Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Killer instincts

After yesterday's post about the multiracial dating scene, it was interesting to see that a new controversy has emerged here in the UK on a similar theme. This time it's ITV coming under fire, after executive producer Brian True-May described the anti-diversity approach to casting on his long-running drama Midsomer Murders.

For the uninitiated, Midsomer Murders is one of those shows that seems to have been running since John Logie Baird decided that the corner of his living room looked a little empty. The formulaic detective drama depicts the adventures of Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby, as he attempts to solve the weekly murders in a sleepy English county. Despite representing the last bastion of 'English genteel eccentricity', over the last fourteen years the quiet rural community has been responsible for more untimely deaths than the Jigsaw killer.

When they're not polishing the silverware or taking tea on their immaculate lawns, the people of Midsomer are busy bludgeoning, drowning or poisoning their neighbours, spouses and elderly relatives. In fact, there have been so many inexplicable deaths that most of the villages in the county would struggle to get a quorum for a residents' association meeting. It's a far cry from the rural world I grew up in, where local life would be rocked to its core if someone double-parked outside the post office.

Like Murder, She Wrote before it, the success of the show is predicated on the audience's suspension of disbelief, primarily around the likelihood of a peaceful community having a per capita murder rate that would make Mogadishu seem like a desirable place to live. But one area where the show maintains a scrupulous adherence to authenticity, lies in the exclusively white faces of its cast.

Speaking to the Radio Times, True-May said "We are a cosmopolitan society in this country, but if you watch Midsomer you wouldn’t think so. I’ve never been picked up on that, but quite honestly I wouldn’t want to change it... Well, we just don’t have ethnic minorities involved. Because it wouldn’t be the English village with them. It just wouldn’t work."

It didn't take long for campaigners and activists to condemn his comments, accusing him of "distorting the presence of black and Asian people in rural areas", and leaving production company All3Media with no choice but to suspend him. However, True-May's neighbours in the village of Great Missenden came out in defence of their aryan purity, with 63 year-old Ron Stock stating "The whole reason of the show is to depict the tiny little villages of England. There just aren’t any ethnic people around here. In everyday life in Great Missenden you wouldn’t see any at all."

Whatever you think about Brian's attitudes, maybe he has a point. Given his old-school, middle-Englander perspective, perhaps the format of the show wouldn't work with ethnic minorities. After all, it'd be almost impossible to write a compelling whodunnit if there was a black face in amongst the suspects. The team at Causton CID wouldn't even have time to whip off their overcoats before fingering the most likely culprit.

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