27 March 2011


A friend of mine is currently in Vancouver - on my strong recommendation as a place to visit in North America - and is loving it! Yay! Anyway, I was reminiscing about the city and noticed something curious (which I have noticed before, but maybe not commented upon here). When I think about being there, I can only remember the traffic driving on the left side of the road (as it does in Australia). No matter how I try, I can't remember the traffic being on the right side!

This has happened before. While I can remember the odd feeling of being on the 'wrong' side of the road while being driven around in the Netherlands, when I visualise the trips we took my brain puts the car on the left side of the road, driver sitting on the right.

I guess that shows just how plastic memory can be. Odd.

16 March 2011


so, midsomer murders is not racist (and homophobic) by default or by accident. it's racist (and homophobic) by design. click for article.

Brian True-May, the producer and co-creator of ITV1 drama series Midsomer Murders, has been suspended by production company All3Media following controversial comments made about the show in the latest issue of Radio Times.

True-May told RT, "We don't have ethnic minorities involved. Because it wouldn't be the English village with them. It just wouldn't work. Suddenly we might be in Slough… And if you went in to Slough you wouldn't see a white face there. We're the last bastion of Englishness and I want to keep it that way."

this is depressing, but also unsurprising to me as someone who has watched almost every episode of the show. most of the people i know who watch midsomer murders have commented on the overwhelming whiteness of it . i mean, i can remember maybe two people of colour (both women) in the whole thing? a writer in a competition who didn't have a speaking part, and a barrister/QC who did a great job but was "wrong" about the defendant. and as for queers - he compared it to incest and blackmail, but i note is not mentioned in the linked article - i am also unsurprised. i've often been amused by how many gays there are in the villages of midsomer - even though most of them end up dead/charged with murder.

i'm posting this here because i think it's a great demonstration of how "the countryside" in england is actively constructed as a white (straight) space. i've noted this before with regard to walking, and it's something that continues to frustrate/intrigue me (i guess that the intrigue might be more a sign of privilege, though, since i'm not having to contend with racism on a personal level when i go out walking). the construction of the countryside in this fashion is not only material in terms of who has the time, energy, money, transport, family inheritance to get there and/or live there - it is also a product of popular culture and representation. if you don't see PoC/BME people in the english countryside in films, on TV, in books, in travel writing, then that is a space that's being constructed as white, unwelcoming, a space that such people are not meant to occupy, and this is so for white and PoC/BME viewers and readers.

often when such things are pointed out, people (often the privileged ones - white if we're talking about issues of race and ethnicity, straight if we're talking about issues of sexuality, male if we're discussing sexism, cis if we're discussing trans stuff) will claim that this is just "a reflection of reality" - that "those sort of people" simply aren't there, that's why they're not represented. and that's why this story is so interesting and important - it demonstrates absolutely that this is not just a reflection of reality, but rather a deliberate construction.
"I'm trying to make something that appeals to a certain audience, which seems to succeed," said True-May. "And I don't want to change it."

it's a fantasy that has very real effects. consistently portraying "the countryside" as a white space (or as a straight space) means that non-white (non-straight) viewers/readers have fewer options for relating to that space, are less able to envisage themselves as being welcome in that space, and are maybe less likely to actually go out into that space. in this way, i think true-may's claim that midsomer is "the last bastion of Englishness and I want to keep it that way" is not just about a nostalgic (?) attempt to (re)write the countryside as white-on-screen (straight-on-screen), it's about actually trying to keep non-white (non-straight) people out of the countryside.

i also want to note that the producers of midsomer murders have obviously been pursuing this racist/homophobic agenda for the entire length of the series, but true-may wasn't suspended until he made it explicit. it's an interesting situation. him making that agenda public doesn't change the 'actual' content of the series up to now (though it does change people's readings of that content, which probably amounts to the same thing). so why didn't ITV do something about it before? the racism (and homophobia) of midsomer murders is so very, very clear without true-may's comments. that it takes an interview like this for anything to be done about it is indicative of how acceptable racism actually is - so long as it's passive (they're just not there, rather than being evil), unspoken (nobody mentions it onscreen), weasel-out-of-able (it's a reflection of reality). [ETA: i guess what i'm trying to say here is that, before true-may's comments, it was probably pretty easy for a lot of (white) people to think the whiteness of midsomer murders was accidental or incidental. but that kind of "accident" can only happen and/or go unremarked or unrebuked in a racist society.]

i've typed this all up before breakfast, and i'm quite hungry so i'll leave it there.
do you have any thoughts on the matter?

ETA: charlie brooker has something to say.

4 March 2011


Is it possible to be addicted to someone else's life? I have never been a soap opera watcher, I have never read serials in magazines or papers, I have never listened to long-running radio shows, I have (almost) never been a fan of reality TV like Big Brother . . . but I am seriously hooked on Wondering Wanderers!

WW is the blog of a white, middle-class family (Mum, Dad, two kids) who have just set off in a campervan for a year of WWOOFing around the UK. It has so much of the stuff I love: practical discussions about planning, clearing, getting things together, packing; discussions about the communication skills needed to keep things going; a dream and a vision; fun . . . it pushes all my buttons*! Every day I check (twice!) for updates, to see how they're going, what they've done, how their van is holding up, if their tenants have moved into their house, what their hosts will be like. It's so fun to feel like I'm on the adventure with them.

Maybe you'll be into it, too? (I suggest starting from the beginning to get the full story - and to make it all last longer!)

* Apart from some of those political and activist-y ones I discussed in an earlier post. But hey, you can't have everything.