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Ballard, braces & bonnets

Author: • Jan 8th, 2008 •

Category: alternate worlds, Ballardosphere, media landscape, television

Lest you have any doubt that Mr Ballard is in fact Mr Rent-a-Quote, here he is, commenting on costume dramas, of all things, for the Observer:

The fear of some of our best contemporary writers is that the British love of classic adaptations reflects an unhealthy obsession with the past.

Novelist JG Ballard is blunt about it. ‘I can’t stand these costume dramas. They drive me insane. It is all so phoney,’ he complained. ‘Why does the BBC spend so much time in the past? It seems the only thing we have to look forward to in this country is our nostalgia.’

The nation, he believes, has ‘always been in love with pageantry and uniforms’, but it is not something the BBC should repeatedly encourage.

‘There are too many hats. Everybody is over-dressed. We should have more drama set in the present day. These costume dramas feed our desperate need for a more deferential class system and a sense of order in society.’

The enduring appeal of the costume drama for its millions of viewers is harder to pin down … [Bill] Gallagher suspects these series are popular because they portray a simpler world… Ballard would disagree, of course. His most recent novel, Kingdom Come, was set in a shopping mall outside west London and asks whether consumerism in our society could ever turn into fascism. ‘We seem to have our heads in the sand,’ he said. ‘It is almost as if the present is too frightening to face.’

I don’t know, I just find all this rather amusing, the fact that the Observer journalist, Vanessa Thorpe, in composing this piece on Britain’s ‘love affair with braces and bonnets’, has seen fit to ring up Ballard for his opinion.

It is ultimately fitting, though, in that Ballard has always savaged what he terms ‘heritage England’, memorably describing London as ‘a city devised as an instrument of political control, like the class system that preserves England from revolution. The labyrinth of districts and boroughs, the endless columned porticos that once guarded the modest terraced cottages of Victorian clerks, together make clear that London is a place where everyone knows his place.’

Costume dramas, in his view then, seem equally ‘instruments of political control’, ‘endless columned porticos’ for the mind…

[ thanks, Tim C ]

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3 Responses »

  1. Clearly he spends too much time watching TV…

  2. And talking to journalists!

  3. It’s the price of literary fame.

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