Blithe Spirit by Noel Coward
I’ve always wanted to compare an original film with its modern version. And so teamed with the release of the modern version (this month) and directing a student with a monologue from the older version - Blithe Spirit provided that perfect opportunity.
Now - as I took my seat and watched both, I was once again reminded of how embedded racism is in English language. It infuriates me that in 2021 our young people are still being asked to memorise these oppressive spells in order to pass exams!
I mean - who decides this?
What do they look like?
And why is it so important that the classical texts that expose the inherent hate - still remains on the syllabus??
With the whole world zoomed in on race relations - behind the curtain, the age old institutions are still regurgitating old spells.
From English Drama Schools to Hollywood -
the ingredients of success is to reinforce the idea that anything with colour... is spoiled.
And whilst the newer version of Blithe Spirit is a lot more subtle in its obvious hate for other - the language throughout the older version simply cannot be blamed on unconscious bias!
Here are just a few statements from the older version;
‘Black in the face’
‘I never touch Indians it upsets my vibrations’
‘Some mediums prefer Indians… but I personally find them unreliable’
‘… their tribal language is naturally unintelligible’
The modern version - the one released in 2021
Is true to its form... and a lot more refined.
So let's first look at what Blithe Spirit is about...
A spiritualist medium holds a séance for a writer suffering from writers block, but accidentally summons the spirit of his deceased first wife. This leads to an increasingly complex love triangle with his current wife of five years.
And whilst on the surface this comic love triangle gives a humorous depiction of a spoilt man that has women fighting for his attention, beneath the surface it pokes fun at spirituality.
And... whilst the older version is much more overt in its offense,
is clever in its subtle, casual mocking of what many cultures hold dear.
I'd even go as far as saying that spirituality in this newer version is linked to mental illness! And with the above quotes from the older version in mind, you clearly see the play of disregard to everything not understood by the non-spiritual.
Blithe definition - showing a casual and cheerful indifference considered to be callous or improper. “A BLITHE disregard for the rules”.
have to be in charge of the narrative.
have to be in charge of the spells. And if
are not in charge then... it's 'Un-intelligible'.
Let's take the main character as a prime example.
Is it not interesting that Charles' occupation is an actual WRITER?
I hear you scream - "But our old classical gods of writing are heroes not... racists"!
Words are spells and spells are words -
check out where you can get other books that spell something other than
Black Child Promotions!!
Further to the overtly racist language of the old, and the covertly placement of spirituality being madness in the new - both versions go onto placing negative connotations around holistic wellness. Whilst taking tablets or being on medicine is normalised throughout TV and Film, herbs such as; bladder wrack and devil's claw are ridiculed...
I mean listen to the English name... devils claw...
with everything associated with the term devil you should already see the manipulation and the demonization!
I do love Judi Dench - who plays Madame Arcati, the clairvoyant in the latest version. She does a beautiful job of rounding and grounding a character which was previously played as such a caricature in the older version, it further exposes the separation from spirituality... the racism. However, not even Judi could save it!
Want to learn more about Spirituality from an African perspective?
Check out my review of Mikel Ameen's podcast African Spirituality... you can also visit the worldchangerlife website.
Love the Moor, rather than hating it.