Saturday, October 20, 2012

On Deference

You have to wonder whether someone at the BBC was trying to make a point.

On Sunday 14th October, the movie ‘Nicholas and Alexandra’ was screened on BBC2. Released in 1971, this dramatisation of Robert L. Massie’s 1968 book on the last Tsar, his family and their fate is a work to which I am rather attached – in the Cold War’s dying days, my school used it as a teaching tool for Standard Grade History, to date the only formal qualification in history I possess. In particular, it is memorable for Tom Baker’s physically uncanny portrayal of Rasputin, that outlandish peripatetic whose long association with the Russian royal family caused such outrage. It seemed an odd choice when the BBC is under an even greater than usual onslaught for its failure to supervise Jimmy Savile, an outlandish peripatetic whose long association with the British royal family has caused no outrage whatsoever. 

Then again, the next head of that family is a man who seems to think that one of his most important constitutional titles should be amended to Defender of *The/Faith (*delete as applicable). His lawyers probably started working on that one the moment it became known that he talked to his plants.

A point that's perhaps worth making about the Savile business has occurred to me. A technical issue has kept me offline for a few days, so I'm sorry if it's already been made elsewhere. 

Savile came to prominence on the BBC's 'Top Of The Pops' at very roughly the same time that that organisation was broadcasting shows such as 'That Was The Week That Was', and 'The Frost Report'. Some social historians have indicated that shows such as these were instrumental in facilitating our decline into a less deferential society. It is strangely comforting to realise that while some in the BBC were preaching the decline of deference towards other institutions, the kid gloves with which it treated Savile showed that it most certainly didn't believe in the decline of deference itself.

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