Thursday, March 24, 2011

Midsommer Murders

There has been a lot of fuss about the alleged racist remarks by Brian True-May, the producer of the TV series Midsommer Murders. For those who haven't seen it on cable or daytime television, it is set in rural England: Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire or Oxfordshire, where in these Olde Worlde villages a couple of murders are committed every week in usually quite bizarre ways in order to be solved by the unflappable Chief Inspector Barnaby and his sidekick DS Jones (Jones is the third of his sergeants, the series has been running for so long). In fact the actor, John Nettles, who was once Jersey detective, Bergerac, has just retired to be replaced by Neil Dudgeon, who plays Barnaby's cousin of the same name and rank. Dudgeon has appeared twice before earlier in the series, playing villains.

True-May's great sin was to declare that there has never been a black or brown face in the show, because that would detract from the impression of rural England. Although London is thoroughly multicultural, villages like Great Missenden, where True-May lives, has far less than 0.1% members of ethnic minorities. The villages of Midsommer reflect that 'native Englishness' and True-May wants it preserved. The PC brigade have been all over him, though why they should mind is a mystery to me. There is such a thing as an off switch. I came across this extract from an essay by George Santayana, written in 1922, which expresses quite well this notion of 'Englishness':

Instinctively the Englishman is no missionary, no conqueror. He prefers the country to the town, and home to foreign parts. He is rather glad and relieved if only natives will remain natives and strangers strangers, and at a comfortable distance from himself. Yet outwardly he is most hospitable and accepts almost anybody for the time being; he travels and conquers without a settled design, because he has the instinct of exploration. His adventures are all external; they change him so little that he is not afraid of them. He carries his English weather in his heart wherever he goes, and it becomes a cool spot in the desert, and a steady and sane oracle amongst all the deliriums of mankind. Never since the heroic days of Greece has the world had such a sweet, just, boyish master. It will be a black day for the human race when scientific blackguards, conspirators, churls, and fanatics manage to supplant him.

Although Inspector Barnaby has moved with the times and now drives a Volvo, in the past he has stuck to Rovers and Jaguars and his spirit remains in 1922. This is Agatha Christine without the Art Deco, and what's wrong with that? Over 250 murders in quaint English villages? Hot Fuzz! It's a fantasy! Every bit as much as The Prisoner or Wallace and Grommit.

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