Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Won't someone not think of the children?

Allow me to weigh in on the ongoing furore over the cancellation of the community opera Beached, which, according to a BBC News report, "featured a gay character and 400 school children". That is not a full description of the opera, but in news terms it is all that counts. In fact Beached is described by its librettist Lee Hall as "a comedy about tolerance and inclusiveness". Bay Primary School, Bridlington, head teacher Emma Hobbs is showing her tolerance and inclusivity by withdrawing 300 performers at the last minute because of "the language and the tone of the scene in question", and most certainly not because the main character is gay. What is Hobbs' only concern in this matter? Why, "The emotional wellbeing of our children", of course. Phew, thank goodness for that.
She clarifies: "I have made the decision that our 4 to 11-year-old children have the right to be protected from offensive language and to be able to learn about the impact of upsetting insults in the appropriate manner". I'm not sure what sort of 4- to 11-year-old children they've got in Bridlington, but if they're like ordinary children then probably the best way to protect them from offensive language is to gag them. The offensive language in question is, apparently, "queer". You will be relieved (if that's the word) to hear that Lee Hall was already persuaded to remove the word "pee-pee" from the libretto. What the hell sort of head teacher is concerned about the emotional wellbeing of children but won't let them hear the word "pee-pee"? That would make a four-year-old's night, for goodness' sake!
But what about learning "about the impact of upsetting insults in the appropriate manner"? I believe Head Teacher Hobbs is saying that it is inappropriate for children to see a sympathetic character deal maturely with verbal abuse. Maybe that's not what she's saying. What is she saying? I notice that there is a scene in the opera where the protagonist's son is swept out to sea. Is an opera the appropriate manner in which to learn about safe swimming? Let me stress that I am not hydrophobic, and my comments should not be interpreted as such.

No comments: