The controversial ending to The Bodyguard has divided opinions, Tashmia Owen explains why so many people felt disappointed (spoilers)
Anyone tuning into the attention-grabbing, ratings machine Bodyguard on BBC one lastnight won’t have missed the conversation it has created. On one side of the debate is ‘entertainment can be just that, fun, no strings, and should not cause offence, that those who are offended are over sensitive and overly politically correct.’ The response to that argument is that we should not, in this age, be reverting to stereotypes based on fears as opposed to reality. That representing people of colour in a damaging way continues to harm marginalised groups.
It is not lazy writing, it is wholeheartedly evidence of how deeply ingrained racism and sexism is in our society. So pervasive is it in our everyday that having a writer or team that is not representative of those you are telling a story about will never work. It will not be truly representative until you allow writers of colour and female writers tell their stories, paint the picture of the layers that create the person they are, the experience of living their lives.
The irresponsible use of a veteran with PTSD was another disappointment. So many opportunities, it is utterly galling how many points in this series could have opened up into an exploration of wider nuanced situations. Budd’s PTSD and veteran past could have been investigated further, giving a truer exploration into a genuine national threat. Angry white men now account for more terrorism arrests than any other group. We’ve seen attacks like the murder of Jo Cox, the Finsbury Park attack or the recent attack on Muslims in Cricklewood.
Yet Jed Mercurio felt it would be subversive to create a situation where the stereotype in most bigots’ minds was the reality?
There’s little discussion about how we deal with our veterans, and how are they supported when they return to civilian life. Sending ex-soldiers to Mallorca or Tenerife for a week, with unlimited alcohol to let off steam, is not what most of us would expect from decompression time. The lack of mental health services and monitoring of the movements and lives of ex-service personnel should cause concern for them and society. We have people who are trained to kill, who could be mentally, and emotionally unpredictable, and dangerous, whether to themselves or others.
Growing up in the UK as a child it hurt to watch movie villains who were repeatedly of
Arab descent, to watch Omrish Puri in Indiana Jones. There were no heroes of colour, no average everyday people of colour, going about their lives on TV. Each time I saw myself, each time I recognised someone as a reflection it was as a beaten wife, a bomb-carrying villain, a manipulative threat to the decent upstanding western world.
A radical departure and subversive plot would have been to explore the reality. If any production company wants to commission me, and a more diverse team, to truly investigate the threat our nation faces please do get in touch. There is a group of us who would create an original, intelligent piece for you without resorting to well-worn tropes, whilst questioning and asking so much more of our viewers. Is drama truly of any use if the entertainment does not achieve a level of engagement without resorting to sensationalism to make up for poor thinking, and lack of imagination? A chance to explore what is at the root of all the major threats at play in the world currently, toxic masculinity.
Creating a story which unfolds with a woman, a brown Muslim woman, appearing to be coerced, petrified, at risk was a punch in the guts to every single woman of colour. A reminder that we are seen as oppressed, and that White men in certain places still wish
to maintain that status quo. To then go on to stitch together a complex series of threads to create a lacklustre, stereotypical, unrealistic narrative shows a lack of intelligence. It shows a team where research was lacking, and we are all led to believe what we are told, that a woman of colour, one who chooses to wear a hijab can be powerful; but the only way she can achieve this is through anger, violence, vengeance.
This is the very reason I choose to follow my gut: if the first episode a drama shows its racism and the fact that its writers are part of societal patriarchy, I will believe it
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Tashmia Owen is a writer for Sister-hood, founder of Inayat Project, film-maker, youth counsellor, blogger and domestic violence campaigner. She is on Twitter as @dancinginshado www.dancinginshadows.com
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