Tuesday, 18 October 2016
You can keep your grit
Hmmm. Unsurprisingly, Ken Loach - the enfant terrible of "kitchen sink realism" - has criticised our appetite for the "fake nostalgia" of costume dramas....
Mr Loach's variously successful dramas embrace "gritty mundanity", and everyone in them (so it seems) just has to suffer. His lead characters are people such as "an unemployed recovering alcoholic in Glasgow" (My Name is Joe), "an unemployed worker and member of the Communist Party of Great Britain who decides to fight for the republican side in the Spanish Civil War" (Land and Freedom), "brothers who join the Irish Republican Army to fight for Irish independence from the United Kingdom" (The Wind That Shakes the Barley), a boy brought up in the grim North of England whose only "friend" (a kestrel) is brutally strangled by his bully-boy brother (Kes), or a homeless woman whose harrowing screams as her children are taken off her by Social Services traumatised viewers for years (Cathy Come Home).
Downton Abbey, Brideshead Revisited, Pride and Prejudice, Upstairs Downstairs, The Jewel in the Crown, The Duchess of Duke Street, Cranford, I Claudius, Poldark and the rest, however, provide viewers with sumptuous settings, beautiful people, extravagant clothing and jewellery, country houses, polite manners, grand vistas and arch dialogue. In other words, nothing "gritty" at all. And all the better for it, in my opinion!
Give me an escapist faux-historical hour or so of wallowing in the glamorous lives of the type of people who I'll never meet, or worse, never be (even a crap one such as Mr Selfridge or the ill-considered "update" of Upstairs Downstairs), and I am happy.
I am not convinced, however, that Ken Loach could ever be described as such.
So, dear reader - which do you prefer?