Archives for posts with tag: LGBT

It is often hard to work out who school-set dramas are pitched at. The teenage characters’ heady hormones are distant memories to many parents, while it is hard to imagine the younger generation being interested in storylines concerning the private lives of teachers. Both groups would feel that 50% of the show is uninteresting and a distraction from the stories that they do want to see.

Yet they are popular. The current horse from that stable is Ackley Bridge. It shares some key features with its predecessor Waterloo Road. Troubled school in a northern town. Plotlines that are soapy to the extreme. Relationships between teachers being every bit as rocky as those between the kids.

But Ackley Bridge is on Channel 4, so therefore is a little, but only a little closer to the edge in the social commentary it offers. For a start, this isn’t a comprehensive, but an academy. How much they explore the influence of ‘sponsors’ on how education is delivered remains to be seen, although there have been hints at it.

The big theme though is multi-culturism. This academy is formed from two previously segregated schools (not deliberately, just as a result of the postcode lottery our education system creates), one from a predominantly Asian community, the other largely white. The cultural conflicts form a major thrust of many of the storylines, whether it is exploring LGBT relationships in BME communities or the tension between assimilating into a nation whilst being proud of your religion.

There is some debate as to how much we should put these kind of issues through the soapy treatment shows like this create. It feels as if these issues are almost too big to be reduced to be mixed in with others plots like affairs. At the same time though, not everyone is going to watch a hard-hitting drama or searing documentary series, so if telling them the story through a slightly more trivial medium allows the message to spread wider then it is all to the good.

Of course, none of this matters if the show is rubbish. Well, it isn’t. Granted, I don’t love it. The headteacher-husband-sponsor love triangle is a bit too predictable, and I do wonder if there is perhaps one plot too many, making it hard to grasp on to any of the characters. But there are worthwhile storylines as well. Nasreen exploring her sexuality with the help of her friend Missy seems a strong seem to follow, and I’m intrigued enough to see where the Jordan Wilson plot goes to keep investing. Plus there is Sunetra Sarker playing the sassiest dinnerlady ever created.

At just six episodes, the first series may be too short to do it justice. But if it gets a second one, an extended run could help the show find its legs.

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It is always risky critiquing something that is ground breaking in its treatment of social issues. Be too harsh on it and you risk coming across as discriminatory, trying to defend white, middle-class male privilege. Ignore any faults and praise it unreservedly and you trip over into sycophancy and perhaps even patronising the group who you are exalting.

It is, therefore, a difficult line I must tread when discussing Boy Meets Girl, a sitcom about a man who falls in love with a woman who has transitioned from being a man. So let me start by talking about what I like about it, which is plenty. It is, overall, a sweet comedy. Although everyone has their faults, you feel as if they are fundamentally decent people. A favourite of mine is Lizzie Roper as Jackie. Yes, her character is often crude, but I feel there is more natural comedy from her than most of the cast, even those who also have comic form.

Which brings me to the first issue I have – it isn’t really that much of a sitcom. Yes, there are funny moments, but at times the comedy is so gentle it feels like some kind of televisual sedative. It takes Roper bounding on to the screen to shake it up. There doesn’t feel to be a build up to a glorious final moment. Neither did Gavin & Stacey, but that had a stronger ensemble, even minor characters being given enough quirks to drive a scene. In short, Boy Meets Girl lacks the situation half of the sitcom.

The other issue I have is that I don’t feel as if I know enough about Judy or Leo. They must have other people in their lives besides their families. They must both have at least a best friend. Leo has only just started a job, so we are only just seeing work colleagues, but Judy must have some. It is as if their characters entirely depend on being ‘trans-person’ and ‘fiancé of trans-person’. Surely there is space to give them fuller lives than this?

Having said that, this show is a sign of the progress we are making. It is amazing how little people are aware of trans-issues, especially outside big cosmopolitan environments. Reflecting the LGBT community in popular culture is important in generating tolerance and acceptance, even more so when it is people who have transitioned playing the roles. So, yes, credit where it’s due. But there is still a degree of opportunity wasted.