Location: United Kingdom

A Naija Guy living (and loving) in the UK.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Please Shoot the Messenger...

I watched the Drama 'Shoot the Messenger' on BBC2 yesterday. I missed the pre showing hype and had only been told a few hours previously to watch the show by a friend. The programme is an attempt to illustrate the ills of the black community by using the point of view of a self hating bigot who also suffered from mental illness. The drama was initially titled "Fuck Black People" but this title was changed by the BBC before the Show was aired. Since the protagonist himself is black it attempts in this way to deflect calls of implied racism due to his own self hatred. The writer Sharon Foster (a black woman) was also the writer of the screenplay for "Baby father" (nuff said!).

For me "Shoot the Messenger" feeds fuel to all the negative stereotypes of black people as Joe Pascal, the protagonist holds the black community responsible for the transgressions of all the grotesquely caricatured characters in the play. It features David Oyelowo (formerly of Spooks, one of our own no less) who plays a black teacher who is falsely accused of assault by a student and subsequently practically turns into a card carrying member of the British National Party. His hatred of black people then leads him to watch a black shooting victim die when he could have called an ambulance to save him. He goes on to utter such reprehensible and memorable statements like "bring back slavery we were good at that and at least they took us somewhere sunny".

I really objected to the portrayal of a collection of extremely negative stereotypes of black people and attitudes including the baby mother with four children from four fathers who then leaves all the children for her mum to take care of and Heather who hates her kinky hair cause it 'doesn't make her feel good about herself'. Since the writer seeks to stoke controversy the characters discuss the issues such as a biblical curse placed upon Canaan (being interpreted as the curse of the black race) and the 'blame culture' in the black community where all black failure is ascribed to the 'white man' or slavery.

A friend who is a published writer is constantly complaining about the state of the publishing industry in the UK and what 'ethnic' writers are forced to write in order to get publishing deals. 'Shoot the Messenger' is proof of this, but I think if this is the kind of self hatred we need to write then they can stuff their publishing contracts and awards (Shoot the messenger won the Dennis Potter ScreenWriters Award). Personally I would have expected a more balanced exploration of the issue by the BBC without producing a recruitment video for the BNP. If this is the kind of entertainment to expect from terrestrial UK TV, I might as well just cancel my TV licence again!


Blogger obifromsouthlondon said...

my sentiments exactly. MIA huh? welcome back

11:34 am, September 01, 2006  
Blogger Dilch said...

I know, where have you been???? Your last post before this one was about the world cup, nuff said. Anyways, welcome back - if you really are back

3:41 pm, September 05, 2006  
Blogger Soul said...

The programme is an attempt to illustrate the ills of the black community by using the point of view of a self hating bigot who also suffered from mental illness

No. No. No. That wasn't what the movie was about at all!

The movie highlights a window into the world of an idealist and how his idealism is based on naivity, and how he has no chance of success becuase he sets himself up to fail.
It's not just that he was disappointed by what he saw, it is that in his rush to be disappointed, he didn't even bother to look at himself and wonder if he himself could be the disappointment.

In the movie the guy had gone MAD, tell me how was he supposed to have called an ambulance, did you not see that he was fighting himself?.
how could you miss that.
The whole movie was a sort of hint that we are fighting ourselves.

I'd also like to add, that there are many black people out there who have exactly those atitudes, that we are crabs in a barrell, that we are no good.
I'm a black woman with natural hair, I can't tell you the number of times I've been accosted by men asking me what I'm trying to prove, or saying if you permed your hair you'd be pretty (okay this comment is usually from Naija men).

And yes, black folk do run to the church and many do use that old cursed KKK explanation for why we are where we are...

If you examine this movie without setting it up to fai, you'll realise that even though it's not perfect it's a darn good movie that just puts everything out there.
I've never had a weave, but I know plenty of my girlfirends who wouldn't be caught dead without one, no matter how bad it sits on their heads and many do feel that it makes them look beuatiful.

Shoot the messenger was not a public announcement movie, it was one by a woman who wanted to show a different angle of the black community.

Let's not deny the fact that there is massive self hatred going on around us.

3:05 pm, September 07, 2006  
Blogger Morountodun said...

Thanks soul for your insightful comments. I guess part of the beauty of art is its subjective nature which enables each of us to read our own meanings into it. I’ve seen a few reviews of the drama and each of the reviewers seems to choose a different angle to critique based on their own baggage/prejudices/background.

I listened to the writer (Sharon Foster) on the BBC website state some of her reasoning for putting together the programme and while I don’t disagree that some of the stuff needs to be said, some of the time the package its put together in and the forum within which its aired might mean it does us a great disservice. Oh and bless you for being nappy and proud. Goan Girl!

Obi and Dilch I do hope to post a bit more regularly but there is just so little time!

11:13 am, September 08, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. This is the first I'm hearing about this Canaan Curse thing. Ouch my head hurts! This whole idea of punishing people on the basis of what their ancestors did, or their creed, colour e.t.c is just bizarre on every level.

The writer does make a valid point about the state of the British Black mindset (in the Guardian interview) - but I don't think washing her dirty laundry in public is the best way to achieve her aim. I haven't seen the documentary (is it available online?), but I can only imagine that it is not balanced out with positive images of Black people achieving, as you suggested Mo.

The protagonist's comment that 'Whenever I think about it, everything bad that has ever happened to me has involved a black person.' is quite interesting really. He's certainly not alone in thinking that way (albeit chronically as opposed to fleetingly - because let's face it, we've all encountered that brother or sister, or read about that greedy self-obssessed third world politician that just makes you think that some black people do a good enough job of being mean to one another/bringing each other down/holding others back without any outside assistance). But these thoughts are forgotten the minute I find myself faced with some bigot, in disguise or otherwise, who has the sneaky (it is seldom blatant, perhaps that's why the protagonist fails to notice it) audacity to question my validity.

Keep up the good work Mo!

7:10 pm, September 09, 2006  
Blogger Nneka's World said...

Na wa oh! you really went MIA for sometime, glad to have you back!

10:23 pm, September 19, 2006  
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