#207

No wonder he’s not been selected this year. A lifestyle like that. Not exactly aspirational is it?

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Call the Midwife: dangerous hyperreality

Given the nature of the Christmas period, it is inevitable that many end up being subjected to television programming that would not have ordinarily been selected as part of their festive viewing. As such, it was my misfortunate to be subjected to BBC’s Call the Midwife Christmas special on Christmas Day. Having some insight into the nature of the programme I have, thus far, intentionally and purposefully avoided the series finding the clichéd, halcyon representation of life in the 1950s entirely questionable. Having no option but to endure the episode on Christmas Day, it became rapidly apparent that despite my initial misgivings, the series is far worse than I could have anticipated, largely due to what it attempts to represent and the manner in which it is received by its targeted audience.

The central narrative needs little explanation, with the numerous subplots focusing on the various entanglements that the midwives become involved with through the nature of their work. The storylines themselves are not entirely questionable, despite their saccharine nature, but rather the manner in which they are presented. The world of the series is entirely cosseted, harking back to an era that, for its targeted audience, is one that is desirable. A time in which, despite the hardships and prejudices, was one in which things were simple. It is this attitude that proves to be so damaging, with viewers noting the lack of central heating, and the hyperbolic weather as a rite of passage, or as a marker of hard work and determination.

Such an attitude creates a divide, both in terms of generation, class and gender. The careers of these women are still largely restricted to the domestic sphere, and the myriad of intrigues are similarly centred. The gender roles of the women featured are lacking in progression and predominantly rely on stereotypes: the matriarch, the unintelligent woman focused on her appearance, or the overly emotional. While these approaches in themselves are questionable enough, it is the interaction that it encourages from its audience that highlights the series is far more ominous than its first appearance may present. Viewers, obtaining information from one specific media source and then finding their television viewers habits similarly aligned, simply create an echo chamber for their views.

The problem with Christmas 24

The form and tone of a Christmas film is an interesting one. Given the nature of the holiday season, viewers are far more likely to be forgiving when it comes to a film’s quality, allowing for poor acting or cliché so long as the film’s central conceit of celebrating Christmas, is successful. There can be little other explanation then, as to why so many films that largely focus on the same theme or topic attract multiple viewings. While some of these films are permissible, despite their failings, some, such as those that feature on the Christmas 24 channel is entirely questionable in their entire premise and execution.

Those films that are offered and presented for consumption at Christmas time on this channel are seemingly innocuous, with their entirely vanilla representation of relationships and family dynamics apparently entirely innocent and inoffensive. Arguably though, it is this very presentation, in its simplicity that is actually so sinister.
The world of Christmas 24 is overwhelmingly white, and WASP. The relationships are heterosexual, and the representation of all involved is entirely heteronormative. The diegesis that exists within these films is one that is entirely unrecognisable in reality, but though its persuasive presentation and manipulation of festive emotions, form some manner of hyperreality with viewers believing that these worlds did exist, and can exist once more.

Given the overwhelming conservative approach that these films take, and the core ethos that it attempts to engender to its audience, these films despite their seeming inoffensive nature, are in fact utterly pervasive and should be treated as such.