Chelmsley Wood Baptist Church faith//hope//love

  • Not really like us?

    Well I watched People Like Us and it wasn’t the hatchet job I expected, although this is only the first show. In a way I enjoyed the show, in the way that it’s ok to laugh at your own family, but no one else should. And I did laugh. Which is probably what is wrong with it. On reflection (i.e. I’ve slept), I think the show is perhaps more unpleasant than it seems.

    My two main criticisms would be the lazy stereotyping and the factual inaccuracy demonstrated. Laughing at people on council estates has been a middle class hobby for years, and something the BBC also enjoys. The show set out to show an estate full of high rise flats, virtually every bit of padding showed a block of flats. The film makers must have really worked at the editing to give that stereotype, as most people in Chelmsley live in houses. It also feeds the snobbery over regional accents. Quite why the myth persists that to have a regional accent implies a lack of intelligence I don’t know, but the program buys into it and the social media conversations lapped it up. Not only do these people live in a flat (shock!), have a child (what, out of wedlock!), and not have a job (outrageous), they also have a regional accent (it’s the end of the British Empire!).

    The show implied that to live on an estate you would be, single parent, overweight, relationally dysfunctional, possible drug user and involved with crime (apologies for the charicature). It also fed stereotypes by talking about unemployment, not employment, I think the stats say about 1 in 10 of working age people are out of work locally. You do the maths.

    The show was inaccurate because Chelmsley Wood featured very rarely on the show, instead we see Castle Bromwich, Tile Cross, Shard End, Kingshurst, Mackadown, and a regular shot of the same block of flats in Chelmsley. It would appear that Dragonfly, the producers of the show, were unable to meet their stereotype quota locally so had to go further afield. This inaccuracy links with the prejudice because the show is based on a certain view of ‘life on the estate’ and has to manipulate the facts in order to fulfil that. To show anything else wouldn’t work in the entertainment field, although the show does masquerade as some kind of documentary about a community. In reality the show is about a handful of people who live in about 6 different areas of Solihull and Birmingham.

    So I did enjoy the show, but only in a Jeremy Kyle kind of a way, where you almost have to forget that these are human beings and treat them as ‘characters’, which is what the show does. And despite the protests I’m sure they would make, the show does treat these people as that. The film makers weren’t local, they don’t understand or have any commitment to our community. They came in and made a film which they then sold to the BBC, that’s it. The result is that the prejudiced views of our area are reinforced, after years of the community and Council working to change that. Whilst this kind of show is amusing on one level, on a deeper level it is insidious and destructive to the people and communities it purports to portray. The irony is you could shoot exactly the same show in Windsor and find exactly the same types of people, but then, we couldn’t laugh at ‘poor people’ could we?

    However, despite this attempt to sabotage our community, I know that this show is not the truth and whilst this kind of prejudice is still socially acceptable communities like ours will always be at the kicking end. But we will survive it, and keep challenging the stereotypes. Our community does have some issues, but hey, welcome to world! But we will continue to be a warm, friendly, active and fun community with all kinds of people and goings on. Welcome to Chelmsley Wood, come over and see us some time.

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Neil (the minister) occasionally gets round to blogging so welcome to the trivia and ramblings of an erratic stream of consciousness.

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