Dancing on Edge claims to be “about the rise to fame of a black jazz band in 1930s London at a time of extraordinary change.” The director, Stephen Poliakoff, says that he “decided to look at that time through the eyes of a fictional black band”, yet only one of the protagonists is black…
Am I the only person that recognises this as a problem? Surely if you are depicting a story about black people & music, majority of your protagonists should be black? Surely if you are writing from the point of view of black people, majority of your protagonists should be black? Granted, only one episode has been aired but from the advertisements, there is only one black protagonists & judging by the banner on the show’s website alone, you’d assume he was the only black character. The show initially begins with two black leads (or so you think), one then slips into the background & is then written off all together. I thought that maybe, just maybe, after all the drama & dance The Help stirred up, writers & directors would eagerly take note and memorise, meditate even, on the dos & don’ts. But here we are, almost a year & Obama’s second term (not that it really makes a difference) later, with Dancing on Edge. Frankly, it’s quite disappointing but what did I expect from the BBC? What does anybody expect from the BBC when it comes to race (& class) relations?…Not much.
The problem is that when we look at entertainment (film & literature in particular) that deals with race one thing is common, it is only really concerned with non-white in relation to white, or the East (i.e. everywhere that isn’t America or Europe) in relation to the West. The West is centralised while the East sits on the peripheral watching on as the West continues to tell it what it looks/sounds/feels/tastes like; or if the East does define itself, the West is only interested is if that definition is in relation to the West. And that, my friends, is a problem.
So while the BBC stay dancing on the edge of blackness, I will finish watching the series & I may have more to say, but I do hope that one day I will see, on the BBC, a drama* about a black English jazz band in the 1930s that is actually about a Black English jazz band.
And please, please don’t get me started on David Attenborough’s Africa.
- Specifically a drama, often when people of colour appear on the BBC, showing aspects of their culture it’s in comedy; with probably the exception of Small Island which I didn’t see.
Read what the director had to say.