Olivia Garrett discusses the upcoming TV adaptation of Malorie Blackman’s ‘Noughts and Crosses’.
If you cast your mind back to your old school library and think about those dusty display shelves, alongside the Harry Potter’s and the many many sequels of ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’, you’ll probably remember the black and white cover of Malorie Blackman’s ‘Noughts and Crosses’. This five novel series is about to be released as a TV adaptation on Thursday the 5th of March.
Originally published in 2001 ‘Noughts and Crosses’ is a story set in an alternative 21st century Britain where Europe has been colonised by a technologically superior Africa. In this world the term ‘Noughts’ is used instead of ‘white’ and ‘Crosses’ is used instead of ‘black’. The Noughts, though no longer slaves to the Crosses, make up a second class who have very little to protect them from discrimination in the way of laws or constitutions. Protagonist Sephy (Persephone) is a Cross and the daughter of a senior politician in a system of government similarly structured to ours. Callum is a Nought who grew up in Sephy’s household as his mother was her nanny. The two of them find love in this broken system and must deal with the consequences.
Well worth the read, these stories naturally drew plenty of attention when first published. They carry a powerful political message on racial inequality wrapped up in an emotionally charged story, what remains to be seen is if the adaptation can do the same.
“They carry a powerful political message on racial inequality wrapped up in an emotionally charged story, what remains to be seen is if the adaptation can do the same.”
The adaptation was originally announced in 2016 but delayed due to changes in the writing team. Now being overseen by ‘Being Human’ writer Toby Whithouse, The BBC synopsis reads: ‘against a background of prejudice, distrust and powerful rebellion mounting on the streets, a passionate romance builds between Sephy and Callum which will lead them both into terrible danger’. With this in mind the show promises to be as emotionally impactful and thrilling as the novels, but the real question is will it deliver in terms of political relevance?
In our current climate, where race is often at the forefront of political and filmic discussions, this series could really to serve to highlight the unseen, or rather ignored, issues of everyday racism. Blackman lists predominantly white school curriculums and pink plasters as some of the key points of inspiration for her. Therefore, seeing brown plasters and white names mispronounced could open many eyes to these continuing problems. The deconstruction and reversal of such issues on an influential platform like the BBC gives the show the potential to start a more open and publicised racial discourse.
“The deconstruction and reversal of such issues on an influential platform like the BBC gives the show the potential to start a more open and publicised racial discourse.”
Malorie Blackman has said that she believes the show will have a bigger impact today than it would have done four years ago due to the ‘realisation that diverse stories do make money’. Films such as ‘Black Panther’ and ‘Hidden Figures’, as well as the increase in ethnically diverse casts in high-budget projects, have paved the way for a series such as this. Furthermore, the recent communication from celebrities such as Stormzy, who very publicly stated that there was definitely racism in the UK, has brought the issue of race to the forefront of our minds (Stormzy also has a cameo in the new series as a newspaper editor).
Although this book series was released almost twenty years ago, its continuing and increasing relevance to today’s context means that this show could be very impactful. The story has the ability to affect and influence the UK’s discussion on race and to make people aware of the struggles continually faced by people of colour.