In a world where genuinely original popular culture – let alone high quality material – is rarer than a viable solution to the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear catastrophe, our Creative Director & CSO seriously considered readjusting his now-ailing television set on watching a recent instalment of The Revolution Will Be Televised (‘TRWBT’, BBC Three, Sunday 1st December 2013).
A satirical comedy show which has already won a British Academy Television Award for Best Comedy (‘BAFTA’) despite only being into its second series, TRWBT lampoons a series of predictable targets – hypocritical political leaders, tax-allergic multinational corporations and extreme ideological movements – originally, courageously and wittily. If it can somehow get out of the über-graveyard slot it has bewilderingly been allocated – 22:25-22:55 on a niche channel with a resounding 1.4% audience share – it should succeed in the grand manner it deserves to: globally.
If TRWBT is to go global, however, it will need to increase the accuracy of some of its research on overseas topics, and one sketch from Sunday night’s brilliant Episode 4 of Series 2 illustrated this all too clearly. One of the main premises of the sketch – highlighting the inhuman working conditions endured by those toiling on construction sites in natural-gas saturated Qatar – was commendable; indeed, this is an issue which we had drawn attention to in our post of 17th November 2013, Let Them Eat Pita: Qatar World Cup Construction Boom ‘Underpinned By Slavery’!
But the devil is, as they say, in the detail, and a basic factual error undermined what could have been the strongest sketch in the programme: the font used for both the fictional Qatar TV channel and its You Got Owned show is unmistakably not an Arabic-themed typeface, but a Devanāgarī-style one which resembles modern standard Hindi, which set us thinking:
1. Irony. TRWBT is a show that does a great job in ridiculing the comically insular, ignorant and xenophobic attitudes that pervade far too much popular discourse, not just in the United Kingdom but elsewhere. Yet the selection of this font shows that ignorance of even massively-important non-Western cultures remains basic even at the highest levels of programming.
2. All the Same? Great Britain has strong historical links dating from at least the nineteenth century with both the Indian subcontinent and the Arab World. Significant groups of South Asian and West Asian immigrants have resided in the UK’s major cities for many decades. But this does not seem to have augmented the ability of some to differentiate between the two sets of peoples.
3. Irony 2.0. Countries such as India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are the main suppliers for the army of (indentured) labour populating the construction industries throughout both Qatar and the Gulf Cooperation Council (‘GCC’) more generally; to assign a South Asian linguistic identity to an insanely-rich Gulf Arab petro-kingdom in which the human rights of all too many South Asians are eminently deemed expendable is doubly ironic.