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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Monday, October 23, 2006
    Typecast-for-disaster
     
    That's it. I've had it with tabloid TV. I was only watching Wife Swap because our mate Vinny was on, with his Nancy (full-time Norris Green mum) swopping with a home counties businesswoman. And because they filmed a bit of it when Vinny took on the role of photographer at a wedding at our church. But I should have expected it to be a demoralising piece of programming, given what Vinny had already told me about the obvious typecast-for-disaster approach of the producers.

    Clearly opposites in their approach to the work-child rearing balance, Nancy and her swop were hardly going to see eye to eye. But the way the show was done just maximised the conflict and the final half-hour, featuring both sets of partners set on opposite-facing sofas being provoked to shout each other down, did no-one any favours. Certainly not Channel Four. They were nice people, the film crew, when they spent the afternoon with us. One day I hope they'll get to work on documentaries which have some integrity about them.

    I guess if you're a filmmaker (like the rest of us) you take what work you can get - even Wife Swop standard work - in the hope that occasionally you'll be released to do something of more value. Good to hear from Christian Petersen today, a photographer who peppers his commercial portfolio with pieces of photojournalism which take as their subjects the meaner streets of Liverpool and NYC and have at their heart the interests of those who - like our Vinny and Nancy - live on them.

    This picture is from a series illustrating the realities of Kensington, L7 - 'regeneration' hotspot where vast amounts of new money have failed to make much difference to the lives of the most deprived because, like 'regeneration' initiatives everywhere the money is 'soaked up ... by bureaucracy, costly agencies and consultants'. Christian has an eye for the effects of this. Sobering, studying his picture of a bus stopping beside shuttered L7 shops bearing the legend along its side, MAKE POVERTY HISTORY. As sobering and infuriating as watching Vinny and Nancy being reduced from whole human beings to sorry stereotypes for the titillation of TV chiefs.