Stop focusing on warts and all

20th April 2001 at 01:00
Once, in my TV days, I met a very nice, intense historian who had written this drama about Karl Marx and the boil on his bum. Nothing could shake his belief that audiences would be amazed that the great economist spent more time complaining about his bottom than the evils of Das Kapital. Eventually I told him that, even if they were to be rendered comatose by the revelation, it still wouldn't make "Pain In The Arse" a good drama. The play was staged (with a new title) but I stick to my guns.

There is a depressing tendency these days to believe that the only interesting thing about other people is their vices, eccentricities and infirmities. Ken Russell began it by showing Tchaikovsky's failure to consummate his marriage in The Music Lovers. Since then Amadeus has told us that Mozart was foul-mouthed and Shakespeare In Love that the bard only wrote well when he had the hots for Gwyneth Paltrow.

Drama seems to have become obsessed with showing the boil on humanity's bottom. There was a time whn you couldn't watch a play on TV without the obligatory conversation in a urinal (in fact one head of BBC Drama eventually banned urinal chats, not because they were ground-breaking but because they'd become bog-standard). As for sex, Andrew Davies in Pride and Prejudice completed what Ken Russell had begun by inserting a scene that showed how Mr Darcy stripped off and swam in the lake. Then came the professions with Cardiac Arrest showing us how doctors are ordinary mortals who swear, smoke and have sex. No one who has ever spent the evening with a medic was shocked by this news but, never mind, a fashion was set. Last year we saw lawyers swearing, smoking and having sex in North Square and now teachers are excited (so we're told) to be getting the same treatment on Channel 4. I can't think why. The fact that we all have appetites and inadequacies is mind-numbingly self-evident.

What makes teachers interesting and unique is the monumental task they undertake, not the boil on the bum.


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