Philippa Lowthorpe’s recent film on the 1970 Miss World Pageant, Misbehaviour, has enjoyed the advantage of being released just before the lockdown, giving people no choice but to watch it from the comfort of their homes. But while undoubtedly watchable, the film’s approach to feminism and intersectionality notably erases contemporary feminist movements led by women of colour.
warning: this review contains spoilers.
When I learned that the BBC was airing the first ever television adaptation of Malorie Blackman’s award-winning teen novel, Noughts and Crosses, I was instantly intrigued. How would Blackman’s vision of an alternately racialised society play out on the small screen in 2020?
The speculative fiction novel (first of a series), published in 2001, follows a teenage friendship – later romance – between Callum, a member of the Nought (light-skinned) oppressed underclass, and Sephy, a member of the Cross (dark-skinned) ruling class. The adaptation is more adult, dramatic and violent – it also contains several new plot points.
By Jess O’Dwyer
“There is a political power in laughing at these people.”
So say Led By Donkeys, a “Brexit accountability project” created by four friends who wanted to “[channel] frustration into action and [hold] politicians to account with a bit of humour.” The group go around the country putting up billboards with quotes or Tweets from pro-Brexit politicians, as well as projecting or broadcasting previous interviews on Brexit. This is to show a side-by-side comparison of their changes in stance, highlighting contradiction and hypocrisy.
The latest incarnation of Star Trek hit our screens last week and there is so much we could unpack. I could address the online reaction to the show’s diverse casting controversy, the unusual production decision or I could analyse it critically; divorced from its Trekkie fandom and heritage.
But the truth is I don’t want to do any of that. It’s clear that Star Trek has always been on the left of the political spectrum. People who get paid way more than I do have already looked at every aspect of the production and decided what they want to do with their show. And it’s impossible to divorce Discovery from all the Trek that came before it. As a liberal snowflake, what I really want to write about is how the show made me feel.
by Eli Lambe
CW: victim blaming, transphobia, homophobia, rape
Sitting in my mum’s living room, vaguely paying attention to what she had loaded up ‘on-demand’, I started to get antsy and agitated. The programme, a gritty ITV crime-drama called “Cold Blood” kept jumping out at me with its thinly veiled victim blaming, transphobia and homophobia. Because it was being played ‘on-demand’, the same few ads kept popping up. This, along with a summer of conversations that continually went nowhere, prompted the following rant/doodle/mess…
Often my articles here in the Arts section follow a similar pattern; I observe what I think is a poor defence or poor criticism of a subject, give my contrary reasoning and cast some shade, then tried to conclude with what I think is a better approach to art in general. The overall meta-thesis tends to be “artists and audiences need to be smarter and less sensitive”.
Whilst I do have fun writing such pieces, I feel that my critical pattern is par for the course for liberalism in general. There is an overwhelming feeling of being against something rather than for something. Politically I can reason myself around this. If I’m against inequality in the workplace, I’m de facto for equality. With the arts though it can make me feel like a grumpy old curmudgeon who hates everything and writes from a place of negativity and harsh criticism; To remedy that I wanted to write about something that I was excited about. I failed.
Not only is it a great crime drama with a nunchuck-wielding lead named Dashiell Bad Horse, but the show will have an almost entirely Native American cast and give a voice and representation to the issue of a people marginalised and mistreated in their own land.
What I wanted to write about is the upcoming television adaptation of Jason Aaron and R.M. Guéra comics series Scalped. I love Scalped. It’s a gritty western-crime-noir about an undercover F.B.I. agent on Prairie Rose Indian Reservation. It’s brutal, tense and amazing. Its depiction of life on the “rez” and the struggles of Native Americans feel raw and honest and uncomfortable. I’m not the type of guy who gets super excited for either comic book adaptations or TV series, but this is different. Not only is it a great crime drama with a nunchuck-wielding lead named Dashiell Bad Horse, but the show will have an almost entirely Native American cast and give a voice and representation to the issue of a people marginalised and mistreated in their own land.
“They’ll never do it,” I said, with total certainty. “I mean I’d love it – if it wasn’t Stephen Moffat writing it, at least – but they’ll never do it.”
I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to be so wrong.
CW: discussion of domestic violence
An eight episode series, Las Chicas del Cable (The Cable Girls) begins with a woman killing her friend’s husband – part self-defence, part accident – also shooting her friend. It’s a drama full of love stories, as well as crime and mystery, yet domestic violence is a major theme that runs through the series. Set in 1928 in Madrid, it shows the impossibility of leaving an abusive relationship in a patriarchal society, where even the law protects men who are abusers.
by Jess Howard
As a nineties baby, I grew up with Friends. There’s seldom a day where I make it through a 24 hour period without adding in a few quotes from it, be it “PIVOT” or “WE WERE ON A BREAK”, and any show that involves a cameo from Bruce Willis is fine by me. This show was my life.
But lately I’ve been thinking about how it applies to my life today as a pansexual woman. Does this nineties/noughties classic represent an accepting attitude towards homosexuality at the turn of the century? Or does it contain strident homophobia disguised as a casual joke?
by Zoe Harding
On the same night Transgender Kids: Who Knows Best? aired (Thursday 12th), an apparently rather excellent documentary named Hospital exposed the difficult conditions under which the modern NHS works, bringing it to the attention of the nation that if you get sick and go to an NHS hospital, you’ll be treated by a doctor who’s working shifts more commonly seen in 19th-century coal mines while the Prime Minister calls them lazy. It was quite good. The subjects of Hospital (doctors) seem to have loved it. No such luck for the subjects of BBC2’s other documentary that night, however.
I have seen Emily Harrison share her work countless times at Burn After Reading events, and at my own night, She Grrrowls. She never fails to amaze me in the way she is able to articulate herself, speaking out about mental health issues – amongst other subjects – interwoven with links to gender and class. When I read lines about imaging someone loves you ‘when you simply asked/during a routine blood test, ‘Emily, how are you doing today?’ I sort of imagine she’s what I would be like if I were an extrovert.
The first couple of poems are familiar to me, and it’s hard not to picture Harrison on stage delivering these words, because as much as it’s incredible to be able to read the pieces, seeing them live is an important part of the way the text works, as it tends to be with Burning Eye Books – the go-to publisher for writers who refuse to remain on one side of the page/stage divide.
It’s not news to know that we live in a hypersexual world, where the adage ‘sex sells’ is used to excuse a lot of the overtly sensual imagery thrown at us in day-to-day life. Sex is everywhere, even in adverts for things as mundane as sandwiches. It’s this steamy atmosphere that asexuals are facing as they finally begin to attain recognition in society, and there’s a distinct sense of what an uphill struggle it is.
Asexuality’s simplest definition is the lack of sexual attraction to any and all genders. Unfortunately, most allosexuals (people who aren’t asexual, and do experience sexual attraction) tend to get all amused and patronising when the words “I’m not interested in sex” are spoken in their vicinity. This is further exacerbated by the fact that this simplest definition is typically for the benefit of allosexuals, and does little to explain just how complex asexuality is.
I live in a small flat with my partner of three and a half years. We have a joint bank account. We know all of each other’s grossest habits, and we love yeach other with everything we have. But you wouldn’t know that a relationship like that is possible for a queer couple like us if you only had popular media as a source.
by Robyn Banks
Katie Hopkins’ new show, If Katie Hopkins ruled the world, debuted on TLC this Thursday 6th August. While a Mail article claimed that the show had trouble garnering any guests, Hopkins herself claimed that people were so desperate to align themselves to her overall image of petty hate and kneejerk reactions she had to turn people away, which doesn’t really explain why the first guests include a washed out daily fail columnist, a reality TV star and a woman so irrelevant she’s been denounced by even the darkest corners of feminism.
by Mike Vinti
The future of the BBC is uncertain. Despite John Whittingdale’s assurances everything is going to be ok, you can’t help but wonder — if they’re abolishing grants for disadvantaged students, cutting disability benefits and generally meddling in the NHS, why would they save the BBC? As the Tories start to enact their new budget, it seems nothing is safe.
The cuts have already started. Though its programming has been weak in recent years, the loss of BBC Three is symbolic of the Tories plans for the rest of the broadcaster. It hardly seems like a coincidence, especially in the context of Osbourne’s refusal to scrap the free license fee for over 65s, that the BBC’s youth-focused channel was A) its most neglected or B) the first of its services to go. The Tories’ cuts to the welfare state have disproportionately affected young people ,and if previous attempts are anything to go by, so will its gradual disintegration of the BBC.
This will be easy for Cameron and his underlings in the department of Culture, Media and Sport to achieve. The BBC has been losing young viewers and listeners from its TV and Radio stations for years.
May 2015 is a landmark in modern British culture, and it just so happens to coincide with a general election where, more and more, being seen as ‘one of us’ is adjudged more important than actually helping us. Next month, it will have two whole decades since the original release of Pulp’s tragically timeless ‘Common People’. The song — which is broadly recognised as one of the defining anthems of Britpop, reached number 2 in the charts 20 years ago — was kept from the supposedly prestigious top spot by the caterwauling Robson-and-bloody-Jerome.
But while Unchained Melody limped on for another 5 years thanks to a cringing Gareth Gates cover, only Pulp’s music can truly be said to have stood the test of time; misinterpreted as it is to this very day by the crowd of preening, self-obsessed hipsters who regularly grace St Benedict’s Street on a Saturday night. And I have to ask before I get bogged down in polemic, if any of our readers might happen to be amongst the number whooping and prancing about in the Birdcage to this, how can you not see that this song is a howling stab of rage directed at poverty tourists like you?
Have you quaffed so much craft ale that the world is just a tweed-patterned blur at this stage, or is your fashionably unkempt lumberjack beard just growing upwards into your brain?
by Mike Vinti
Popular culture today is dominated by one thing — the celebrity. Be they actors, musicians, reality TV stars, or vloggers, celebrities are the most visible benchmark of our culture. Yet it seems we don’t really know what to do with them. We proclaim them as role models in the media yet the same outlets feast on their personal failures; we attack them for squandering their platform, yet criticise those who use it for some perceived good. They symbolise both everything we love and everything we hate about late capitalist society.
Celebrities are by no means a new phenomenon and since the birth of popular music, celebrity status has been part of the territory for successful musicians. Yet with the ever pervasive influence of the internet, more and more people are becoming celebrities, so maybe it’s time we had a conversation about their role in society?
It is Valentine’s week – apparently that’s a thing now – a time of saccharine sweetness, hollow gestures, and empty consumerism in place of romance. In-keeping with the seasonal spirit, then, I want to talk to you today about hearts that long ceased to beat; about a festering horde of blank-faced ghouls, hungering to sink their teeth into human flesh. No, not the populace of shag-app Tinder. Today I am talking about actual zombies.
The undead have always possessed a special place in my own heart – sating more than a simple blood-lust in my own cinematic tastes. Zombies often shamble above and beyond the call of duty, creeping and clawing their way into socio-political territory rarely visited by the supernatural silver-screen. They often act as crude agents of social commentary – and sometimes even of justice. The reanimated corpses who so often fill our post-apocalyptic screens aren’t really a thing to be ‘feared’ by us as such; they are a cultural representation of us. Zombies are the fictional embodiment of the dominant section of society’s fear of a mobilisation of the filthy, impoverished masses.
As Robert Kirkman’s famous comic series (and subsequent televisual smash hit) so often reiterates, “We are the walking dead.”