Something I've been thinking of for a while:
Lenny Henry was recently embroiled in a race row over lack of non-white people in television, both in front of the camera and behind it. Read the Guardian article
, it's excellent and brings up a number of important points. Reading over it again, I think I agree with just about everything in it. But the part I want to discuss particularly is:
As well as more diversity in the industry, more ideas from a wider range of writers, producers and directors are vital to hold up a mirror to contemporary Britain, he says. In the speech, he joked about Sunday being the night that the National Front would stay in and watch television that depicted "blue skies, green fields, white people".
Not much has changed, he ventures, with the wall to wall period dramas that now dominate - including Lark Rise to Candleford, starring his wife Dawn French. As a recent English graduate, he is bursting with ideas for other adaptations that don't always feature an overload of "bonnets and crinolines".
Now, I will admit freely that I am fairly in love with costume dramas. They're the one genre which I will go out of my way to watch; not even sci-fi or comedy gets that kind of viewer loyalty from me. And I fully agree that it would be brilliant
to see something that wasn't part of the BBC's stock parade of empire waistlines and pantaloons, much as I adore them, and particularly something that isn't whiter than a BNP meeting. And no, random black characters showing up in 12th century England or as vicars in the Victorian age doesn't help, I don't think, since it only gets the producers ridiculed. Even Djaq in Robin Hood
, much as I love her, makes no sense in context (interestingly enough, I think the writers are much more comfortable with her gender issues than her race issues).
So. What novels, what stories do you have in mind that would make for brilliant adaptations, that feature characters of colour?Wide Sargasso Sea
(done in the last two years, but only as a complement to the all-white Jane Eyre
)Death Comes As the End
(Ancient Egyptian murder mystery)Gilgamesh
(along with truly great adaptations of the Iliad
. Though Gilgamesh
would almost certainly work better in a cinema, where it could be properly epic)The Queen's Fool
(centred around a Jewish girl in Tudor England)A Great and Terrible Beauty
(admittedly, not a finished series. But it has crinolines and
Indian characters. Well, one. It probably doesn't qualify for this list, thinking about it.)
Last, and this is only because I'm reading it right now, a Count of Monte Cristo
series which incorporates the book's actual ending (where he marries his Indian slave, Haydée, rather than Mercedes) would be fantastic. I'm just up to the part where he's actually put in prison, so I don't know how uncomfortable the race issues get to a modern audience; please feel free to smack me down on this one.
My pipedream: a series, probably for children, which tells a different mythological story each week. Animated, to save on costs, and done sort of Jackanory
style (based on my very, very vague memories of Jackanory
). Sheherezade could be the narrator and it's not like you'd ever, ever run out of material. The Arabian Nights
alone could go for years. A lot of them would have to be watered-down for after-school fare (can you imagine trying to explain that one story about Horus and Set? "Well, they had sex but Horus caught Set's semen in his mouth and spat it out into the river and then he jacked off onto some lettuce..."), which makes my inner classical scholar cry a little, but even so.