Wednesday, 1 April 2009

The original's always the best.

First of all, I've put another book up on Tatty Jackets.

Secondly, I'm a bit bemused by the controversy - if there is indeed a fire lurking behind the Daily Mail's industrial smoke machine - surrounding the BBC's Robin Hood series. I seem to remember some previous grumblings about them making it all dumbed down and relevant (as if making a program no-one's interested in would be a better use of the license fee) but it's the introduction of a martial arts expert that's caused the latest kerfuffle. Hang about, that should read "black martial arts expert".

Now, I can sometimes be a stickler for historical accuracy, but it only has steam coming out of my ears when it's a rubbish, misleading reenactment in what's supposed to be a serious documentary. This is fiction. It's a fictional series loosely based around a character who has appeared in lots of other fiction. Absolutely none of his appearances can be considered more 'accurate' than the others.

Maybe some people would disagree and claim that you can trace a likely candidate for the 'real' Robin Hood, find his mortal remains, discover his height and build, run DNA tests, reconstruct his face, pin down exactly what years he was alive and dress him only in the fashion of the time, in the materials that would have been available. Above all, make sure he speaks only medieval English, in his local dialect. Oh, and perfect teeth are not an option.

Does this sound like any Robin Hood you've ever seen? A quick image search reveals variety of hair colours and facial hair arrangements, shoes ranging from hobnailed and durable, to ridiculously pointy:

There's been a futuristic Robin Hood, a vain, idiotic Robin Hood whose band was led by Maid Marion (also on the BBC) and I don't think that was considered a problem. Nor do I recall howls of protest when Disney "reinvented" Friar Tuck as a bear.

This process of making stories more relevant to the audience is not a feature of modern political correctness or dumbing down. It's been carried out in various art forms for centuries. Artists have always sought to present characters in a new light, to make their audience think and see new aspects of the stories or morals they portray. That's the whole damn point of art - that's what separates fiction from fact. Do an image search for Helen of Troy or the Virgin Mary (ignoring any result involving toast) and you'll see how their clothes and hairstyles and stance were altered as tastes changed. Those medieval manuscripts that every European country is so proud of - most of those are rehashed old tales, chopping and splicing stories from different centuries and different areas, changing names, adding or removing characters. Digressing from these 'original' stories isn't some kind of travesty or a betrayal of our heritage. It's merely continuing an artistic process that those manuscripts were one small part of.

I only read through a few of the readers' comments before deciding that life is too short for that kind of thing but I still found one worth getting very, very angry about.

Well what a surprise, the BBC does it again. They won't be happy until they have completely removed all traces of native English culture from our land by brainwashing the public, gradually introducing anti English and dare I say it anti White propaganda; and by the way, its not racist to highlight the concerns of white people who want to hold on to their own culture!

Why is it suddenly racist to say I'm proud to be White? It's not racist to openly say I'm proud to be Black!

Why is it racist to say I love my country and my culture? It's not racist for a Black person to say I'm proud my homeland and my culture!

Having other races and faiths in the UK is fine, but don't tell me I'm racist for being proud of who I am!

These issues are a concern when we have the BBC trying to rewrite history in an attempt to put other cultures first!
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- John, Birmingham, England, 28/3/2009 14:52

Now, David Harewood was born in Birmingham. He has British citizenship, and no other. The legends of Robin Hood are as much a part of his cultural heritage as of any other Brit. We could of course decide that only actors who can prove that all of their ancestors since the reign of King John were born on English soil are worthy enough to play these characters. On the other hand, that would result in Robin Hood disappearing from our screens altogether. Then we'd have a real example of 'native English culture' being lost.

As always, my heartfelt thanks go to MacGuffin and all other bloggers who trawl their way through the tabloids so the rest of us don't have to.