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Monday, 10 March, 2003, 15:30 GMT
Real Men
Newsnight Review discussed BBC2's Real Men.

(Edited highlights of the panel's review)

I think the overall effect is disturbing. I think that's probably to the production's credit. All the way through you keep seeing echoes of things you've seen on the news over the last ten years. It's worrying how much this stuff is... it sort of taps into a visual iconography, videotape footage, certain ways in which characters are constructed. You just recognise so much of it. That's really alarming! It's a really worrying thing.

Why alarming? Because those images are so strong?

It's alarming partly because you don't realise just how familiar you are with them. That says something about the culture and cultural awareness of the subject. I think it's right a drama should be disturbing and uneasy. I spent the whole time worrying about whether or not what we were watching is exploitative. I think particularly in the first episode, it stayed just on the right side of that, even though I think it was a very, very thin line. It's well-written, I think it's extremely well performed, particularly by the young players. In the second episode, their youth becomes in itself a subject of anxiety. I have to say, as a criticism, I don't know how entertaining it is. I don't know how many people, because so much of it plays so much to home and reminds you of so many things you may not want to deal with, a large number of people won't make it through it. In the end it was honourable.

Germaine, as Mark suggest, the big question with any drama on paedophilia is how you dramatise the acts that happened, might they be watched by the wrong audience, et cetera. Do they make that judgement correctly?

Do you know, I think all audiences are in a sense the wrong audience. One of the things that happens in these three hours is you get progressive revelations. The revelation that is the most shocking is the one that comes at the end. That's the money shot. That's it. This is the biggie. You didn't even know in the time frame that you could have fitted those events in. They come as a complete surprise in a way. This is my problem. My problem is that paedophilia is not entertaining and once you make it into entertainment, you're in the pornography industry. You can have all the honourable rhetoric in the world. You can be driven and you can be a crusader, but in the end, you're showing this after dinner as entertainment, and anybody who watches it has to say to themselves, why am I - what is the entertainment value, what do I want to know here? You have all these poor children having to give descriptions of actions one hopes they've never undergone who have to use the word penis because somebody in the production office has said they must, which makes it - it makes you realise how contrived the whole thing. In the end we are made complicit to this thing. What is important about this is that it makes you understand how paedophilia is woven into the very fabric of our culture. The kids themselves are sexualised, and the horrible thing is every time an adult approaches a child, you think, 'don't touch that kid!' What hope is there for these children if nobody wants to touch them.

I share they queasiness over some of the scenes which the child actors had to do. I'm sure they were careful, but seeing children saying those things in interviews and recounting that and using the emotion to recreate it is rather horrible. A lot of watching it is very horrible. I have to say I thought that it's fantastically well researched. The detail about some of the incidents that we know about and the psychology of the care homes is fantastically well done and I mean obviously convincing because it happened and really quite horrifying. The problem comes with you're building this into a two-part series and you have a cliff-hanger at the beginning. There is another problem I think with the end, without trying to give it away, is that there is only one voice raised in this particular drama that says there is a certain amount of hysteria in these allegations and sometimes later in life these allegations are made and they aren't true. There is a problem about compensation. There is a problem about revenge on people who are in charge of you. Not in all cases by any means, and there's an awful lot of it about, but that argument was just about to happen, and then unfortunately the character who was making it had a secret which you didn't want to hear about.

I thought also importantly they raised the other fact, which has happened in some of these cases, that the kind of witnesses you're going to have will very often be people who have led damaged or criminal lives and therefore the court cases are impossible to mount for that reason.

The criminal prosecution service will look at the evidence. I've been around near some of these sort of cases, and you have got a group of 30-year-old men who have criminal records are junkies, drink too much or maybe on the wrong side of the law because they started off in these homes. They come on the witness stand and give their evidence and people say you're a criminal and you're a junkie and you drink too much. It's terribly difficult to actually pin anything on it. All that stuff was done really well.

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