These blogs are loosely based on pieces of creativity that provide the backdrop to certain events in my life. Today, I have chosen a piece of television, a film drama, and three musical tracks, all which illustrate the issues discussed in the previous part of this blog, published 1st May 2022. All these pieces of evidence, I feel, make the case that it is life experiences, and images we see of ourselves, which shape our morality.
The first piece of evidence I would like to present to you, dear reader, is the drama series ‘Cracker’, created by the television playwright, Jimmy McGovern. I first watched this programme back in Autumn 1993, when it was first screened by ITV. In particular, I will focus on the episode ‘To be A Somebody’, originally aired in Autumn 1994. This episode is based on a Scouse lad who goes out to murder, as his personal revenge for the 96 (at that time, now 97) Liverpool fans who died as a result of police negligence at the Hillsborough disaster, in 1989. McGovern skilfully leads the viewer to look beyond the typical image of a skinhead thug, to see someone who is intelligent and appreciates high culture, such as classical music.
The second piece of evidence is the film ‘Man Hunter’, a drama about a detective who hunts down a serial killer. This film came out in 1989 but I only discovered it accidentally, one night a few years later, whilst channel hopping. Throughout the drama, the viewer is given an understanding as to the reasons behind why this character killed. This man had a substantial facial deformity, meaning he had zero confidence to enable him to form ‘normal’ relationships with women. Due to this, he felt the only way he could get close to someone of the opposite sex was to kidnap, and ultimately murder, them.
Neither of these dramatical examples are condoning what happened but simply explaining the thought process behind these acts of crime.
Coming on to my musical evidence, there are three examples I would like to offer. For my 21st birthday, my brother gave me the cassette tape (I now have the CD version, thanks to my younger sister), of Tracey Chapman’s self-titled first album, released the same year (1988). I had been familiar with her music for a year or so from listening to Johnny Walker’s Radio One Saturday afternoon show. As I mentioned in a previous blog, I must thank BBC radio and its DJs for massively broadening my musical taste and bringing many outstanding artists to my attention. Around this time, there were several really good singer-song writers making powerful social and political comments through their music. Tracey’s music, in particular the song ‘Why’ from this album, spoke to me about those wronged in society purely because of who they are.
Another track along these lines, is U2’s ‘Bad’ from their ‘The Unforgettable Fire’, 1984 album. I discovered this song whilst watching ‘Live Aid’, an all-day music concert, on 13th July 1985, which took place to raise funds for the victims of famine in Africa. ‘Bono’, the band’s lead singer, ‘went rogue’ and climbed down from the stage to have a brief dance with a woman in the audience during this song. Listening to this track over the years has helped me make sense of my situation with Lauren*. Just because others put a negative ‘tag’ on you, doesn’t mean you are that label.
I discovered the band Portishead around 1994/5 whilst flat-sharing with Hazel* and another friend, Charlie* (more about Charlie in the next blog). We used to have many all-night gatherings (we were all on the dole at the time), enjoying music, alcohol, and the occasional illicit drug. I was introduced to many varied and fabulous sounds during these sessions, including the aforementioned band. These guys were part of the 1990’s Bristol indie scene, producing, what I would describe as, ambient dance music with a social/political edge. A year or so later, Hazel entrusted me with looking after her beloved cat whilst she was away trying to set up a record deal in London. As a thank you present, she bought me the newly released self-titled album by Portishead. The second to last track on it, ‘Elysium’, spoke to me directly about being ill-judged for the way we think.
Watching and listening to these creative examples, I feel, have been one of the keys to my understanding of the situation with Lauren. The biggest obstacle was seeing negative images and stories of obsession in the mainstream media, such as the film ‘Fatal Attraction’ and brash headlines about stalkers. I reiterate that crime is crime and I think that the punishment should be relative to the degree of the criminal act. However, in my opinion, we need to examine the impact that stereotypical images pumped through the mass media has on individuals, and how this may impact on their self-worth.
Compared to thirty-years ago, there is now far greater diversity portrayed in the mainstream media. It is pleasing to see examples of this greater diversity, such as programmes like ‘The Last Leg’, the Comedian Rosie Jones (who lives with Cerebral Palsy), serious sports coverage of the Paralympics, as well as there being actors in soaps who are seen beyond their ‘disability’. When I was a teenager and young adult, there were hardly any positive role models for people who live with ‘disability’. or were generally different from the narrow band of ‘normal’ in the public eye. As I have discussed in previous blogs, my biggest issue was not the physical but the mental side of living with Cerebral Palsy. My mind, as a kid, was plagued with obsessive thoughts. Many sessions with child psychologists did not really help with the matter, they just reinforced that I was not normal in the head. However, now I’m proud that I don’t fit into society’s neat little boxes.
I feel that the negative incident in that summer of 1992 (mentioned in the first part of this blog), unintentionally sparked a passion for a journey into my own mental health and creativity. As previously discussed, in 1993 I took time out from formal studying to develop my own ways of creative working. Over the years, I have found being creative, in whatever form, is a great way to work out different issues in my head. Watching films, TV dramas, documentaries, and listening to music, have also been a massive aid in my process of self-discovery, development, and identity. In fact, this is the key concept to my ‘Create to Feel Great’ project. Basically, the things we struggle with can become our greatest assets in life. For me, it was obsession. It may have got me into a few sticky situations over the years, but it has truly helped me achieve plenty more than if I didn’t have this personality trait.
In next blog, I shall be discussing how the blues (music) has helped put a smile on my face.
* Not the person’s real name