns out Savile has sexually abused more than 400 people between the ages of 5 to 75, at least one of them men. His abuse took place throughout the country, in BBC’s office, in churches, hospitals and schools. Wherever he visited, he left a trail of his victims, who, being young and scared, could never protest and thought themselves alone.
During one of the interviews, Savile says, “If you are clever, you can slip up. You never slip up if you’re tricky”, and this pretty much sums up Jimmy Savile’s character. He understood the sentiment of the common people, he gave people what they needed, someone to look up to, a saint whom they can count upon. He lurked beneath the shadow of his goodwill and Santa Claus-like persona, fulfilling his deviant nature, all the while making a complete fool out of everyone.
It is also a mockery of herd mentality, we see what we want to see, even when any evidence to the contrary is staring down our faces. We forget that when someone is too good to be true, he most often is. To such effect, one of the journalists investigating him says that the camera lies, it only shows what is on display.
With Jimmy Savile, as with other sexual predators like Harvey Weinstein, Roman Polansky, Louis CK etc, we only see what we want to see until it is too late. One of the arguments for dropping the case against Savile during the initial investigation was that all the accusers were “only women”, just like Weinstein’s case.
Jimmy Savile: A British Horror Story: Final Thoughts
Watch Jimmy Savile: A British Horror Story to at least witness how a public persona is created and used to create a dominant narrative to suppress those who are vulnerable. The Netflix documentary has created quite a buzz and has spiked an interest in Jimmy Savile and the enigma that surrounded him. Directed by Rowan Deacon, Jimmy Savile: A British Horror Story is a tightly knit and interesting work exposing the truth behind the entertainer. Watch it with a word of caution, it is on camera after all!
Jimmy Savile: A British Horror Story is streaming on Netflix.Instagram & Facebook to keep yourself updated with the latest news and reviews.