Friday, 12 August 2011

Pan Am PC

As false as it is fatuous.

Come back, Don Draper; all is forgiven.

One of the reasons why George MacDonald Fraser hated political correctness was that it was a distortion of history.  He once took to task a film critic who hated how Northwest Frontier depicted an Indian rtain driver as having a Peter Sellars-style accent.  Fraser pointed out that what the critic objected to wasn't that some Indians actually do talk like that, but that the film admitted it!

So it is with Pan Am (ABC's Mad Men rip-off),  where smoking and race in 1963 are distorted to adhere to the Party Line of 2011 with black stewardesses when none existed (amazing that they aren't called "flight attendants") and a world where no one smokes.  In 1963.  When they had ashtrays next to lift buttons in office buildings!

None of this is surprising.  It's one of the things that annoy me about the new Doctor Who.  The tendency of the producers to shove blacks into any historical setting no matter how improbable is grating as it jams it's anachronistic finger into my eye.  A black family at a Coronation block party in London?  Possible, but highly improbable.  Given the demographics, you'd be more likely to see a Chinaman there.  And why wasn't one included?  No doubt it's the product of a casting director who looks at the homogenous faces in photos of VE day and assume that all the minorities were carefully airbrushed out.

Fraser summed up this whole attitude beatifully with this anecdote:
I first came across this in the United States, where the cancer has gone much deeper. As a screenwriter I once put forward a script for a film called The Lone Ranger, in which I used a piece of Western history which had never been shown on screen and was as spectacular as it was shocking - and true.

The whisky traders of the American plains used to build little stockades, from which they passed out their ghastly rot-gut liquor through a small hatch to the Indians, who paid by shoving furs back though the hatch.

The result was that frenzied, drunken Indians who had run out of furs were besieging the stockade, while the traders sat snug inside and did not emerge until the Indians had either gone away or passed out.

Political correctness stormed onto the scene, red in tooth and claw. The word came down from on high that the scene would offend "Native Americans".

Their ancestors may have got pieeyed on moonshine but they didn't want to know it, and it must not be shown on screen. Damn history. Let's pretend it didn't happen because we don't like the look of it.

I think little of people who will deny their history because it doesn't present the picture they would like.

My forebears from the Highlands of Scotland were a fairly primitive, treacherous, blood-thirsty bunch and, as Robert Louis Stevenson once wrote, would have been none the worse for washing. Fine, let them be so depicted, if any film maker feels like it; better that than insulting, inaccurate drivel like Braveheart.

The philosophy of political correctness is now firmly entrenched over here, too, and at its core is a refusal to look the truth squarely in the face, unpalatable as it may be.

Political correctness is about denial, usually in the weasel circumlocutory jargon which distorts and evades and seldom stands up to honest analysis.

1 comment:

eon said...

Juan Trippe was unavailable for comments.