Viewers complain BAFTA-nominated drama does not offer a different narrative about the black experience in Britain
Written by Juliana Lucas
09/09/2013 12:14 PM
HEARD IT ALL BEFORE: Critics say black Brits deserve more alternative stories to shows like Top Boy
ANGRY TELEVISION viewers have taken to social media sites to complain about the new series of Channel 4’s Top Boy, starring Ashley Walters.
The widely-anticipated drama, which relied heavily on social media to promote the first season, returned to TV screens on August 20, but left some viewers unimpressed by its “one dimensional” representation of ethnic minorities.
When the show aired last month, author and blogger Dear Rob said: “Top Boy: another great series showing us black folk in a positive light. Drugs, guns, police and robberies. Fantastic.”
Many took issue with the depiction of poverty, gangs, and drug dealing on an east London estate, fuelled by lead character Dushane (Walters) and his friend-turned-rival Sully, played by Grime rapper Kane ‘Kano’ Robinson.
Young director Ola Masha argued that the BAFTA-nominated drama was an example of “lazy” storytelling because of “a one-sided narrative”.
The budding filmmaker added that the much-publicised stampede that occurred following an open casting call for season two had also discouraged him from tuning in.
He said: “I had to switch off in the midst of watching it because I believe it is a reinforcement of a negative stereotype that I cannot engage with.
“There is a problem with the lack of variety of films and TV shows depicting the lives of black people in Britain. When you see ethnic minorities portrayed on TV what do you see? Do you see them in positive or negative light? It is usually negative.
"This reinforces false perceptions and stereotypes and limits the opportunity to have different stories. The result is that this is how some people will view black people and expect us to behave.”
Echoing Masha’s sentiments, 23-year-old aspiring film director Rakheem Noble urged producers to create “positive alternatives about black families”.
He added: “I think the show offers one version of how life is in Hackney for some but not all…It does not show ambitious black people fulfilling education or pursing a career.”
But not everyone was panning the flagship TV programme. UK rapper Sway, who had a role in the first season, said: “So glad we have a show like Top Boy, despite what people might say it gives some insight to what really happens out here.”
Olivier Award-winning director Bola Agbaje said: “Always a debate when a show with black folks is out. We need to celebrate more. This happened to me with my second play Off the Endz. People reviewed it before it even came out.”