REVIEW: BBC’s Noughts and Crosses showcases a race flipped version of Britain

By Kudzai Chinembiri

BBC One, Noughts and Crosses series 1 episode 1

This six-part drama series derives from the established successful novel ‘Noughts and Crosses’ by black British author Malorie Blackman.

The first episode of this compelling series sets the scene in a 21st-century Britain. We are taken to a fictional place in London, England named Albion where we see Native Africans (who are known as crosses) as the superior race and Europeans (who are known as noughts) as the inferior race. The history of Albion starts from 700 years ago when they were colonised by the crosses who are the oppressors from Aprica, which is a fictional take on Africa.

Within the first ten minutes of this episode viewers can step into what it is like to be a nought in that society. The themes of racism eerily mirror the reality black people face in real life every day, some of those themes being police brutality, European beauty standards, microaggressions, stop and search laws and stereotypes.

Unlike a typical star-crossed lovers’ narrative this BBC drama focuses on a structural racist society; showcasing how the two main characters, Persephone Hadley (nicknamed ‘Sephy’) and Callum McGregor navigate their love for one another though the odds are against them. Being not only a cross but the daughter of Kamal Hadley, the home secretary, Sephy is deemed as a very privileged person in society, whereas Callum is just a nought and that alone automatically makes him disadvantaged in society.

A capturing scene that will grab your attention is when Callum injures himself whilst working at a high-class dinner party. Sephy sees this and helps him by placing a plaster on his wounded finger, the camera zooms in and focuses on the evidently brown plaster that represents a brown skin tone. The main objective of this episode is to bring the viewer into a modern-day black supremacist world, viewers can expect to see what the world would look like if black was the superior race.

Throughout the episode we see how well the writers portray the race reversal, for example when Sephy’s boyfriend mispronounces Callum’s name, or when the media describes noughts as “thugs” after a viral video of a police beating spreads. It reveals the hard-hitting truth about what life is like for a race that has been oppressed for generations, thus showing a parallel with the fictional society and our real-life society.

Something really moving about this series is the accurate attention to detail, not only did the producers execute the story well, through the dialogue of the characters, but it is shown through the traditional African clothing, the use of West African Yoruba language, distinct cultural hairstyles, and the consistent use of the racial slur “blankers” used to taunt and demean noughts.

No matter what genre you prefer to watch, this is a series worth viewing and you will not be disappointed.

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