Fifteen years ago, Anthony Walker died following a racist attack in Liverpool. This week, the BBC film Anthony reimagines what his life might have been like had he lived, but in doing so it highlights the fact that not all stories about Black life should revolve around trauma.
There's a point in the new BBC drama where Gee Walker leaves hospital and heads home, to break the news of her son's death to the rest of the family. She stands before them in pin-dropping silence, but then breaks it with the kind of cry you hope you'll never have to hear coming from your own mouth.
This is both the beginning and end of Anthony, the true life story of the 18-year-old Black teenager who was murdered by racists. In the televisual equivalent of reading the last page first, the drama works its way back through his life, whittling, editing and rewriting it until there's nothing left but a whole new story.
With its gaze firmly turned away from the grim reality, Anthony focuses on the life he might have had: the career, the love, the wife, the marriage and the child. It's the life of a person so loving and kind that his qualities manage to transcend death in order to shape the plot of the whole film.
Written by Jimmy McGovern, Anthony is entirely in step with his screenwriting stance as a social-justice campaigner. On a CV that spans Brookside, Cracker, Hillsborough and The Street, McGovern has never knowingly shied away from a tough topic. But tough topics, particularly those centred on the Black British experience, are becoming more of a TV staple these days.
Anthony comes after June's Sitting in Limbo, a drama about the Windrush scandal, and there are more in the pipeline. ITV's forthcoming drama, Look At Me, is set to cover the recent case of two Black athletes who were stopped and handcuffed by police while their baby was in the backseat, and the channel has also announced a sequel to the 1999 drama The Murder of Stephen Lawrence.
Since Black Lives Matter, the sound of TV commissioners rushing to bring even more reflections of the Black experience to our screens has been deafening. But judging by their output they seem hellbent on only showing us the most tragic bits.
Having worked in television, I can see how that works. I once sat in a meeting where the producer demanded to see the "F**k me!" moment, or the point at which viewers were left dumbstruck with disbelief. Most producers in telly want that and I can only presume that when it comes to Black representation, it can only ever come from heart-wrenching, tear-inducing drama about murder, violence and brutality.
There is more than enough evidence to back up the fact that extreme racism exists and is a facet of people's lives, and when that is highlighted it can only be beneficial. Anthony Walker died in circumstances similar to those of Stephen Lawrence, even down to the fact that he was waiting at a bus stop when the racist harassment began, but few knew his name. Now, thanks to a BBC One film, they do.
Dramas about Anthony Walker, Stephen Lawrence and the Windrush children should exist – they're good ways of educating people. But when you sit them next to other programmes or films about the Black experience – Top Boy or 12 Years a Slave, perhaps – you could get the impression that there's little more to Black life than misery, murder and heartache.
The twist in the tale of Anthony shows us that there are other lives to be portrayed. A lot of the drama centres on Walker as an ordinary bloke, the kind who has dreams, chats up girls and leads drunken, arms-around-the-shoulder renditions of 'New York, New York' at his wedding reception.
But in TV's rush to eradicate racism by showing nothing but the horror, it forgets that this is the kind of stuff that shows people that we're not unimaginably different. For the sake of balance, highlighting our similarities might be just as powerful as detailing the trauma.
It might be news to TV bods but in an ideal world all aspects of Black life matter, not just the extreme bits. They wouldn't even have to get rid of the "F**k me!" moments – I'd just hope that they didn't always end in tears.
Anthony aired on BBC One and is now available on BBC iPlayer.
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