Friday, 14 August 2009

#[Tr]end the Freak Show

Two documentaries stand out this week, as different as chalk and cheese: "The Trouble with Girls”, BBC2, Monday 10th August and “How the Other Half Live”, Channel 4, Thursday 13th August, both at 9pm. 

Were it not for the latter, this blog might have been very different...Teaching post-16 Drama, I have used my fair share of Brechtian devices to incite audience action, so perhaps my frustration when watching “The Trouble with Girls” was intentional. Yet I felt less inclined towards social intervention than to slapping its makers good and hard. How anyone can film such abject misery, without sharing a lifeline to come out of it, is beyond me.

Last week, Jeremy Swain (http://www.charityfinanceblogs.co.uk/content.php?id=322) complained that BBC1's “Famous, Rich and Homeless was a triumph of biased and inaccurate documentary-making”. He was rightly incensed that the combination of Dickensian contrast (Great Expectations is my son's GCSE set text) and resolute adherence to inescapable destiny, bordered on what I might teach as Conventions of Tragedy. Eureka, I think, great name for a documentary series: Arena!

However, compare these films to the frank innocence of eleven year old Sam, telling his wealthier counterpart, Rosie, over the balcony wall of an all too familiar custodial estate, that he hated the prejudice for being poor, and the incitement to help the millions of youngsters, trapped by our labels for poverty - underclass, scrounger, chav, fraud – hits hard.

“How the other half live” might have verged on cheesy in its optimism at times, but oh, what a breath of fresh air! I'm tired of the celebrity Colosseum which catapaults our Jades and Jordans to affluent excess, only to scorn their destitution in demise. “'Money is like muck, not good except it be spread.' Francis Bacon, 1625.” Julian Dobson Tweeted the other day (http://twitter.com/juliandobson and at http://livingwithrats.blogspot.com/). So, when are we going to switch allegiance and cease our complicity in branding and how much you own labels?

I find the hey-day of fly on the wall and reality TV well and truly passed. And if the likes of Murdoch want me to pay for the News, tell them I'm only buying media which facilitiates change!

Posted @ 12:09:12 on 14 August 2009
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