Like many ideas that were once original, nowadays the idea of storytelling has become a cliche, used in marketing briefs to sell everything from baby food to Gucci socks. writes ALEXANDRA SHULMAN (pictured)
This year’s Bafta nominations include seven for Rocks (including Outstanding British Film and Best Director) – a vivid, moving and authentic look at the capital’s multicultural teenage life.
It’s directed by 50-year-old Sarah Gavron, a white woman educated at Camden School for Girls, one of London’s most sought-after state schools, who co-opted her young cast to work alongside her and writers Claire Wilson and Theresa Ikoko in creating the story.
By using input from the cast in this way, Gavron avoids the criticism, flung around so often at the moment, that those who don’t have personal experience of a situation do not have the right to engage in discussion of that subject.
American writer Jeanine Cummins, who is white, was heavily criticised online for American Dirt, her excellent novel about Mexican migrants attempting to reach the US border. And straight actors are regularly called out for being cast in gay roles.
The oft-quoted first line of journalist Joan Didion’s seminal 1969 essay The White Album is: ‘We tell ourselves stories in order to live.’
But like many ideas that were once original, nowadays the idea of storytelling has become a cliche, used in marketing briefs to sell everything from baby food to Gucci socks.
Unsurprisingly, in her Oprah interview, Meghan Markle refers to the importance of storytelling, although it was perhaps unfortunate that her example of a meaningful story was The Little Mermaid who lost her voice when she found her prince.
But it’s absolutely correct to say that each and every one of us needs a voice – one that we should feel free to use.
I am a white, 63-year-old female Londoner. I have no idea what it feels like to be a woman of colour. Although I had grandparents who had to flee antisemitic pogroms, my own life has not led me to see the world through the filter of that experience.
So I am not a member of one of those groups of people who – perhaps because of racism or a history of persecution – feel a collective identity more powerful than that of any individual.
But Meghan clearly is, because of her experiences as a biracial woman. When she lobs her explosive accusations of racism in the interview now seen by more than 50 million people, it’s important to accept that she believes everything she’s saying.
And it’s equally important to allow others of every colour to explore that issue without being automatically accused of racism themselves.
The fact that I am not from an ethnic minority should no more disenfranchise my reaction to the Oprah interview than Meghan’s feeling that she experienced racism should be ignored.
We have to be able to see issues from different viewpoints and avoid accusative pigeonholing. If not, surely we are all subscribing to a nightmarish existence where the only voices, the only stories, any of us hear are from an echo chamber.
AUTHENTIC SCENES: The movie Rocks, which is up for seven Baftas
Flash my thighs in a slit dress? Maybe not
Spring is springing, restrictions are loosening, the end of lockdown feels ever closer.
Now I want a new dress. Nothing too fancy, not a party dress (that still seems too far distant) but something to get me out of trousers and track pants and bulky skirts.
I have been trawling through the options, though I should know by now that finding the perfect dress is nigh on impossible.
My list of requirements is a print that’s not too girly, mid-length hem and sleeves, and absolutely no frills, flounces and bows.
Or, and here’s the real problem: no slits.
What is it with these slits? Why do so many otherwise delightful dresses have a thigh-high slit that’s often only clear when you zoom in on the details online.
Nothing wrong with a slit if that’s your thing, but their suggestive come-hither element would look ridiculous on me.
Maybe with so much emphasis on respectable table-top dressing for our on-screen life, designers feel we need to let loose our wilder side down below.
But I’d like to save the real world, when we emerge, from a view of my lockdown thighs.
Welcome back... to a 1970s Sunday
A FEW hours before the Oprah interview, I was walking home and was so pleased to see a wonderful display of balloons tied on to school railings and colourful ‘welcome back’ signs in the windows.
It made me wish I had a small child so I could share in the excitement first-hand.
Instead, much of the time I feel just like a teenager trapped in a permanent Sunday afternoon in the 1970s. No pubs or shops open, and nothing to do but go to the park.
My scruples melted under a patio heater
A year ago, David returned from a stroll and mocked the delivery of two patio heaters to a house up the road.
ALEXANDRA SHULMAN: In her Oprah interview, Meghan Markle refers to the importance of storytelling, although it was perhaps unfortunate that her example of a meaningful story was The Little Mermaid who lost her voice when she found her prince
At the time, installing them seemed a ridiculous over-reaction to the news of lockdown. It wasn’t going to last long, was it? The days would be getter warmer. Didn’t they know the environmental damage these things caused?
Well, hey-ho… how times change. Today, ours has been delivered. I feel rather mixed about its arrival, which seems a bit like caving in.
I’ve always regarded patio heaters rather like Nespresso machines as somehow a bit inauthentic. I like to think of myself as more of a wild and adventurous fire-pit type. I have to admit to even feeling a bit snobbishly squeamish about the very phrase ‘patio heater’.
But if we’re able to welcome the arrival of British summer time later this month with supper at a toasty garden table, I suspect my scruples will magically vanish, just like the hour we lose.