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THE COLOURBLIND LEADING THE COLOURBLIND

Even Deborah Ross, the Spectator Film critic famous for her cutesy reviews, wrote this about the casting of Armando Iannucci's period piece, 'The Personal History of David Copperfield':

Here, Dev Patel stars as Copperfield and there is colour-blind casting throughout, which is excellent, particularly as it will infuriate some people (i.e. the white ones who are still determined to hang on to everything). and ....Aneurin Barnard as James Steerforth and the wonderful Nikki Amuka-Bird as Steerforth’s mother. (For those who will pathetically ask how Steerforth can be white when his mother is black I put it to you that it does not matter. This is all a fiction!)

Such attitudes imply that the defining parameters of the human condition - things like race, culture and biology - are meaningless accidents or erasable scribbles on a digital etch-a-sketch. Once erased we can remake the world in our own image satisfying and forcing on viewers the agenda of the racially homogenised, multicultural New Jerusalem achieved on our screens. This, of course, is the virtuous terminus which progressive thinkers envisage. In reality, though, what we are delivered is an irritating on-screen distraction (as the strange penalty for our education and cultural awareness) that would be the same if a film about 19th century India cast a white man who sounded like Ian Lavery as the Nawab of Oudh. It is as if the sacrifice of minor considerations like culture and history are worth it in comparison with what is put in their place. This amounts to a falsification. It is a reorganisation of reality according to an agenda carried out in the same way that a magpie assembles sparkly objects in its nest or a toddler rearranges the facial features on Mr Potato-Head. When grown-ups do this they call it 'curation.' The glories and interest of real nature, culture and history are not enough for these demi-gods. And, of course, the most striking contradiction of all? The undermining of one of the chief appeals of period drama - historical, furnishing, sumptuary and cultural accuracy which intelligent people are very interested in. The very object of the genre is royally defeated.

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