I haven’t written anything on Poldark yet, but I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit. It has been dissed by people who don’t see it like I do - as a kind of strip cartoon; no pun on Aidan Turner’s physique intended.
Some of the casting is a bit odd, as is the generic, “Westcountry” accent that directors always settle for, as if they think Cornwall is so far from civilisation that if they can’t be arsed to capture the Cornish accent with the precision routinely applied to the American one, no-one will notice. I have to say, however, that some of the Poldark cast have made a braver attempt at it than usual.
Anyway, you need to suspend your disbelief and get into the spirit of the tricorn hat, the Cinderella-ness of the story and feast your eyes on the scenery.
But what’s all this about ‘rape?’
Ross, the bugger! ‘e d’go down big ‘ouse, scat down the front door an ‘av ‘is wicked way w’lizabeth.
Hence the outrage. What’s the BBC trying to do? Make it look as though all women mean yes when they say no? Make it look as though, when raped, they all ‘want it’ really.
No, not really. It’s all in the story. It’s panto. Ross and Elizabeth have a smouldering longing for each other, but poor Elizabeth, like many other female heroines of the era, must suppress her desire. Convention has forced them to pretend their relationship is purely platonic because, when everyone thought Ross was dead, Elizabeth became engaged to Francis and Ross married Demelza. See? Simples.
Anyway I mention that only because it illustrates the new definition of rape, which seems to have invaded our culture and caused no end of exaggeratedly prudish moral indignation.
Look at Trump. I mean look at him. He comes across as just the kind of person who would behave with a mixture of extraordinary immaturity and bravado, and would boast about the audacious sexual advances he felt empowered to make a few years ago - because of his “stardom” - whenever a glamorous women hove into view. But he now says it was all bravado, and I somehow think that’s quite credible. It makes him look rather foolish, even.
Anyway, Trump, and all the current outrage about historical sexual abuse adds up to a weird disconnect between the past (a different country) and the present. I understand Cliff Richard intends to sue the BBC for the way they colluded with the police when his property was raided. If he does so, who knows what accusations will surface, but for now public opinion is on his side.
I’m not talking about paedeophillia, which is a dangerous mental disorder and a different matter altogether. I’m talking about old fashioned, pre 1960s chauvinistic and maybe misogynistic standards ripped out of context and grafted onto the confused mixture of laddish women, rabid feminists and effeminate, emasculated and narcissistic men that appear to make up the bulk of a certain vociferous strand of society today. People in the media and so on.
Yes, we can all look back with awe and wonder at what women had to put up with in the olden days, obliged to be prim and proper, ashamed of their bodies, ignorance or denial of female sexuality and all the rest of it, and I think the feigned apoplectic outrage at Ross’s ‘rape’ is a pure misunderstanding of the genre; a mass exercise in missing the point. There’s mass indignation and outrage at a fictional rape-that-isn’t-really, outrage at a bunch of alleged sexual-assaults-that-might-or-might-not-have-happened, accusations against various well-known figures, dead and alive.
However, the only reason I’m bothering to articulate any of this is because of something I read the other day, which has bearing on the whole business of attitudes to rape and sexual abuse. In Germany a spate of sexual assaults and rapes have been swept under the carpet because of the identity of the perpetrators. We all know by now that mass immigration from Africa Asia and the Middle East has been problematic. We also remember the grooming cases in Britain that were persistently suppressed by the press and the police until the news could be contained no more. And there’s this:
“Germany's migrant rape crisis — which has continued unabated day after day for more than a year — has now spread to cities and towns in all 16 of Germany's federal states. Despite the mounting human toll, most of the crimes are still being downplayed by German authorities and the media, apparently to avoid fueling anti-immigration sentiments.
The German Press Council (Presserat) enforces a politically correct "code of media ethics" that restricts the information journalists can use in their stories. Paragraph 12.1 of the code states:
"When reporting on criminal offenses, details about the religious, ethnic or other background information of the suspects or perpetrators is to be mentioned only if it is absolutely necessary (begründeter Sachbezug) to understand the reported event. Remember that such references could foment prejudices against minorities."
On October 17, the Press Council reprimanded the weekly newspaper, Junge Freiheit, for revealing the nationality of three Afghan teenagers who raped a woman at a train station in Vienna, Austria, in April 2016. The press council said the nationality of the perpetrators is "not relevant" to the case, and by revealing this information the newspaper "deliberately and pejoratively represented the suspects as second-class persons."
In the interests of "fair reporting," the council demanded that the newspaper remove the offending item from its website. The newspaper refused to comply and said it would continue to publish the nationalities of criminal suspects.
Lutz Tillmanns, the Press Council's managing director, said that self-censorship is necessary to avoid discrimination:
"An essential human rights-related principle is not to discriminate. When we refer to an individual we do not want to harm the entire group. This is, of course, a bigger issue for minorities than for the majority."
According to Hendrik Cremer of the German Institute for Human Rights, the Press Council's code of ethics also applies to German police, who often censor the information they release to the media:
"The police are not to provide information about the skin color, religion, nationality or national or ethnic origin of a suspect to the media or to the public. They may only do this if it is absolutely necessary, which is the case, for example, when they are searching for a suspect.”
Is Germany any worse at manipulating this situation than we are?
Rape and sexual assault can be manipulated by the media and the authorities in the way they choose. It can be wielded to destroy some people, or concealed, in the name of ‘fair reporting,’ to protect others; whichever way the wind blows. What remarkable inconsistency.