I just watched the first episode of Noughts and Crosses, the beeb’s new Sunday night drama series, on iPlayer. I definitely wasn’t up to watching it properly when it aired, so I decided to wait before giving it a go. Now that I have, I find myself intrigued: it’s clearly a piece of television which one could write a lot about. For starters, the basic premise of a modern society in which ethnic roles have been reversed opens a giant can of worms: leaving aside basic questions such as how such a state of affairs could come about (one’s suspension of disbelief should deal with that), what I find more of an issue is that the fiction essentially assumes the audience already has ingrained notions regarding ethnic roles, which it then sets about playing with. That is to say, the premise of the fiction would not work if it did not presume the audience did not already have certain ingrained ideas about race and ethnicity. The only reason this television program might strike us as bold is because it inverts those roles, thus highlighting and exposing them; but that in and of itself assumes audience members already have certain ingrained ideas regarding notions like ‘race’. After all, go into the relevant literature and you will find that the very idea of race is a social construct, and a highly problematic one at that.
This is not to dismiss the program at all. I am sure I could go a lot deeper. Television like this virtually begs for analysis, and I can’t wait to read some of what no doubt will already have been written about it. The problem is, in trying to expose racial boundaries through their reversal, it automatically presumes that such boundaries exist, in effect reinforcing them. The fiction relies on real world notions and stereotypes, even at the very point at which it tries to reread them. Thus, in the program, people from Africa and Europe still behave in ways we stereotypically expect in the real world, even though the respective cultures would presumably have evolved very differently.
I won’t write any more until I have watched the rest of the series, but I must admit I’m intrigued, if just to see where the beeb are going with it. This program has the potential to be both controversial and problematic – plenty to get one’s teeth into, then.