Tyrannosaur: all working class men are violent, racist thugs who take out their anger on their pets. All women are gentle natured victims of male rage. The Irish working class and the Scottish working class are also violent and racist, with the addition of being chronic alcoholics.

Paddy Considine is following in the footsteps of Gary Oldman and Tim Roth, in marking his directorial debut with an unrelentingly grim portrayal of human relationships. Characters who embody just one trait are known as stock characters. Real people are paradoxical: they love and hate, they are charming and vile, monstrous and gentle. It is the job of a writer to construct characters with complexity, who are distinctive, and not merely ‘types’.

For a short period I wrote storylines for a popular soap. The producer at the time said that we couldn’t have characters who read books as working class people didn’t read. If we did show a character reading, this trait was to characterise their oddness. They were freaks. I found this deeply patronising and disturbing, rather like Oxbridge journalists writing for The Sun, putting on pretend working class voices and opining fake working class views.

It is entirely possible that Paddy Considine has merely written what he knows. For this he has to be forgiven. What is more baffling is how the funders for these projects part with their cash, to see yet another clichéd portrayal of working class life. The majority funder in this case was the National Lottery. A case of stealing from the poor to steal from the poor. We woz robbed twice. This film won a BAFTA award, along with a string of other awards. The acting is exemplary. As you would expect with a cast comprising of Peter Mullan, Olivia Colman and Eddie Marsan. I can fully understand why Mark Kermode hailed Olivia Colman’s performance.

Why, when film industry creatives in this country want to show their integrity, does this invariably translate as dramatising anal rape and domestic violence? And why is there such an appetite for viewing such scenes of abuse? Why can’t we make films in this country with the subtlety and originality of Lee Chang-Dong’s Poetry? It seems that if you want plaudits in British cinema – take a story of domestic strife we see every day in our soap operas, and instead of showing the marital couple arguing, show the husband pissing on the wife. This does not indicate integrity to me. It belittles human experience and it insults the viewer. Despite the clever and genuinely shocking twist at the end, I felt cheated and violated by the experience.

Michael Stewart



About headspam

I'm a writer from Salford, now based in Bradford. I've written for theatre, radio and TV. And the following books: King Crow (novel: Bluemoose Books); Couples (poetry: Valley Press); Cafe Assassin (novel: Bluemoose Books); Mr Jolly (short stories: Valley Press) Author page: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Michael-Stewart/e/B007N2ZOQS/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_3?qid=1461838889&sr=8-3
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  1. I agree completely with your explanation of why TV soaps are so boring. The so-called characters lack any hint of depth or internal contradiction. It does seem incomprehensively wasteful to place such narrow restrictions on characterisation. Because the characters lack substance and interest, so do the plots. I wonder if this is part of the same malaise that causes me to say, frequently, to the TV set, "He/she is playing the same character he/she always plays". I sometimes think that the casting of roles should be nationalised, and a doctrine enforced whereby an actor who plays (for example) a hard-drinking detective in his first role is not allowed to play an alcoholic or a policeman for 3 years.

  2. Michael Stewart says:

    An excellent suggestion Mr WTG… to be presented at the next Equity AGM?

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