Saturday, 2 January 2010
Over the last few years, Islam has turned into a convenient bogeyman for Middle Englanders. From the 'preachers of hate' who renounce western indulgences, through to girls who wish to wear a ḥijāb to school, Muslims represent a one-size-fits-all villain for guardians of Great British traditions, such as bigotry, ignorance and intolerance.
Mindful that their opinions might be considered racist, the vocal minority has astutely embraced the notion that the best form of offence is defence. This simply means that, in order to voice their noxious viewpoints, they need to play the part of innocent victim. If they can convince people that they are being persecuted or oppressed, they can give a name to their pain - in fact, they can call it any name they like.
It's a cunning bit of wordplay, but it's extraordinarily effective. So we shouldn't really be surprised that an experienced writer would feel comfortable applying the technique. Lynda La Plante, who seems to be transforming into a Spitting Image puppet of Nerys Hughes, has spoken out in an interview with the Telegraph, and opted to blame young Muslims for her lack of work.
She believes that the BBC is in the grip of an obsession with 'political correctness' (another imaginary but shadowy threat to our very existence), and as a consequence, is overlooking the 25 years she's spent trotting out the same three plots again and again.
"If you were to go to the BBC and say to them, ‘Listen, Lynda La Plante’s written a new drama, or I have this little Muslim boy who's just written one’, they’d say: ‘Oh, we’d like to see his script.’ If my name were Usafi Iqbadal and I was 19, then they’d probably bring me in and talk.”
Ben Stephenson, BBC Controller of Drama, was quick to respond, pointing out that "Lynda had two pieces in development with [the BBC]". Could it be that Lynda is simply using BBC commissioning policy as a way of legitimising her ugly opinions?
It's a little depressing to hear Lynda express such knee-jerk (with the emphasis on jerk) opinions, given that she must have been very much in the minority when she began writing dramas back in the mid-eighties. Diversity policies and progressive commissioners have no doubt supported Lynda throughout her career, but now that it's someone else's turn to reap the benefits, these factors suddenly become the death knell for quality TV.
After quarter of a century writing crime thrillers, Lynda's become pretty adept at uncovering who's really at fault. Like when the Sydney Morning Herald discovered the fact that she may have plagiarised whole sections of her 1993 Holocaust novel Entwined, from a book by an Auschwitz survivor called Olga Lengyel. Lynda responded to the accusations, through lawyers of course, blaming a research assistant who no longer worked for her - a researcher who received no credit or reference in the book itself. If only Jane Tennyson was around to unpick this complicated mystery...
Lynda's work is littered with hard-nosed, cold-hearted women constantly searching for someone to blame. I guess the old adage is true - write what you know.