Jude Collins

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Thatcher and Boston: how art shapes life

Funny the link between what we might loosely call art and life, and how one affects the other.   Years and years ago a song called ‘Ding-dong, the witch is dead’ was written and performed in a much-loved movie. Then it’s resurrected today and suddenly everyone is full of tortured conscience: should we play this song, is it offensive in the light of Margaret Thatcher’s death, but she wouldn’t have wanted censorship, not much she wouldn’t, tell that to the Shinners, oxygen of publicity and all that, we are the BBC and we always strike a balance so play five seconds of it and fill in the rest with a mini-history lesson. 

All that over one little children’s song.

But in that case there was/is a link but not a causal one between art and life. ‘Ding-dong the witch is dead’ didn’t cause Thatcher to die. But what about this, now?

You know the way we’ve all been shocked by those explosions at the end of the Boston marathon. I love Boston - was in it last summer and it was a delight; and I quite like running, although my total maximum is a half-marathon, not a full one. Now I could go on - and maybe I will just a little - about how we feel more deeply about events, especially sad or tragic events, when they’re televised. Reading about them in the paper isn’t quite the same thing. And of course we feel more deeply about events which happen to people like ourselves. President Obama has never made any secret of his orders for the use of drone bombs in Pakistan, which have led to the deaths of thousands. And was it in Pakistan that around 70 people died in an explosion the same day as the Boston marathon? Such things get nowhere near as much attention as Boston, because what’s far away and dissimilar in culture from our one seems, well, less human. Logical in our compassion, aren’t we?

But get this one. I bought next week’s Radio Times  yesterday and as usual flicked through the movies listed for showing. Anything with four stars gets my attention so when I saw one in that category called Four Lions  I checked the detail. It’s scheduled for showing next Monday night but my guess is it might just get pulled before that.

If you’ve seen the movie you’ll know what’s coming next. It’s by TV satirist, the wonderful Chris Morris, who made The Day Today and Brass Eye. So what’s Four Lions  about? Well would you believe it’s an “audacious jihad comedy” about a gang of four whose plan it is to bomb the London Marathon. The Radio Times says Morris’s film is “fast, very funny and disturbing mostly in the sense that, despite wanting to create murder on a vast scale, the suicide bombers are actually a likeable bunch”.

Did they say “likeable bunch”?  That seals it. Art will next Monday affect life once again and the movie will be pulled. But think positive. It’s scheduled for Film4 and not the BBC. Think of the agonising, think of the compromise finally reached had it been Auntie:  showing five minutes of the movie and giving a lecture during the remainder of the scheduled time. 


  1. You've played the harbinger, Jude: Four Lions has indeed been pulled, according to the BBC. Brilliant film, two thumbs up from this parish.

    (*Spoiler alert*)

    But although the four lead characters do fail spectacularly in the tale, you can appreciate it's maybe a little close to the bone this week.

    As for taking the Boston tragedy in context with the attacks in the Mid and Far East on the same day... unfortunately, they're there, and Boston's "here', and we know that makes all the difference regarding our level of interest. Self-examination on this issue will always find the English-speaking world wanting.

    Tangentially, it's not hard to also appreciate the irony of the TD for Louth expressing his sympathy for the Boston victims. Sympathies that deserved to be expressed. but folks from Lisburn might have something to say about the incongruity therein.

  2. Jude
    You are having a dig at the Beeb for something you think they would have done? Weak stuff.
    As for the actuality, I don't see how you could fault any broadcaster for showing sensitivity, not censorship.
    It is a good movie, by the way, showing how ridiculous are the ideas of fanatics who believe their cause entitles them to kill the innocent.

  3. Fair point from Pete (above) about the hypocrisy of Gerry Adams condemning the Boston terrorism and being part of the movement that was complicit in the Lisburn bombing.

  4. Giob - I'm sorry I've disappointed you (again). I shall try to improve myself as best I can. And if it's a good movie, shouldn't it be shown? And given that the Beeb censored a daft little song, what do you think they'd have done - shown the movie?
    Anon 13:18 and Pete - I can see the parallel you're drawing and it's a fair one. At the same time, I think except you're a pacifist, lumping all violent acts together is a bit lacking in discrimination. I'm sure Gerry Adams can answer for himself (why not tweet him or Martin McGuinness?), but I suspect he'd respond by pointing out that the situation of British soldiers in Ireland is a bit different from civilian Americans in America. But maybe Gio would see that as weak, as I'm hypothesising again...Sorry, Gio. I'm really trying to be good.

  5. So we're back to the classic Jude argument that some violent acts are apparently more acceptable than others.If its in the name of "Irish Republican "struggle ,its alright then!

  6. Jude
    I guess all you can do is try.
    I agree the Beeb would probably have pulled it too. My point was that you used the story to have a little jab at them, even though it was nothing to do with them.
    Do you not think there is an argument for showing some sensitivity given the parallels between the story and what happened? And I'm sure channel 4 will wheel it out at a later date.
    Would you expect a broadcaster to have shown 'Towering Inferno' immediately after 9/11?
    The point about how we react to deaths in western English speaking cultures differently to those of,say, the Middle East, is a good one. Human nature I suppose.

  7. Gio - 'it was nothing to do with them' - true, except that days earlier they had faced and dealt with another piece of sensitive material. Seemed reasonable to hypothesise (or is it hypothesize?) about how they might have dealt with 'Four Lions'... Of course there was a case for pulling it, given that the London Marathon people seem to think lightning could strike twice in similar circs. Anyway, it's made me want to see it sometime. I don't think it's human nature to be more callous about Middle East deaths. I think it's human media.
    Anon 17:23 - thank you for describing me as classic - and you haven't even seen my profile against a setting sun...But we're not 'back' in any regressive sense. I repeat: except you're a pacifist, you're bound (except you're very very stupid) to see a difference between different acts of violence. I find myself blushing almost for pointing out something so obvious.