I'm a Celebrity has a Boy George problem

boy george, i'm a celebrity 2022
I'm a Celebrity has a Boy George problemITV

I'm A Celeb fans aren't too happy with Boy George in the new series, especially when it comes to recent interactions he's shared with fellow castmate Charlene White.

Long story short, tension developed between the pair in Tuesday's episode (dated November 8th) after Boy George claimed that Charlene was "controlling" when it came to food prep.

In fact, he was so annoyed that he refused to help clean up after eating, and later on, things got even more heated when Boy George warned there could be a camp "rebellion" due to Charlene's attempt at "being the boss".

After the episode aired, multiple viewers branded Boy George's behaviour as misogynistic (here, here, here, and also here). Just a few episodes in, it's easy to see why these claims have been made. But that's not the only reason Boy George's involvement with I'm A Celeb has been problematic.

For those who don't remember, in 2007 George and another man attacked Audun Carlsen in a London flat, where they handcuffed him to the wall and allegedly hit him with metal chains. Eventually, Audun fled in his boxer shorts, trainers and a pair of handcuffs.

George's defence was that that long-term drug use had resulted in a psychotic break. He denied punching Audun or using a chain to hurt him, and the other man was never identified.

During the trial, Judge David Radford told Boy George that he acted with "gratuitous violence", adding: "Whilst I accept Mr Carlsen’s physical injuries were not serious or permanent, there can be no doubt that your premeditated, callous and humiliating handcuffing and detention of Mr Carlsen shocked, degraded and traumatised him."

In January 2009, George was sentenced to 15 months in prison for assault and false imprisonment, but only served four months of his term before being released. For the remainder of his sentence, George was required to wear an ankle monitor and submit to a curfew.

A day before the new series started to air, Carlsen spoke to a few publications including The Mirror, explaining that George's assault continues to haunt him even now:

"I still see the monster that he is every time I see him. It’s hurtful that ITV give him that platform. Had I been a woman and he did what he did, he would never have been given the platform."

"It’s hurtful that big organisations like ITV give him that platform," he continued. "I think giving him this sort of platform and a record fee sends the wrong message to survivors of violence and abuse and is plain wrong."

This isn't the first time that Boy George has faced this kind of response in light of the assault.

chris moyles, boy george, i'm a celebrity
ITV

On December 23, 2009, while George was still on licensed release from prison, his request to appear on Celebrity Big Brother was turned down by the Probation Service.

Mr Justice Bean rejected George on the following grounds (via The Guardian):

"I consider that right-thinking members of the public would take the view that an offender serving the non-custodial part of a sentence of imprisonment should not be allowed to take part in a high-profile, controversial television production, promoting his status as a celebrity and with considerable financial gain."

So what's changed, aside from the fact that George has finished his sentence?

Audun tells The Mirror that he's been diagnosed with PTSD in his decade-long journey with therapy: "Every time I see him, I feel it all over again. I have a permanent back injury. Two or three times a year I get a slipped disc. I’ve not used dating sites since. I can’t meet anyone because I get too anxious. I get skeptical about people because I don’t know what their intentions are."

And yet George continues to be given a huge public platform on I'm A Celeb and also Drag Race UK, despite what he did to Carlsen.

It's not just a platform he's been given either. Reports suggest Boy George might also be the highest-paid star on Celeb, with a rumoured £500,000 fee.

Whether that's true or not, casting Boy George in the first place was an irresponsible headline-grab regardless.

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ITV/Shutterstock

It's one thing to forgive someone for their actions, and another to give them a prime time slot in one of the UK's biggest shows. As Carlsen said, doing so "sends the wrong message to survivors of violence and abuse", suggesting that it's okay to celebrate and reward abusers.

Ahead of the new season, an ITV source (via The Mirror) defended the channel's decision to cast Boy George, saying: "This is a historic, spent conviction and George has appeared on major TV networks globally on numerous occasions since over the last decade."

Those shows that ITV's source describes include a stint on BBC's The Voice, as well as a high-profile appearance on Piers Morgan’s Life Stories in 2017 where George addressed the assault:

"I sent myself to prison. I told police why I did what I did. I was having a psychotic episode. I was a drug addict so I can’t say my reasons for doing it were founded in any way. But I told the truth. I have always denied beating the guy."

But there are two issues with this defence. 1) Just because other networks cast George in shows doesn't mean you have to, and 2) George's role here on I'm A Celeb is far more prominent than the majority of these other appearances.

At this point, fans of Boy George might bring up the fact that George made a public apology in 2017, but Audun says in his aforementioned interview that he didn't find it genuine. And crucially, he says he's yet to receive a personal apology from the former pop star: "I can always forgive, but it has to come from a truthful place."

And that's quite key, really. If Boy George had issued a heartfelt, personal apology, then it might be easier to forgive him for trying to restore his public image by joining high-profile shows like I'm A Celeb.

But if the man he was convicted of assaulting is still waiting on a personal apology after all this time, it leaves you wondering how concerned George is with how his past actions impacted Audun.

i’m a celebrity airs tension between boy george and charlene
ITV/Shutterstock - ITV

That's also pretty evident in a statement George's spokesman released around his casting:

"George went to jail for four months willingly after openly confessing to false imprisonment during a psychotic break 15 years ago whilst in the midst of a well documented drug problem. Not only has he been a pillar of society ever since, but he also remains sober to this day. He apologised publicly on Piers Morgan’s life stories and we are very proud of him for his rehabilitation."

"Everyone is entitled to a second chance and George has certainly earned it," the statement adds.

Ultimately though, regardless of ITV's controversial decision, that notion of "second chances" and whether George actually deserves one is down to the public.

I'm a Celebrity airs at 9pm on ITV and ITV Hub.

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