The BBC has defended an upcoming Christmas special of its Vicar of Dibley series, which will feature the lead character delivering a sermon supporting Black Lives Matter, after receiving over 100 complaints before it even aired.

The broadcaster came under fire when it revealed that a special miniseries of the show, titled ‘The Vicar of Dibley in Lockdown’, will see main character Geraldine Granger, played by Dawn French, address 2020’s key stories, including public support for the NHS, Covid-19 restrictions, and the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.

While the episode has not aired yet, some details were released in advance by the BBC. In it, Granger is due to say that “I don’t think it matters where you’re from, I think it matters that you do something about it because Jesus would,” before adopting the symbol of the BLM tribute for victims of police violence and taking a knee.

The programme trended on Twitter after the details first broke, as people accused the BBC of abandoning its impartiality with its proposed coverage of the protests. Other commenters felt that it was a bizarre move to force a fictional character, known for light-hearted and comedic content, to become ‘woke’ and deliver a serious political message. 

In a statement, the BBC rejected the criticism, stating that the fictional vicar “is a much-loved and well-established comic character and will be seen processing the year’s events in her familiar outspoken and high-spirited way.”

French herself took a swipe at critics earlier this week, taking to Twitter to ironically declare “A lovely calm day, full of humanity, compassion and support all round…” in the midst of the complaints. 

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