Posted Under: Racism/Fascism,Satire,Television
Last week Brian True-May was suspended as producer of everyone’s favourite rural English take on Nightmare on Elm Street, Midsomer Murders, for some slightly non-pc comments.
“We just don’t have ethnic minorities involved,” True-May said. “Because it wouldn’t be the English village with them… We’re the last bastion of Englishness and I want to keep it that way.”
Unsurprisingly, True-May’s assumption that audiences are as racist as he came across in that Radio Times interview attracted some criticism, not least from a “shocked and appalled” ITV themselves and from Charlie Brooker, who is right about everything except this. Because I think True-May’s detractors are being a little unfair. Midsomer Murders is not the product of a twisted bigot. It’s the vision of a brilliant and stalwart anti-racist hero who refuses to bow to the stereotypes of white and black, rich and poor.
Setting aside that I am from both an ethnic minority background and from a bastion of Englishness about ten times as rural as Midsomer, and bracketing for the moment the programme’s literary vision of an England that never really existed, it’s worth noting the show’s deep commitment to social realism. The programme’s depiction of incest, for example. There’s quite clearly plenty of that in the countryside, even if there are no black or Asian people. And the lack of expletives. People are almost definitely very polite to one another while hacking each other up with garden saws over some homosexual blackmail. Black mail, of course, not black people. But why?
Well, the answer to the show’s lack of ethnic minority characters is not due to the racism of the producer. Quite the opposite. And it can be found in what is probably the programme’s most fundamentally realistic element. It’s alarmingly high per capita murder rate.
Now, there have been 81 episodes thus far, with an average of three murders per episode. Assuming each episode takes place over the course of a week, that gives us 156 murders per year. The fictional county of Midsomer has much in common with Somerset which, in 2008 had an estimated population of 912,900. Assuming that Midsomer’s population is in the same region, that gives us an annual per capita murder rate of 17:100,000. That makes it higher than Mexico, where 13 people per 100,000 are murdered each year, higher than Zimbabwe at 7 people, the US at 4, and way above the UK average of 1.4:100,000. In fact, only Columbia, South Africa, Jamaica, Venezuela and Russia have higher per capita murder rates than Midsomer.
For a sleepy, middle-class community in rural England, this is of course highly accurate and the producers should be praised for creating not only a bastion of Englishness, but a bastion of realism. And True-May, far from being vilified as a racist, should be praised for promoting such a positive image of ethnic minorities.
After all, there are no black gangstas shooting up the hood, no Asian suicide bombers, no katana wielding Samauri. It’s all white on white violence. Quite clearly, True-May made a conscious decision to leave ethnic minorities out of Midsomer because he didn’t want to stereotype them. He wanted to get to the heart of human darkness, not in skin colour, but in the soul, showing that you don’t have to be working class, black or from a broken home to commit acts of depravity. The killer is in all of us, even in this rich white county where grime is what you get when your spouse (who statistically speaking is either a murderer or soon to be murdered) misses a spot under the windowsill, and the closest thing to hip-hop is your mother’s impending hip-op, which will invariably be performed by a budding Harold Shipman wannabe.
It is, of course, a constant source of amazement and amusement as to why anyone would want to live in a place that is only mildly safer than Helmand Province. I certainly wouldn’t. And in that, we can clearly see that True-May, far from excluding ethnic minorities, is portraying them as inherently sensible, rational people who would not, given the choice, opt to live in such high crime areas.
As such, Brian True-May is possibly the last bastion of anti-racism on English television.
Either that or he’s an idiot and it’s a really shit TV programme.