London’s changing face

My husband and I started watching Prime Suspect when it first appeared on American television and liked it enough to keep watching it every time episodes showed up.  It’s a very gritty crime drama (the producers love showing partially decomposed women’s corpses) that follows the unlovable but effective DCI Jane Tennison.  The first episode, back in 1992, focused on her problems with sexism in the Metropolitan Police Department (London).  One later episode that I remember focused on black/white racism (and was made, I think, not long after the 1995 Brixton race riots).  The current cycle, which is on TV right now, so far has substance abuse and father-daughter relationships as its emotional fulcrums.

The show is grimmer than I remember, although it’s always been shot using a slightly darker palette and with a focus on London’s ugly side.  All cities, of course, have ugly sides, but I have to say that the show is almost impressive in its ability to make London look Dante-esque.  What’s struck me particularly about this episode (and I think I would have noticed it in past ones if it had been so obvious) is that this episode shows Londoners as being primarily people of color.  In every shot, more than half the faces outside of the squad room are not white.  I’m too lazy to check out racial statistics for London, so I have no idea whether this reflects real London, poor London, or TV London.  Nevertheless, the racial shift is striking when seen in a show about the place that once used to be the white Anglo capital of the English-speaking world.

Another thing that hit hard about the show was a scene that apparently did nothing to advance the plot (although the next two episodes may reverse that impression).   In it, the parents of a missing girl are waiting in anguish at the police department.  The mother finds herself sitting next to a burly black man, who recognizes her as the parent of that missing girl.  He gives her an inspirational speech about faith and hope, and she turns to him for comfort.  He announces that he will prayer with her, and then launches into a prayer to Allah.  Yup, the good, inspirational guy is a Muslim — not that there’s anything wrong with that.  My hope for the future lies in the hands of good, inspirational Muslims who see theirs as a religion of love, morality and shared humanity.  Nevertheless, in the context of this hard-hitting show, that moment was anomalous, and looked more like pandering than plot device.

Coincidentally, one day after watching this Prime Suspect episode, I got an email from JL (you know who you are), putting me on to a British blog called Reconquista.  One of Reconquista’s bloggers is a numbers guy, and he got very, very curious about (a) the increase in crime during Ramadan and (b) endless reports about Muslim men sexually attacking Muslim and non-Muslim women alike.  Using London, which has an ever-increasing Muslim population, for his numbers, he decided to see whether there was any correlation between Muslims and sex crimes.  His conclusion?

What I have is, if not actual proof, then a whole series of correlations. However, on the basis that if you can’t actually prove something fell out of the back end of a dog, but it looks like it did, smells like it did, feels like it did, and tastes like it did, then it might be best if you didn’t step in it, I’m going to publish what I found. You can make your own minds up. I’ve made mine up, and I wouldn’t want my daughter or nieces living near large numbers of Muslims. I think most reasonable, reasoning, people will agree after reading this.

There’s more, much more than this bottom line conclusion, and I’m not going to give it away by stealing Sir Henry’s thunder and revealing all the juicy parts here.  He’s a charming writer, and meticulous in showing how he arrived at his conclusion that a high Muslim population in a Western community is almost certainly an indicator that women are at greater risk of sexual assault.

I know this sounds silly but there is something almost Karmic in the fact that London, which once sought to impose its rule on as many people of color as it could, is now seeing that imperial worm turning.   Karmic yes, but it’s ironic that this slow motion uprising occur, not when England is at the height of her imperial glory, but long after she’s given up any imperial aspirations.