Deep in Vogue – BBC 3

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Having enjoyed both series of Pose – I started watching it mainly for the ’80s music, but got really into it! – I was very interested to hear about the vogue ballroom scene in Manchester and Liverpool.  I could have done with more about the history and culture and less about the actual choreography, but, OK, that’s just a personal thing.  The main message coming from it was that this is something which has given a lot of confidence to people who, whether because of their ethnicity, their sexuality, their sexual identity or even their gender (society doesn’t do a very good job of giving women confidence) have felt marginalised and unsure of themselves.  It’s wonderful when anything can do that – and it’s very sad that, because of the current situation, a lot of people are cut off from dancing, singing, sports, religious services, playing cards, or whatever else it is that does that for them.  But this was a lovely, positive, hour’s watching.  Anyone feel like writing a Pose-type series set in North West England 🙂 ?

One of the people interviewed made a very good point about how it’s often minority groups who take the lead when it comes to music or other creative forms.  That’s certainly true, and it’s a point I’ve heard made in other programmes.  At the same time, there was also a lot of talk about inclusivity.  There’s been some criticism of Madonna, as a white, straight woman, for getting into voguing, but everyone interviewed on this programme said that it’s for everyone who wants to be involved, and I thought that was great.  There are obviously issues if something gets over-commercialised and taken away from its roots, but that wasn’t what was happening here.  It was about people expressing themselves in a way that works for them, and about a voguing community that provides friendship and emotional support and a safe place for people.

It was interesting to hear that the voguing style in Manchester and Liverpool is noticeably different from that in London.  In the ’80s – my music collection has never got out of the ’80s! – there was a lot of regional variation in music, and it sometimes seems that everything’s got a bit samey and globalised, in the same way that High Streets and a lot of other things have.  So I was really pleased to hear that different parts of the country are doing their own thing where voguing’s concerned.  We don’t all need to be the same!

And, on that same theme, some points were made about voguing helping people to get away from the pressure to conform to stereotypes – one man was talking about people being refused entry to gay clubs for not “looking” gay.  This is something that’s been in the news lately, with Priti Patel talking about the racism she’s faced because she doesn’t conform to the stereotype of what a British Asian woman should be like, and a lot of assumptions are made about what people should think or wear or look like because of their ethnicity or religion or sexuality or anything else.  Everyone is an individual and everyone should feel free to express themselves in their own way, and that was a lot of what this programme was saying.  As I said, a really nice programme.  Anyone feel like writing a Pose-type series set in North West England 🙂 ?

 

 

 

The Plague (La Peste) – BBC 4 (Movistar +)

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Lots of love to everyone in Spain, where this series is set, at this difficult time; and I’m sure everyone’s thoughts are with Pep Guardiola following the sad loss of his mother to Covid-19, and also with Boris Johnson and everyone else suffering because of this horrible virus.  It’s a strange time to be watching a series about an outbreak of bubonic plague in Seville in 1597, but I’ve had it on my Sky Planner for 18 months and haven’t had chance to see it until now.

It’s really very interesting seeing how things developed.  Seville at that time had a monopoly on trade with the Americas.  Unwilling to risk losing that position to Cadiz or any other port, the merchants of the city delayed doing what they were required to do in the case of plague breaking out – closing the harbour, sealing the city off, and reporting the outbreak to the authorities in Madrid so that they could receive central funding to help deal with it.  So we can see that, although in this case they weren’t followed, there were procedures in place, because epidemics were so common then.  Quarantine stations haven’t actually been mentioned, but many ports had them until well into the 20th century.

And, as with Liverpool in the 19th century, Seville in the late 16th century had attracted huge numbers of impoverished people hoping to find passage to the New World.  Many of them were living in slums/shanty towns where the plague was quick to spread – with news in the last few days of cases in Covid-19 emerging in “slum” areas of Mumbai and in migrant camps on the Greek islands, that’s got a worrying resonance for our own times.

Getting back to the 16th century, this is a Spanish-made programme, broadcast by the BBC with English subtitles, but it’s rather Black Legend-ed itself: a big part of the storyline revolves around the Inquisition, and their treatment of one of the main characters, who’d fled the city after being caught publishing Protestant literature, but has returned to find the illegitimate son of his late friend.  There’s also a sub-plot involving a female artist trying to rescue prostitutes.  And there are a lot of murders.

This was the first of three major outbreaks of plague to hit Seville in under a century.  This one lasted on and off from 1596 to 1602, the second and worst from 1646 to 1652 – killing up to a quarter of the city’s population, as bad as the 14th century Black Death was in many countries -, and the third from 1676 to 1685.  Very, very frightening.

There’s quite a lot going on.  We’ve got our main man Mateo, who’s trying to rescue young Valerio, his friend’s son, but has again come to the attention of the Inquisition and has been told that they’ll go after him again unless he helps to solve the mysterious murders.  We’ve got the wealthy merchants of the Casa de Contratacion and the Consulado de Mercaderes, many of whom are more concerned about the economy than about the plague.  We’ve got our well-to-do lady painter, who’s trying to help the city’s prostitutes.  And we’ve got the people in the slums, taking huge risks such as trying to sell clothes stripped from the dead.  In particular, there’s a gang of children, including Valerio under the control of the criminal underworld.  And there’s a slave market.

On a lighter note, we’re also seeing people experiencing new delicacies from the Americas for the first time.  Don’t eat tomatoes: they could be poisonous!  But try this – it’s called chocolate 🙂 .

The sets are very impressive, and there are loads and loads of extras.  It’s pretty lavish … if that’s the right word, when so many of the scenes are of people either dying of the plague or being found murdered.  I really enjoyed Grand Hotel, but that’s going back a fair few years now and I don’t think we’ve had any Spanish period dramas since then.  Maybe we should get more!  And I believe that there’s a second series of this one, although I can’t find any reference anywhere to BBC 4 planning to show it.  If they do, I’ll definitely be watching it!

It’s a strange time for this, as I said.  Seville should be holding its famous Semana Santa processions this week, and enjoying the climax of the football season.  Instead, its people are, like most of the rest of us, in lockdown.  But it’s quite an appropriate time to be watching it, as well.  Let’s just hope that this horrible period in our history will soon be over, and that we can all try to get back to normal.  In the meantime, I’m enjoying, if that’s the right word, watching this at last.  It’s something different, and there’s a lot of very interesting stuff in it.   I’m following the subtitles, but I’m understanding some of the Spanish as well … I could do with a few minutes’ delay between the Spanish and the subtitles, to process it and see how much I got!  Love again to the beautiful city of Seville and to the rest of Spain, and, if anyone’s reading this, thanks for reading, and please stay safe x.