BBC’s high-budget series adaptation really digs into the heart of Blackman’s message. In reversing the prejudice, we’re better able to imagine,
see, and comprehend the extent of racism in the real world. More than that, the
series acts like a poetic, political deconstruction of what racial privilege
Sephy (Masali Baduza) and Callum (Jack Rowan) engage in a forbidden romance
In this world, history has been swapped around. 700 years prior, the continent of Aprica (not a typo) colonised the countries of Europe – making people of colour the dominant race. In a different-looking London, the Crosses live in large,
opulent houses and noughts reside in tight living spaces. Crosses can
afford to go to university; noughts can’t. Crosses make up the entire political
cabinet; noughts are barely seen in senior positions, usually working as
cleaners, waiters, or construction workers. And although slavery has been abolished,
the noughts are still servile to their Cross masters.
Lydia Adetunji harshly captures this contrast in the very different lives of Callum (Jack Rowan), a nought waiter, and Sephy (Masali Baduza), a
Cross undergraduate. They eventually engage in a predictable romance, effectively forbidden
in Albion, and their relationship naturally assuages their in-built prejudices.
Although there’s a lack of simmering chemistry between Rowan and Baduza, they
approach their characters’ situations with such vivid grace. There’s a palpable
hurt in their performances, especially as their characters go against the Albion's approved injustices.
opening scene sees Callum and his friends being blocked by aggressive police
officers, all of whom are Crosses. They call the noughts ‘blankers’ (their equivalent of the N-word) and proceed with violence, putting one of them in
hospital. In this example of police brutality, the series kicks off its stinging, race-changing metaphor.
Home Secretary Kamal Hadley (Paterson Joseph), enjoying the pleasures of Cross privilege
Cross life is very privileged and aristocratic by comparison. They control the
news, the politics, the law, the order – all manipulated to favour themselves (fake news is a big theme). Sephy
lives in the thick of that lifestyle as the daughter of Home Secretary Kamal Hadley
(Paterson Joseph). Hadley wants to maintain the narrative of inequality between
the races, proudly proclaiming in the second episode that ‘there is strength in
Sephy grows aware of her Cross privilege, initially naïve and ignorant before properly investigating the issue. This process shows the upsetting reality of racial attitudes at the top and how they influence everything: from policy to education to public perception.
a constant tone of one-step-forward-two-steps-back, of finding hope before
breaking it apart and starting again. And more than showing racism, Noughts
+ Crosses reveals where the prejudice comes from and the value of fighting
against it. It's an enlightening, evocative experience.
Noughts + Crosses airs on BBC One at 9pm on Thursday 5 March. All episodes will be available on BBC iPlayer after the first episode airs.
|What||Noughts and Crosses, BBC One review|
05 Mar 20 – 05 Mar 21, ON BBC ONE