Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Midsomer Madness?

The producer of inexplicably-popular Sunday night crime drama Midsomer Murders has claimed today that part of the appeal of his show is that there are no non-white faces.

"We just 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. Ironically, Causton (one of the main centres of population in the show) is supposed to be Slough. And if you went into Slough you wouldn't see a white face there.
"We're the last bastion of Englishness and I want to keep it that way," he added.
"I'm trying to make something that appeals to a certain audience, which seems to succeed. And I don't want to change it." 

The setting is an English village: such places are almost exclusively white, which is certainly true. What bothers me though is that he isn't really claiming that his show is realist - he's asserting that he has deliberately excluded ethnic minority characters and actors because his audience doesn't want to see them.

I hope - and assume - that this isn't true. I'm sure that a lot of the programme's appeal is the nostalgic presentation of a time-warped village society, but apart from the OAP wing of the British National Party, I'm certain that nobody's settling down of a Sunday evening with the intention of watching something specifically because it's all white.

True-May's racism is clear in his sweeping claim that Slough is non-white. In actual fact, the 2001 census reveals that Slough's population is 58% White British plus 5% White Irish/Other, which looks pretty white to me.

I don't think TV should be tokenistically sticking ethnic minority actors into every show, but I fail to see how skin colour should be a selection factor for a murder comedy drama. To deliberately exclude them does look racist to me. I'm also disturbed by this definition of Englishness as white. Given that the English are an incredible mix of various Celtic, Anglo-Saxon, Norman, and many other groups, deciding that Englishness is a matter of skin colour rather than location and/or a range of cultural activities (difficult enough in itself) is deeply problematic.

1 comment:

ed said...

'We're the last bastion of Englishness...' My skin just crawled from the back of my neck to my ankles. Yuck.