On a good night for women in TV dramas, why did Bafta bottle it over the Noel Clarke scandal?

·3-min read
 (Natasha Pszenicki)
(Natasha Pszenicki)

Last year was a good year for complicated female characters in British TV, especially characters confronting sexuality in ways which were liberating, yes, but also messy, traumatic and emotionally conflicting. Last night the Baftas recognised these stories with awards for shows such as I May Destroy You, Sex Education and Normal People and nominations for others like Adult Material and I Hate Suzie. All the above were groundbreaking, but the irony of these wins and nominations being handed out at the Baftas isn’t lost on me.

Less than two months ago, more than 20 women across the TV and film industry came forward accusing actor and director Noel Clarke of sexual harassment. Despite knowledge of these allegations, Bafta went on to give Clarke its outstanding British contribution to cinema award. Bafta initially defended this decision on the grounds that it had only received anonymous and secondhand information, but later stripped Clarke of the award. Of course, allegations such as these deserve full investigation. Yet Bafta’s only acknowledgement of Clarke’s alleged crimes at last night’s ceremony was by omission, choosing to scrap special individual prizes. When “Me Too” rocked Hollywood, every award show recognised the importance of the moment. At the 2018 Oscars, award presenters made strong statements, red carpet presenters raised the issue with celebs, and main host Jimmy Kimmel pulled no punches. Last night’s Bafta host Richard Ayoade’s light jabs at the viewer were as far as he was willing to go. This was Bafta’s chance to acknowledge how slow it was to act on the Clarke allegations but they bottled it. With more accusations against industry figures such as Charlie Hanson trickling through, however, the day of reckoning can only be put off for so long — now’s the time for Bafta to get ahead of it.

In one of her speeches last night, Michaela Coel thanked intimacy coordinators for creating environments that allow actors to “make work about exploitation, loss of respect [and] abuse of power, without being exploited or abused in the process”. Having intimacy coordinators is a safeguard popularised mainly by female-led productions. Might it take having more women in positions of power to minimise bad behaviour? Undoubtedly. But it means nothing if the men holding positions “above the line” still feel they can do what they please on their sets. It’s not enough to champion shows that tackle difficult subject matters — Bafta needs to address these issues in the industry, and be transparent about how they plan to do this. It shouldn’t have taken a speech from Coel to remind us that there is still a lot of work to be done.

Harry and Meghan will never satisfy the trolls

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle chose the name of their second child, Lilibet Diana, in tribute to the Queen and Harry’s late mother. It’s all very touching, except of course if you’ve already decided to detest the Sussexes. The Twitter trolls are raging again — after their war with the royal family, how dare Meghan and Harry blaspheme in such a way!

I wonder what the couple could do that would be considered honourable by these people. Raise awareness about mental illness: they must want attention. Slam racism: how dramatic they’re being. Solve world hunger: why didn’t they do it sooner? Sometimes it’s okay to say nothing. You won’t burst into flames if you see a piece of news and decide not to respond to it, rather than vilify two people you’ll probably never meet.

What do you think of Harry and Meghan’s name choice? Let us know in the comments below.

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