Scots, for me, have become the whipping boys of the literature and film-making worlds in their seeming determination to present us with unintelligent, violent, and predictably inaccurate stereotypes of the people of my nation.
The British, generally, suffer in this regard but whilst the English stereotype in Hollywood is the evergreen, upper-class accented, moustache-twirling villain and/or cheeky chappy cockney, rarely is an English character presented as we would find the ordinary hard-working men and women of the midlands and Northern England for example, or the Welsh.
Only the Irish seem to have lucked into a more light hearted, twinkly-eyed, everyone’s best drinking buddy type of stereotype. Still hugely misrepresentative of their people though (mostly).
Whilst most Brits are represented in a ridiculous way, I do feel that Scots suffer most of all from the public perception which the media seems determined to portray us as. Almost invariably whenever Scots appear in books, TV or films they are presented as violent, usually drunk, often drug addicts, and incoherently stupid. It appears that the media’s view of Scots is of a nation perpetually in the pub/football stadium/ high/drunk/aggressive/loud, unintelligible and most of all, thick.
Very few forms of entertainment present us with a positive Scots’ role model, and the worst offenders are produced here in Scotland.
While we do have Inspector Rebus played brilliantly by Ken Stott, Amy Pond, great character, James Bond, an intelligent and proactive super-spy, Jack Parlabane, funny, human and clever (Brookmyre), we’re also victim to the “We’re just one of you” brigade of Scottish TV and actors like Elaine C Smith, with her Morningside accent for the interviews, and her Clyde side “Mary-Doll” for the plebs.
Even the brilliant Peter Mullen’s NEDS, focuses on this thug minority, albeit in an insightful and skilled manner.
I find it difficult to believe also that Hollywood can’t cast a Scottish actor in main roles when tackling very Scottish projects. Instead we get an Australian William Wallace, an Irish Rob Roy, never once a Scottish “Scotty” in Star Trek, a French Christophe Lambert Playing a Scottish Immortal in Highlander beside a Scottish Sean Connery playing a Spaniard.
Are Scots really so untalented that we can’t be used to represent our own nation. Pixar’s “Brave” appears to have taken a huge step in the right direction in this regard with it’s genuinely all-Scottish, very talented cast.
Its very difficult to pinpoint a good, honest portrayal of a Scotsman these days who isn’t a junky, a wee NED, talks through his/her nose or has anything positive or intelligent, or human to say. A character who reflects the ordinary people of his/her country would be a start.
The people of Scotland that I know are warm, good people. They’re clever (even the uneducated ones folks), they’re vital, funny as hell, resilient, hardy, and rough sometimes yes, but among the most decent people worldwide.
Let’s see some of that on the screen or in books. Lets see some truly gutsy, interesting Scottish characters in our media and ditch the Shortbread tin or smackhead/NED image we’re tarred with. Characters like Jack and Victor and all their entourage in Still Game who revel Scotland’s heart in their genuine characterisation of its people.
People like our handicapped superstar golfer in John Niven’s wonderful “The Amateurs”. Some real characters with real and current difficulties and victories like the ones that John Mackenzie gave us throughout his career, but most especially in “Just another Saturday”.
People who learn, make mistakes, change, care, and laugh and cry throughout their lives.
Proper story telling. Proper characterisation.
This is exactly what I need to see more of and why I populate my books with such characters. Flawed, funny, wilful, interesting. Just like peoples of all countries contain. People with something to say, with a story to tell, imperfect people with the capacity for goodness and badness. People with heart..
Ken loach can stick his “Angel’s Share” and its cheeky chappy, criminal wee NEDS-come-good up his arse. Social commentary for unemployed and disenfranchised youth? Maybe but representative of the majority of Scotland youth or its people generally.Absoultely not.
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