Last night was the premier of the latest production of the famous spy thriller ‘Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy’. Not that I was there of course but bill boards and newspapers were full of it. It reminded me of a playground game of my childhood which I imagine is where the title came from: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor, Rich man, Poor man, Beggar-man, Thief. On my train journey home I mulled over this rhyme and how then and perhaps to a lesser extent now, the titles of a person’s occupation really defined them. In other children’s stories there are similar characterisations: Fireman Sam, Postman Pat, Bob the Builder and so on. Then there was the entire cast of ‘the Shoe People’; anyone remember Trampy (the tramp shoe) , Margot (the ballet shoe), Grandpa (the slipper!!!) PC Boot (well it’s obvious isn’t it?) and of course ‘Baby Bootee! Where, I wondered, are the adult versions of these stereotypes; these characters entirely defined by their jobs and gender (and in the case of the Shoe People by their footwear!!) After 10 mins and approaching
Woking it came to me…the soaps!
Now I and at least one other colleague here at CCPD are Corrie Fans and I know that I’m not the only one who listens to the Archers. So what about some of these characters?
Let’s start with The Archers where there is at least an attempt to present the non-stereotype. Debbie, and I suspect Pip could be good examples of female agricultural professionals and to be fair dear Ruth (oh no!) does do her bit on the farm. But for most of the other characters stereotypes abound! Successful business man Matt (the crook) runs rings around his ever faithful partner Lillian and that bounder Brian Aldridge is also an alpha male whose wife puts up with everything and comes back for more. In the working class representatives it isn’t any better. Jo and Eddie Grundy are the classic lovable rogues, making a living where ever and however they can. Susan is in retail and Clarrie is an occasional barmaid.
Now, what about
? Men’s work includes motor mechanics, shop owners, restaurant owner and successful business man. OK there’s a gay man working in an underwear factory and one in his grandmother’s hair salon but no great surprises. Loads of the female characters work in the underwear factory (with Sean of course) or behind the bar, but apart from the alcoholic Carla who is terminally miserable, they are all either desperate for babies, worried about their men or after someone else’s man.
Don’t get me wrong – I love it! But how can we encourage young people to aspire to the non-stereotypic, broader opportunities that the global economy will offer them if from the cradle they are influenced by such strong images of ‘women’s lives and work’ and ‘men’s work and lives’? Wouldn’t it be great if Tina (barmaid and usurped by boyfriend who married a Chinese immigrant to get her a visa!!) took up an access course and got a scholarship to study engineering at Manchester Uni. Then she could come back and buy up the garage and offer apprenticeships to the other aimless women in the street! I wonder if young people would agree or would that be too far fetched?
Let me know your possible story lines – perhaps we’ll forward them to the writers!!