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Reality is so horrible that we need places to hide

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2018-10-10 Daily Record.jpg


HAVING spent many recent evenings in front of the telly, I'm thinking that the world might be getting better.

Bodyguard, watched by nearly 11million, showed a terrorist plot to kill the female home secretary being investigated by two top-level police officers, also women. The forces they commanded had black and Asian officers in positions of authority.

The plot's final twist was that everyone was so conditioned to think of Muslim women as victims that they did not realise that they were holding a skilled female bomb maker in custody and treating her with kid gloves.

Then there was Killing Eve. This genre-mashing cat-and-mouse thriller saw a renegade intelligence officer played by Sandra Oh chasing mercurial assassin Villanelle. The fact that the MI5 operative and the psychopath were both women was one of the more believable aspects of the bonkers plot.

Then, on Sunday night, a record number of viewers tuned in to see Jodie Whittaker regenerate as the 13th Doctor. She managed the transition from shouty white-haired Scottish man to cheery northern women absolutely fine.

The doubters who insisted that no one would buy into an intergalactic time traveller who emerges out of a spinning police box Wearing a bra have been proved wrong.

For those of us who are weary of watching men solving the world's problems white women make sandwiches and take their clothes off in the background, this is all cheering stuff Finally, we get to see women doing the important stuff. Making policy. Wearing goggles and welding herself a new sonic screwdriver. Stabbing to order.

It's just television. Entertainment. Doctor Who and Killing Eve are not documentaries. Far-fetched plots are nothing new but this feels different.

It's not Inspector Morse, where we are expected to believe that there is a murder in Oxford once a week. These shows take an imaginative leap. They are a glimpse of what society could look like. Should look like. Will, hopefully, look like one day soon.

Now Daisy Goodwin, who produced and wrote Victoria, is pouring a bucket of cold water over the warm glow of my prime-time viewing.

She's warning that this kind of wishful thinking programming is lulling viewers into a false sense of security.

Her fear is that gender-balanced telly - where women can be world-saving nerds, bomb disposal experts, jihadi engineers and corrupt police officers - gives young viewers the wrong idea.

"Splendid as the notion is that women are now seamlessly integrated into every aspect of authority, it is at best wishful thinking and at worst undermines the fight for equality," she wrote in the Radio Times.

She understands why Jed Mercurio, who wrote Bodyguard, would create so many strong female characters. She admitted that she tried to make Queen Victoria more sympathetic to a 21st century viewer.

"But the problem with wishful thinking is that it lulls us all into a false sense of equality; Goodwin added.

Surely, if anyone was lulled into a false sense of equality, staying tuned for the news would soon bring it crashing to the ground.

The sight of an all-male, all-white Senate committee questioning Christine Blasey Ford, or Donald Trump mocking her at a rally, is enough to kill any warm fuzzy feelings created by a TV drama.

Reality is so horrible that we need some places to hide. No one can watch The Handmaid's Tale every night. There's a place for fiction that is optimistic and imaginative and hopeful.

Viewers of-all ages, especially young ones, need to see the shining possibilities as well as the grim truth.

You can't be what you can't see.

Caption: TRANSITION Jodie Whittaker as first female Doctor

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