Wednesday 21 December 2016

BAFTA Diversity Changes Could Also Help Us Suspend Disbelief In Storylines

Idris Elba as DCI John Luther
BAFTA (The British Film Academy of Film and Television Arts ) has just changed its rules to increase diversity in its awards and membership. The changes are designed to ensure that both outstanding debut and film nominees demonstrate that they’ve increased opportunities for minority ethnic and disadvantaged film makers by reference to gender, and disability in front of and behind the camera. Well l applaud them for efforts in the right direction. But I’m writing about storylines and depictions reflecting the life we live and not the laudable dream we wish to achieve.
I remember the day I first watched BBC TV’s Luther starring Idris Elba as DCI John Luther (years after every one had been raving it) and was so impressed by it!!
No I didn’t delay watching the hit show because I was  jealous all my women friends became weak kneed at the mention of screen heart throb  Idris Elba's   name. Now I better understand what made me feel weird about the drama, why I could not suspend disbelief to really get into it.
The real dynamics of of race 
The truth is it didn’t portray the actual workings of racial dynamics like “white privilege” on screen when the black character is cast as the senior officer with people calling him "boss" or "guv'nor". It’s not that black bosses don’t exist, rather that when they do they don’t behave with the freedom and ease portrayed by Idris and his white colleagues around him on screen. In our popular culture the black guy who behaves as if in charge is acted as a screen fantasy. It's as rare in actual daily life as hen's teeth for many reasons. Firstly, the stereotype does not exist, and secondly people just have not been taught to react with ease to black men or women as characters in charge. Most black men that have executive titles in real life appear more there on sufferance than with the authority a real leader should have. That's why all these portrayals are such a huge fantasy, a picture of the world we might like to see but have not yet actually realised. This must be shocking to some because I’ve never read anyone else say this on any medium in the UK. But it’s the truth black folk won’t tell you because they judge society doesn’t want to hear it.
BAFTA: British Film Academy of  Film and Television Arts

Shifting goal posts
I'm no shrinking violet and while for years I focussed on getting better at everything I do, the day I realised our social environment would keep shifting the goal posts to frustrate my goal strikes, I heaved an enormous sigh of relief. I knew at last I was not perfect, but not bad at all either. There was nothing wrong with ME. It was just that society was not yet ready to accept the best of me without reacting with defensiveness and the sense that it felt hugely threatened. My way of being, apparently, challenges white supremacy because I've never believed white folk innately better than me. White privilege is about subtly enforcing that falsehood. Of course, it is always denied.

Nikki Amuka-Bird as DCI Erin Gray
Real dramas not fantasy
So, I'm gagging for the drama that tells the story as it is NOW! The script that puts the black guy in charge and acknowledges that our philosophy or social working of white privilege means the character would be a snowball in a very hot room. That would be a real slice of life, and an uncomfortable but enlightening one for us all to watch. Till then I guess we must learn our lessons on this paradigm from the reality show running in America with Mr Trump and his followers who are happy to live in denial of how they are. If BAFTA has made the changes in personnel possible, I’m looking forward to the changes in output also!!

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