Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Channel 4's 40 years after 1967 season....

Channel 4's season commemorating 40 years after the passage of the Sexual Offences Act 1967 is nearly over.

So far we have had A Very British Sex Scandal. An excellent and very well done recounting of the sensational trial of Peter Wildeblood and Lord Montagu showing the impact that criminalisation had on gay life (people being wary of telling each other their names, burning their letters to each other so they wouldn't risk being incriminated against for example) in conjunction with reconstructions of hearings of the Wolfendon Committee.

The most poignant moment is during the trial where Peter Wildeblood admits to being a homosexual and starts to turn the tide of public attitudes leading to the setting up of the Wolfendon Committee which, ten years later led to decriminalisation (over 21 and in private - prosecutions actually went up after the 1967 Act).

I found How Gay Sex Changed the World to be incredibly old hat and tedious but with some interesting moments in the telling. Certainly didn't talk about the World though, which was a shame.

Most controversy attached to Clapham Junction. It's well worth watching but from the reaction and commentary I have seen appears to have been understood by very few people at all, with most people's reaction being "This doesn't represent gay life" as though the purpose of drama is to give a faithful representation of something - it isn't. Drama is there to give insights not representations; as though we all need showing what the gay life is really like; as though Romeo and Juliette is a faithful representation of what heterosexuality is like.

Put simply what Clapham Junction portrays (so far as I can tell) is how prejudices from a previous era are disrupting the lives of people today born into a world where there are Civil Partnerships, openly gay people in high ranking professions and so on.

Their lives are disrupted by the threat of violence - often through being in the worng place at the wrong time - the young gay man in murdered after using a toilet frequented by gay men but not doing anything himself and then getting chased into the common. No matter. He's not being bashed because of his having sex (he wasn't) but because the nexus of homophobia from when there weren't Civil Partnerships is ready and waiting as well as affecting the way people construct their relationships, through isolation, lack of role models and so on.

It is quite simply about the legacy of discirmination that still weighs heavily upon gay people and in some ways on all of us. To test this out would be very simple - have two men walk hand in hand throught he streets of most UK cities and I think it would be clear what the result would be.

Finally and most retro of all, the "discussion" programme chaired by David Aronovitch (whose writing I really like). This was utterly tedious, worthy and for the most part unwatchable garbage, starting off with the complete failure to understand the meaning of Clapham Junction but failed to achieve any sense of lift off or purpose with David Aronovitvh trying depsreately hard to be a hip with it heteresexual and completely at ease with the vacuous non-discussions around him - even descending at one point to talking as a cultural authority on account of his gay friends..... In the words of Sir Alan Sugar "What a load of old tut!", though I think Catherine Tate's Nan Taylor would have said it better.......

Hullo? Homosexuality still a criminal offence in around 90 countries of the world? Stonewall's recent report on the failure of schools to provide any kind of protection from homophobic bullying (which one of the commentators - no less than Mark Simpson - (who?) describes as being an expression of "homo-unease" which shouldn't worry us unduly....... I see, so that's all right then.

So two cheers for Channel 4 who have actually covered the bloody thing (shame on the BBC) and made an attempt and for two really good and challenging programmes, even though the utter lack of sophistication when reviewing the drama could have been ameliorated by a kind of interpretative 'key' to help well meaning heteresexuals (who were mercilessly parodied in Clapham Junciton by the way - deservedly so in my view) make any sense of it all.


  1. I didn't bother to watch the bloody things, as I was pretty sure they would be yawn-making. Can't stand Aaronovitch, anyway.

    You may like to look at Antony Grey's post today over on Anticant's Arena. He at least lived through it all.

  2. Having now watched the Montagu Trial reconstruction, I found it on the whole well done and in the main accurate [except for the fictional sex scenes]. The main fault was that none of the actors depicting the principal characters - Lord Montagu, Wildeblood, and John Wolfenden - bore any physical resemblance to their real-life originals.