Drowsy ITV1 family-friendly killfest Midsomer Murders have come under fire as its producer Brian True-May gallantly proclaimed it “the last bastion of Englishness” in an interview with Radio Times. It is a harsh statement and one which deservedly has lead to True-May being put on the naughty step by ITV bosses pending an “investigation,” and in the meantime the British public, hungry for some snoozy murder mysteries, can enjoy a new series of a show about white people walking around on grit, next to crops and stone churches.
So what about this True-May then? Even though he’s probably never even considered letter-bombing Lenny Henry, it’s probably not unreasonable to suggest that he harbours at least a fair pinch of resentment towards multiculturalism when makes use of a word such as “bastion” when talking about good ol’ England. A “bastion” refers to a defensive measure against an outside aggressor and clearly Midsomer with its indescribable murder per capita ratio is an apt representation of Englishness itself. He makes himself out as solely protecting this abstract concept of national identity against the foreign tides of blacks through the unorthodox, yet surprisingly effective, medium of producing an ITV murder drama. He defends his valiantly anti-PC comments as he is merely “trying to make something that appeals to a certain audience, which seems to succeed,” but I dare say he slightly misfires his intentions a tad.
Midsomer Murders is a throwback to old style “little old lady investigates a murder”-dramas such as Poirot and Miss Marple to name the obvious influences. It’s no gritty, frightening Waking The Dead or The Killing by any stretch, but at it’s sloth-like pace it harkens back to a calmer time where every single murder was solved over a few cuppas and not using blood splatter patterns and profiling. It’s a nostalgia kick for some people and its appeal lies mostly in how quaint and immovably timeless the setting and its characters are, but to basically call his audience out as immigrant-fearing BNP-voters is probably a bit harsh. I guess there is something to be said for the historical accuracy that this nostalgic view containing mostly white people, just as there is a wholly reasonable argument in that there simply aren’t that many non-white people living on the English countryside. These are all arguments that could have been used to make roughly the same point, but True-May is not one to cower behind reason when expressing his xenophobic opinions. He is utterly devoted to the idea of Englishness as something vanishing and valuable that is being depleted in every facet of English society except for his prime-time slot on ITV1. He makes a show for white people longing for the days when you didn’t have to risk seeing darkies on the way to the cornershop and he’d be damned if that’s going to change.
True-May makes it evidently clear through his words that he sees non-whites as something inherently threatening and through his show he is showing a better place where they’re not part of the equation. He could defended the lack of ethnic diversity on the show in many ways, arguing against tokenism for one, but he chose to elevate himself and his product as a defensive fort that holds back the invading and damaging forces from abroad. ITV should not put in a few black people just for the hell of it if they don’t think it suits the show but I’d be surprised if we didn’t see a few black or Asian extras in a future episode now, which would both make sense but also be a patronising cheap way of getting away scot-free. Tokenism is just another form of racism after all, so that’s not the way to clear the air – ITV should be forced to think harder than that to fix this.
What viewers are to make of this whole shebang is hard to say. Does this mean that Midsomer Murders is inherently racist because it doesn’t feature any ethnic minorities? I don’t believe it’s any more so than Fresh Prince was racist for not featuring any major white characters, except for some painfully embarrassing guest appearances. I believe some part of True-May and the rest of the production crew genuinely wanted to keep an authentic air to the show – y’know, the show were several people are murdered within 500 yards of each other every week – by portraying the English countryside pretty much as it is – that is, almost entirely white. It’s a stereotype and one some people find pleasing to return to every once in a while, but it should not be elevated to an ideal. It’s not a beautiful golden age now lost to the foreign masses; such a claim is as offensive as it is untrue.
Now, let’s all get back to enjoying some lovely murdering, together, as a family. That’s the English way.