Are are in the middle of a culture war? Some say that a battle is being waged to determine what language we are allowed to use and the way that we communicate our thoughts and feelings to each other. Others say that the culture war is a myth dreamt up by old fusties who want to cling to a dying culture that is ebbing of its own accord. It is rumoured that the term ‘culture war’ was coined by a privileged white man who should have gone home before his fifth pint of Old Spittle and Twig at the Fox and Crumpet.
Our culture is central to our humanity. It allows us to express who we are, and it gives us a sense of ourselves. Films, TV dramas, music and books touch us emotionally and give us stories that provide meaning. No-one wants a ‘culture war’, but we do need change. As a new generation writers, film makers, educators and drama commissioners emerge, they will shape our culture for us. Let’s look at what they’re up to:
For too long straight people have played the roles of gay characters. How can they understand the experience of living as a gay man? Actors should bring their reality to the roles that they play.
Perhaps we could empty the prisons to fill the many TV character roles available for murderers, gangsters, rapists and sociopaths? Lived experience for some can become a deathly experience for others – and we can watch!
Acting # 2
There has been much talk of ‘decolonising the curriculum’ in schools, but what about television? Casting black actors in 18th and 19th century dramas, could show that black people were leading historical figures in the past. Perhaps, we can we look forward to an Afro-Caribbean Cecil Rhodes or an Asian Clive of India, in forthcoming costume dramas? This would both ‘decolonise’ TV drama and educate young people about a history that has not previously existed. If history is reinvented for the present it can be useful for the future.
Some people want to protect old statues, many of which are imperial generals that they’ve never heard of.
We have a responsibility to educate ourselves about past wrongs and this is why they should be removed from our towns and cities. The empty plinths will stand as an education to future generations, informing them that there was once somebody who did something, at some point, but no-one can remember any more. In this way future generations will understand what we stood for and what we believed in.
TV soaps, used to deal with the tribulations of everyday life – unrequited love, marital infidelity, misunderstandings, mistakes and tragic mishaps. But, the old communities have disbanded and the characters and their stories have been replaced with ‘issues’. TV soaps used to bring a little drama into our homes, now they bring dramatic effect to the issues of the day. We all love to relax, after a hard day’s home-schooling, with an episode of Coronation Street dealing with male rape and mental illness. Helpfully, programmes now start with a trigger warning ‘this episode contains scenes of sociopathic behaviour’, and ends with a list of helplines ‘for those who have been affected by the issues raised in this programme’. Likeable characters are history.
In the olden days, adverts vied for our attention to sell products and make money for companies. ‘Our oven chips are tasty’, ‘Our insurance is cheap’. Nowadays, adverts promote ‘lifestyles’. Companies compete with each, not sell products, but see how many mixed race couples they can cram into every scene. ‘Look, we’re a cool healthy family, smiling and laughing and saving the environment together, oh we’re also eating oven chips, but they’re made with organic hemp oil, so that’s good too’.
David Attenborough was once famous for playing with orangutans and making beautiful natural history documentaries. He nurtured our appreciation of far off lands and enriched our love of nature. Nowadays, David is playing with a different group of primates, politicians, and issuing scary pronouncements of impending doom. Relaxed Sunday evenings, on BBC1, are the nostalgic memories of a previous age.
It’s not cricket
In the olden days, people used to show deference to authority, and we performed rituals that demonstrated conformity with accepted behaviour. Nowadays, we do not show blind obedience to those in charge. However, some relics of past behaviour have been re-invented in contemporary culture. Many footballers ‘take the knee’, before kick-off, as a collective display of absolution. Perhaps they are signalling to their fans that there is a greater God than football? It is hoped that fans will join them, at home, in common prayer.
Some working-class people like to hang the flag of a pre-medieval saint, St. George, from their windows. This is a vulgar remnant of a bygone age, when national belonging had meaning. In the culturally advanced sections of our society, flags are understood to be vulgar and divisive. However, the rainbow flag of sexual diversity flutters everywhere. This flag shows that sexuality is more important than national belonging and the celebration of difference is what unites us. We alone, together, united under a new flag.
In the olden days, heroism was the ability to overcome adversity. In recent films, the main characters show greater depth. They are flawed individuals, who relive unresolved issues from their past and
battle with their psychological demons. This demonstrates that weakness is strength and heroism is the acceptance of failure. Only when we constantly relive unresolved psychological issues, can we truly be strong.
Even though women believe that they are real, they have actually been ‘socially constructed’. Gender Studies has taught us that women are merely an ideological gender creation and need to be deconstructed. Every woman is now free to choose a new name for herself. Some may stick with ‘Joanne’ or ‘Khadija’. Others may plumb for ‘womxn’, ‘breeder, or ‘womb owner’ and mothers can adopt the name ‘chest-feeder’.
Is the fabric of our society being torn apart by a culture war? Perhaps we have simply forgotten what it is that stitches us together?