Thursday, 11 February 2016

Horror in Middle England

I saw this and it reminded me of something:
Specifically, it reminded  me of The Archers. If the connection between this diabolical image and Middle England's cherished "everyday story of country folk" escapes you, you clearly haven't tuned into the radio soap for a while. Because the green welly brigade's favourite Aga saga has taken a darkly compelling turn lately, with the horrific emotional car crash that is Helen Archer's Titchener's suffocating marriage to the superficially charming psychopath, Rob Titchener.

It's a grippingly disturbing portrait of emotional abuse, as Rob methodically undermines his pregnant wife, takes away her independence, bit by agonising bit and slowly turns her friends and young son against her, against an even darker background of implied physical and sexual abuse. A tornado of psychological horror has carried us away from the familiar landscape of crop rotation and village produce shows. Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Borsetshire anymore.

And last night, after effectively pushing Helen out of her job in her own whole food shop, thus severing just about her last link with the outside world, Rob turned to her and told her that if she ever needed to talk about anything that was worrying her, she could always turn to him (and, by implication, only him). And a million genteel middle-class people shouted "you bastard!" at the radio.

It shouldn't come as any surprise to see these things in the relations between a prosperous, landed farming family and their eligible, privately-educated son-in-law, but somehow this intrusion of cold, focused cruelty into the wholesome, cosy, complacent world of Ambridge's long-established dynasty throws it into sharper relief.

Likewise, it shouldn't come as any surprise when unpleasant reality starts to happen right under the noses of real comfortably privileged folk but, of course, it does:
David Cameron's aunt has told ITV News that the prime minister's own local council is making a "great, great error" by closing children's centres, as she pleaded with her nephew to provide the funds to keep the services open.
Clare Currie and her sister, the prime minister's mother, Mary Cameron, have signed a petition calling on the Conservative-led Oxfordshire County Council to abandon plans to close 44 centres in the county. 
It's easy to ignore the consequences of cruelty when they're happening to somebody else, safely out of sight. But it starts to gets really scary when the abuse comes home and it turns out that the abuser is family.

I'm pretty sure that in Soap-Opera Land, Rob Titchener will eventually be found out by his nearest and dearest and have to face the consequences of his actions, although you can be sure that he'll try to shift the blame onto somebody else. In deepest Oxfordshire, the scriptwriter of reality seems to have already reached that point in the drama.