Londoners/Brits: explain why BFI's ad was offensive

According to this story in the Daily Mail, a lot of people were offended by an ad for The Grinch on the BFI IMAX theater that said: ‘Welcome to South London, this is your last chance to turn around.’ Another one said, ‘You are now heading north of the river. Try to contain your excitement.’

The news article says people found the first message classist and racist, but assumes its readers know enough about London to need no further explanation as to why people would feel that way.

Am I right in assuming that South London is a somewhat downscale area with a significant minority population? Is there more to it than that?

What is the implication of the second message?

I’m not particularly interested in a discussion of whether the ad really is offensive or if it is another example of PC gone mad. I just want to understand what common perceptions about South and North London made some ad agency think these were Grinchy things to say.

The most upscale neighbourhoods have historically been north of the river. Most of the places that you will have heard of in London are north of the river. The closest parallel I can think of for north/south might be Manhattan vs Queens, but it’s definitely not Manhattan vs The Bronx. There have always been some affluent parts of London south of the river along with some poorer areas, even before recent times when everything has moved upmarket.

There was historically a stronger “class gradient” associated with going east. East London used to be all working class.

And I think the racism accusation is a stretch. Brixton in the south has historically had a large black population, but that’s only one part of many.

I wouldn’t particularly peg it as racist, but would allow classist.

For a start, virtually all of the major stuff in central London is north of the river. The main set of exceptions being the stuff along the “South Bank”, which includes the BFI Imax. (Which, incidentally, faces the southern end of Waterloo Bridge, one of the main north-south bridges, so very much a gateway to that side of the river.)
On top of which geological factors mean that most of the Tube network is north of the river, which adds to the perception that it is “better”.
Then the principal “nice”/expensive neighbourhoods in which to live are also on that side.

There’d be an argument that this is ultimately historical. Roman and medieval London was primarily on the north shore, to the point where Southwark on the other side of London Bridge developed a racy reputation on account of being outside the bounds of the City. Prostitution, bear bating, the Globe …

ETA: I do agree that it’s pretty offensive and inappropriate.

For additional context (which Londoners seeing only that ad wouldn’t have), the film’s campaign features many similarly snarky comments customized to the location.

If it’s not racist, what do you find offensive about it? (Do you live in South London?)

It’s likely people get pissed off with the same old tired, cliched, claptrap that lazy twats have been spewing for decades. That’s not just a North vs South London thing.

There is a long history of a North South divide in London. It used to be said that taxi drivers would refuse a late night fare “Sarf of the river”.

Clearly, some people are sensitive about it. It may be people who live in Brixton or Southwark, or more likely people who think that they might be offended. I suspect that this is similar to some council canceling Christmas in favour of Winterval or some such nonsense on the grounds that other religions might be offended. Nonsense of course, but there are some who get all worked up about how something *might *offend someone else.

Pretty much what others have said. It’s a tired (and now outdated) cliche that south of the River is an undesirable and unpleasant place to live. If you’re going to make a joke that denigrates a community, it must at least be funny.

I now live south of (one bend of) the Rio Grande!

South London was always poorly served by the Tube subway system. It as plenty of rail lines and bus services, but for many Londoners, if an does not have stations on the Tube map, it may as well not exist.

However, that has changed in recent years because Transport for London has some new lines on the Tube map. Unimaginatively called the Overground, it looks like a new Tube line, but the trains are bigger and new and run along a surface rail lines. It has opened up many forgotten suburbs of London.

This has been a revelation to many North London types who now have a new area of London to explore with lots of parks and cheaper housing. Many are moving South, priced out of even the really grim parts of North London. They brag endlessly about buying huge Victorian houses for modest prices and they usually proceed to embark on expensive renovation projects. Gentrification happens and parts of South London are pronounced ‘up and coming’ and smart investments for the upwardly mobile.

The sentiments in the Ad seem very out of date. I can’t really think people would be offended. Everyone knows there are some dog rough areas north of the River. They can’t say anything.

The location of the Ad at the BFI on the South Bank would make sense if it was directed at London Taxi drivers. They always had a snotty attitude about going over a bridge because they prefer to pick up fares going east and west between the main entertainment and business areas. If they go South they might not get a fare on the way back. It would be dead time, their kids would go hungry. They would make all kinds of excuses not to take a fare south of the river, even though the law requires it.

Fortunately the snotty taxi driver problem has been comprehensively addressed by services like Uber.:smiley: