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Shoot The Messenger, Commentary October 3, 2006

Posted by C.A.R.D in Card, Citizens Against Racism and Discrimination, social satire.

We received a interesting email about our previous post about the BBC’s film; Shoot The Messenger. We thought it brought up insightful points about not just the film but about society as well. The featured email follows below:


One thing missing from the response to Shoot the Messenger is any comment on
its value as a piece of social satire. For there is a danger when
communities set themselves up as being beyond lampooning, beyond reproach,
that they become intolerant of criticism. The value of satire is that it
bursts the bubble of self importance that coagulates around individuals and
communities, and helps shake people out of their pomposity.

And there is a great deal of pomposity at work in discussions of UK societal
issues. This not only includes those who focus on black people and their
place in society, but also multiculturalism (the mosaic theory, the bowl of
tomato soup theory (not a joke)), the influx of peoples from Eastern Europe,
the place of women, employment law, religions and faith schools and so on.
Pomposity abounds.

And this pomposity must be worked against. People’s self-importance surely
cannot stand in the way of social progress. Other sections of British
society have long been open to pomposity-bursting observational attack.
White Britain has been ripping itself to pieces since the satire boom of the
early 1960s, Goodness Gracious Me satirised Asian culture, Rab C Nesbitt
Scottish culture, Father Ted Irish culture. But are all white English males
foppish idiots; Asian men weakling family boys; Scots alcoholics; Irish men
stupid? No. Of course not. Critically, audiences know this from the outset.
Audiences recognise exaggerated characterisations, and are capable of seeing
through them to more complex truths that lie behind.

The same applies to Shoot the Messenger. The characters contained within
were exaggerated characterisations, the situations in which the hero found
himself exaggerated situations; they were exaggerated to amplify a point.
Those points were certainly critical of black culture and society, but
criticism itself is not a bad thing. Quite the opposite – it is vital. To
shut oneself off – or indeed to shut a section of society off – from
criticism is to encourage a closed society, and that way lies disaster.



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