Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I hope that anyone who's never heard of Alan Turing had a chance to see last night's Channel 4 docudrama: Britain's Greatest Codebreaker. The programme highlighted Turing's codebreaking skills which helped win WW2. It also covered his post-war work on computing carried out at Manchester University, and his persecution as a result of being gay.

The person in charge of BBC children's TV, Joe Godwin, has an honours degree in History from the same University. I contacted Mr Godwin in January 2011 to suggest that the BBC might be interested in a children's drama about Alan Turing:

Excerpt from email to Mr Godwin dated 5th Jan 2011:
.. Might I suggest a drama on the life and work of Alan Turing would be a good idea? It could be done in time for the Turing centenary next year, and I hope would be a sensitive and nuanced portrayal, including Alan's affection for schoolfriend Christopher Morcom. ..

As far as I'm aware the idea has not been taken up. And regrettably, BBC children's TV chose to misrepresent another LGBT genius and hero.

I fleshed out my idea in an email to Joe Godwin on 10th Jan 2011 (excerpt):
.. I was thinking of a dramatisation of Turing's life for children's TV. I watched the remake of Just William over the holiday period, and noticed that romance and relationships were quite prominent. We see William's brother and sister dating, and William's teacher saying that "our society is founded on a man and a woman wanting to be together." By the fourth episode William's antipathy towards girls has gone, and he wants to be friends with Dorinda.

Of course kids have crushes at the age of 11, or sometimes at an earlier age. CBBC recognised that fact with programmes like Eliot Kid and Little Howard's Big Question, but I doubt that those stories turned any gay children straight. Using the same reasoning, a children's drama about an LGB person is not going to alter the sexual orientation of straight kids. However making children's TV inclusive is likely to encourage tolerance, as was recognised in past storylines in CBBC programmes such as Byker Grove and Grange Hill.

Alan Turing is an apposite subject for a British children's drama for 2012, which is the centenary of his birth and the year of the London Olympics. Alan was a top class runner as well as mathematician, codebreaker, gay rights pioneer and a senior figure in the development of the computer. He succumbed to the prejudices of a bygone age.

Turing's teenage crush on Christopher Morcom was no different to, say, six-year-old Eliot Kid's crush on Loretta or Little Howard's feelings towards Little Susan. And if the BBC is to represent everyone, with no group underserved, it needs to deliver for LGBT children and teenagers. What better luminary could there be for the CBBC to celebrate in 2012? ...

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