While I don't agree entirely with all of its arguments, this intellectually rich and provocative online article by the excellent Adolph Reed makes some very salient points about the neoliberal ontology of Tate Taylor's The Help and Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained. Worth a read.
I found a little bit of time to catch up with some recent television at the weekend. Having started with the imperative stuff (series 4 of The Thick of It, which, happily, seems to have found its dramatic feet again after the poor acting and rather irritating succession of one-liners last week), I turned my attention to more controversial fare - notably Citizen Khan, the BBC's new south Asian situation comedy starring Adil Ray, which has, predictably enough, been praised by right-wing pundits and excoriated by liberals.
Frankly, it's a bit of a throwback. The stereotypes (parking the second-hand prestige car on the pavement outside the house), settings (dun-coloured wallpaper, polythene sheets on the sofa) and jokes (mother-in-laws) are mostly drawn from the sitcom repertoires of the 1970s. There's even a canned laughter track. You just don't expect to see such dated comedy on twenty-first century television, any more than you'd expect to see, say, Martin Amis in a Toby Carvery.
Comparisons are being made, not entirely unfairly, between Citizen Khan and the racist late-1970s language college comedy Mind Your Language. In the earlier comedy, minority characters behave like childish morons, reproducing a very narrow set of stereotypical mannerisms, while the college's long-suffering white teacher, played by Barry Evans, wearily tries to bring order to a classroom that threatens to be overwhelmed by ethnic idiocies. Citizen Khan is nowhere near as insulting to its ethnic minority characters and its references to religious and ethnic particularisms are balanced by 'safer', 'universal' themes of marital and inter-generational strife familiar from 'white' sitcoms like My Family. Yet even here the pre-eminence of white liberal decency is continually asserted through the well-meaning interventions of the ginger-haired mosque manager Dave, who tries, disastrously, to help Mr Khan's mother-in-law buy a cardigan in Marks and Spencer and dispenses relationship advice to the simple-minded young man Amjad Malik (there is perhaps a suggestion of ethnic/immigrant community in-breeding here).
One could go on. But suffice to say that BBC executives must be concerned by the show's dwindling audience and the number of complaints received by the BBC about the programme suggests that not everybody is finding it very bloody funny.
And while we're talking about TV stereotypes, I kind of wish that the writers of the Scottish sketch show Burnistoun would not bring so many of their sketches to a close with explosions of verbal violence or physical battery. I love the show, if only because it reminds me of my Caledonian homeland; and it's true that Scottish comedy has always embraced madness, mayhem, knockabout and the carnivalesque. But in 2012 the stereotype of the working-class Glaswegian psychopath seems a bit, well, played out. To paraphrase a character from Burnistoun's predecessor Chewing the Fat, they've taken that too far.