Yes, but is it keeping them loyal?
Today in the Random Public Journal, Jason Michael writes under the headline, Bodyguard: The BBC and Soft Power, a fascinating piece on the BBC’s hit drama, The Bodyguard, and, in particular, its central character, a tough, violent and troubled ex-soldier, now a bodyguard, with ‘The Met’.
Jason, perhaps, read sociology sometime after my own experience, in the 70s and, I think, at a time when Bourdieu was ‘the man’. Readers will be relieved to hear that I’m not going to engage with Bourdieu as this is not the time nor the place to do and my brain is not the place with the stuff to do so either. What I want to consider is the business of the degree of consciousness and of the intent, in the mind of the writer, of the bodyguard, Jed Mercurio! Really?
I agree with this from Jason:
‘There’s a lot going on between the lines in this show, but here – considering the times we are in – we’re going to take a closer look at these two themes, terrorism and the tartan super-man. Both are important because they work together towards the single goal of winning in the heart of the viewer the idea of British togetherness in crisis.’
I think it very likely that this overall effect in the minds of many viewers will be to reinforce the idea that British solidarity is a good thing. I’ve underlined the notion of some kind underlying purpose that I want to return to. I also agree with this:
‘Muslim women do not have agency in the British narratives of immigration, integration, and terrorism), the “terrorists” are conspicuously absent from the story. They aren’t important. The meaning of terrorism – as it is on the BBC News – is to foster a sense of national unity; a reason to come together as one United Kingdom as we did in the good old days of the Blitz.’
Once again, my brain twitched at the potentially active verb underlined. In this third extract, too, I’m strongly with this interpretation:
‘As always, ‘the Scot’ gets ahead in the world by being perfectly obedient to his betters. He cannot be the hero of the story unless he knows his place. The meaning is simple: Britain is in crisis. It needs heroes. It needs the Scots. But for us to be the heroes of this one-nation Britain, this state in crisis, we must do so on others’ terms – as obedient slaves.’
This time, there is nothing suggesting underlying purpose in the writer which requires my underlining. Finally, I really like the conclusion, below, but again, an undeniably active verb made me twitch:
‘Bodyguard is an excellent piece of propaganda. In this, in my opinion, the BBC has surpassed itself. Finally, it has taken steps in the realm of culture to distance itself from Project Fear – putting in its place something closer to Project Hero with conditions. By reaching into the past – with the ennobled stereotype of ‘the Scot’ – it is hoping, that with an updated twist, it might find the winning formula to save the union. This is soft power at its best, this is what Britain and the BBC do best.’
Now, I might be being unfair to Jason. He might be using the language that I’ve underlined in a way too subtle or maybe justifiably stylised for me to get, but I’ve got a problem with the notion that ‘the BBC’ or any, but a very small number of elite editors, producers and writers, have an explicit, fully conscious, agenda to actively promote British solidarity, through it’s output, whether in the form of news or drama.
With Chomsky, I think writers are, with few exceptions such as Alan Bleasdale (Boys from the Black Stuff), thoroughly conditioned by their quite common experience, in upper-middle-class homes, in private preparatory schools, in ‘public’ schools like Eton, and in Oxbridge, to ‘know’, subconsciously and at all times, what their own interests are and that by acting in their own interests, mostly again subconsciously, they act in the interests of their class. Thus, we get the news and the drama which subtly but effectively generate the soft power Jason correctly talks of.
I hope I’m not missing his point or being a pedant but look back at the phrases I’ve underlined, and they seem, to me, to be suggesting a degree of conscious intent to propagandise and maybe, even, conspiracy, if only at the level of small elite groups.
There, I’ve had my say.