Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Creating Diversions

Today, Channel 4 announced that they are issuing strict diversity guidelines to ensure there is greater diversity and representation in shows being commissioned. This means that commissioned dramas and comedies must have at least one lead role played by a BAME, LGBT or disabled performer and 50% of lead roles are to be played by women, if there are no other minorities featured.

So far, so bloody brilliant. But unfortunately these guidelines have been brought in with a threat to cut Channel 4 executives' bonuses if they fail to meet diversity targets.


Because there’s nothing like seeing diversity on TV and knowing it’s there because an exec has been bribed with money. That’s a definite victory for female, disabled, LGBT and BAME performers everywhere. Getting to be on telly because someone’s been threatened with having their pocket money cut is what we all dream of.

What we actually need is encouragement for dramas and comedies to be created with these under-represented groups because it’s more interesting watching something that isn’t just a bunch of white men dicking about. What we don’t want are so-called “minority” performers being crowbarred into programmes, especially given the way that these characters can be sometimes written...

Women can be fully dressed for the duration of their screen time. They can be over 18. They don’t have to be but they can. They can also be over a size 6. Again, they don’t have to be but they can. They can also have a role that isn't defined by their relationship with the leading white male.

Not all BAME males are criminals. Or shop owners. Or wise-quipping mates. They can also have a role that isn't just a bit part in furthering the lead white male's story.

Not all BAME females are oppressed, a sassy best friend or over-sexualised. They can also have a role that isn't just a bit part in the lead female's life, the female who is in a relationship with the lead white male.

When establishing an LGBT character, their first scene doesn’t HAVE to be about confirming their sexual orientation with the audience. They can also have a role that doesn't require them to deal with an unrequited love for or from the lead white male. 

Disability doesn’t necessarily mean being in a chair. Or being a pitiful character. But, likewise, they don’t have to be the villain either. That’s not the way to show you’re TOTALLY RELAXED ABOUT WRITING A CHARACTER WITH A DISABILITY. They can also have a role that doesn't involve them being called upon to give advice to the lead white male.

Basically, don’t base the character’s character on their minority status. You don’t have to ignore it completely but female, BAME, LGBT and disabled characters can have depth too.  If our streets were full of such stereotypes it would be bloody weird, and it’s no different on our screens too. 

Hopefully these new guidelines will be a celebration of the UK's diversity without a crowbar in sight. Hopefully they'll allow previously unseen performers have a chance. Hopefully it'll make television even more brilliant than it already is and be the shake-up that this industry needs. Hopefully I'll finally get a telly credit on my CV... 


Many thanks to @margojmilne, @daisymartey, @hayleynovember & @ShamirDawood who all helped with this blog. 

1 comment:

  1. I just wrote you a lovely long comment and blogspot ate it... *le sigh*

    This would be a good opportunity for Channel 4 to embrace genderblind, colourblind, queerblind and abilityblind casting and then tweak the characters to the actors, if necessary. Because very few people are defined entirely by any one of those things.

    The problem is the default white male and the pervasiveness of that concept at every stage of the production process. I want to move away from "the girl character" and "the gay character", because those aren't real life things.