In amongst all the rancour and recriminations that has accompanied the rather sorry tale of the 15 British service personnel captured and eventually released unharmed by the Iranians, an interesting side issue has arisen.
In an interview with The Mirror, one of the captured crew reveals he was interrogated at great length by the Iranians and amidst the long periods of chatter in a foreign language he didn’t understand, he regularly heard references to “Mr Bean” followed by prolonged chuckles.
Arthur Batchelor, who says he was subjected to this treatment as his Iranian captors wrongly believed he was the crew’s navigator, maintains that the Mr Bean “insult” was directed squarely at him as a way of belittling and undermining him.
It begs the question, therefore, has Rowan Atkinson’s comic creation become the ultimate insult you can direct towards a Brit?
Patrick Barkham has an entertaining attempt at answering the question in The Guardian, looking at the global Mr Bean phenomenon and assessing the character’s potential to be a national insult.
Irritating, self-important and bumbling buffoons. Is this how the world sees us?
At least the world laughs. Whether laughing at us, or with us, the fact we generate such humour on an international scale has to be a positive – doesn’t it?
If only there weren’t so many unanswered questions, unsatisfactory loose ends and unpalatable images surrounding this particular story. Under the circumstances, however, the Mr Bean analogy is looking fairly accurate.
From the lead up to the capture of the 15 crew, the interception itself, the detainment, interrogation, trial by TV cameras, “confessions”, joyous release and grubby media frenzy to buy up exclusive interviews, our collective stiff upper-lip resolve and professional bearing in the face of adversity has been sorely tested.
Unfortunately, the more this particular story develops the more Mr Bean-like our nation appears.
Still, it could be worse.
People might think we are more like that annoying “Am I bovvered?” schoolgirl from The Catherine Tate Show…oh, hang on a minute.