17 February, 2007

Oh no... not again...

So, my new job involves working with archive material. I started on 2 January and I'm with a very lovely team of people who all want to work hard and do their best. It's amazing how being placed on a project with funding, purpose, future direction and a lot of love can do wonders for the sense of self-worth. I still get very down about the usual relationship issues but generally my work-mood has been up-up-UP!


We've discovered something that's a teensy bit upsetting about the past. See, people were racist - openly so - none of your coded could-be-just-institutional-racism that we saw in recent weeks with Big Brother. No, this is open sneering from a travelogue reporter about the locals. It's marginalised stereotyping. It's..


I'm old enough to remember The Black & White Minstrel Show from the 1970s, just before Bill Cotton took it off, and to be honest, I was more concerned by how boring it was, and I still am. Still, it's history and as Spike Lee's film Bamboozled shows, there's still a lot of talent involved in those minstrel shows, even if the stereotypes we saw weren't hardworking 'Negro' entertainers but fat Welshmen with sponge wigs and cole-face makeup.

But some of my colleagues do get very worried by the fact that archive TV can be seen as 'A History of People Blacking Up', and it's easy to see why. It's partly guilt that our forefathers let this kind of thing happen for so long, it's partly because anything naughty can trigger inappropriate giggles in ourslves and it's partly because the Great British Public likes nothing better than a good moan at our expense. Moan because we show this kind of stuff. Moan because we don't show it at all any more. Moan because there are too many repeats. Moan because the TV's not as good as it used to be.

We're taking the approach that this is how TV was and that such material will receive suitable warnings before it's made available to the public, but we're still on edge.

And then yesterday, I watched a programme starring a much-loved fox-shaped puppet. First gag - 'What has 22 yellow legs and four wings? - A Chinese football team.

Oh, Basil - how could you?!

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