Friday, June 19, 2009


It is suggested that after word of mouth, the dramatic and entertaining narrative can be a one of the most powerful persuasive tools. The reason why soaps such as Eastenders and Hollyoaks are often used for social marketing and awareness campaigns (safe sex, HIV, child abuse) is that while audiences are caught up in the personal narrative of the character's lives they are also receiving a range of messages about the things happening to that character. The Mark Fowler narrative in Eastenders provided the audience with an insight into what it was like to be HIV positive and how fear-based discrimination impacted on the person and their family. It cultivated new ideas and promoted understanding. Mostly such things are fairly worthy but there is a lot of propaganda and branding as well, US films promote images of the nation and its history as well as ideological perspectives of events; perhaps not so worthy.
It struck me while suffering the second part of May Contain Nuts last night that I was watching another example of this. It was a left wing perspective of society that pitted the underprivileged against the elite with a well meaning, aspirational but in many ways hapless couple caught in the middle with their principles being questioned continually and often failing right up until the end. The Yuppie or Sloane Ranger, epitomised in the character of Ffion (with two F's) exhibited a narrow-minded, self-centred individualistic character that is the product of Thatcher's Britain. But few positives were attached to the character, she expected the mother of the mathematically gifted black girl from the local council estate, refused a scholarship at the Chelsea School for Girls, to be a prostitute and drug addict. While the simplistic plot of mother trying to get her daughter into the school, taking her daughter's exam for her, being helped out by the gifted black girl, and then finally admitting that she had cheated was the central narrative there was far more to it. There was a highly negative portrayal of the values of the private school and its attitude to underprivileged families. There was a damning of the aspirant middle class that are removed from and look down on council estates, secondary schools and the state sector generally.
Little surprise it was written by John O'Farrell, as a left winger this is clearly an ideological perspective of the world that contains a certain degree of truth but builds up characters as rather one sided stereotypes constructed to build a narrative. But its pro-secondary school narrative also has a sense of the personal and political about it. He is a staunch Labour supporter and activist, and his vision of society is consistent with the party ethos whether we recognise that to be the case or not based on the behaviour of the government or its members. Equally he is a governor of Lambeth Academy, so has a vested interest in promoting a rosy view of the state school. None of that suggests anything sinister or serious, and there are plenty of political narratives out there that present perspectives of society from ideological perspectives. The general question is whether these things should be presented as entertaining dramatic and fictional perspectives, or whether there should be a caveat on many of these to say written from a, in this case, pro-Labour, socialist perspective? Just a question!!


Matt Hurst said...

Many dramas and so on are written by people who have an interest in those issues, would George Orwell's books have to say written by a left leaning socialist.

And then what should the papers carry, they claim impartiality but we all know the overwhemling bias towards a more consertative society within their pages bar the odd exception.

Take the example of Dr Who, you get some annoying "Who fans" who claim because Russell T Davies introduces the odd Gay Character that he's somehow promoting the "Gay Agenda" it's utter rubbish however because for starters DR Who seems to find a hetrosexual love interest in every series.

If the right can play the cards through the media, then so surely so can the left.

Shane Horsfall said...

Darren when it's left wing propaganda it's not actually propaganda it's the truth!

And when it's John O'Farrell's truth it's either pretty funny or touching truth!

Darren G Lilleker said...

Truth eh, there's a huge concept. I think it was Sartre who said there is no such thing as truth, I think I'm with him