A bit late I know… but I strategically allocated specific time to binge watch this season so I could accurately evaluate my thoughts.
I’ve watched all previous seasons and have been following Ashley Walters since So Solid and Bullet Boy, and in the last few years have really started to appreciate Kane Robinson.
Check out my review of Hoodies All Summer by Kano
I remember sneaking into the cinema as a teenager to watch Bullet Boy, and came out of it thinking -
"I can be a movie star even though I'm not American"
Forget about the bullets - this was inspiration for me. So as an Actress born and raised in ‘urban’ London I’m torn.
So lets start with the problem.
Having done some research here are the creators of this seasons Top Boy.
Director – Yann Demange
Writer – Ronan Bennett
Funder – Drake
Although all may be able to relate in their own way like I do to the narrative, none are living that reality now! At least not in this country, in that (black) shell, born in Generation Z!
I think it is so important to know whose vision you are about to dive into. And question what the intention and agenda is in same said vision.
Is this just a way for them to programme us into Black on Black violence?
Struggling? Think about the conversation we are having at the moment about women writers, the lack thereof, and how men (and some women!!!!), write two dimensional, oversexed women characters all the time. And how harmful this is for young girls to see representation in this way as it may lead to them being... well... oversexed and two dimensional.
And trust me – even an advertisement is someone’s vision.
At this time, in this world, it is imperative when watching Theatre/ Tv/ Film/ Advertisements that you put on your analytical hat and cross examine why, say… a little dark skinned, pop belly girl with flies around her head is the face of a charity advert that is shown in the daytime, in England, regularly…
Does that not feeds into your pysche subconsciously of how you go onto treat Black females (both positvely* and negatively)?
You don't know?! Well… then... you should probably sell the tel-lie-vision.
*positively - because you may think you are doing something positively but actually you are actioned by thinking this person is in need... of you!
Understand that I’m not slating charities, but overstand that the law does protect certain types of children, whilst other (usually non-white) childrens face is shown noncognitively!
To drive home my point there’s a reason that starts really early, as to why we associate this...
With being low paid, impoverished and unattractive!
So the debate is this -
This season of Top Boy did a really good job at exploring deeper issues surrounding why ones circumstances leads to a life of selling drugs. I appreciated this because, in my experience there is a reason for dysfunction outside of the fact that you are Black and male. However, it also took into account what it is to be Black and Male!
Another interesting angle and theme that I thoroughly enjoyed in this season of Top Boy was watching Lisa Dwan’s performance of Lizzy.
Lizzy's journey is wide as she experiences being dragged down to the streets from the high throne of privilege. The duality of being White but a Woman was explored and executed very well.
I recently found out I’m a part of Generation Y also known as a Millennial being born after 1980. Growing up in the 90’s there really was no representation of the Black experience in London, England, and like I have mentioned before, I am appreciative of the Garage/ Grime scene and what that offers worldwide culturally to my existence!
Having to look to Jamaica and/ or African Americans for identity when being third generation British, I think, is one of the fundamental roots to why my community struggle to survive here – Social Invisibility methinks.. have a read and let me know your thoughts!
Funnily enough it is evident that this season of Top Boy is heavily influenced by both Jamaica and African American culture, and Yann Demange, Ronan Bennett and Drake do a fantastic job at weaving this into the London narrative, and achieve it seamlessly.
Is this because they watch our lives objectively?
I don’t know - but I am thankful it isn't done tactlessly and the narrative isn’t just Black and White.
Having addressed issues with race in ‘The Turks” and “The Irish” and of course the privilege that comes with being non-black, this season of Top Boy develops a new social construct!
The war between Generation Y and Generation Z!
Overall, I was hooked! I did have to take breaks because I just found the experience too intense and a bit too relatable. It is tragic that parts of London (often natives) experience this lifestyle... and we do need more diverse content about Black lives on our screens to balance the scale. However, like most rap songs of my generation state subliminally, this (Top Boy) was (and is) more than just a N*88@ story.
I've taken a star off because the level of acting is inconsistent. While the standard is super high the focus shifts for those who aren't yet of that standard.
Directing – Yann Demange
I loved how this was directed and shot. But I question whether the Director could spot inauthenticity like I could (as he is not from London... or Jamaica).
Writer - Ronan Bennett
As white as he is - his association with this life came across as very real probably because of his upbringing and passed (read the link above)!
But loses a star because his Whiteness is still exploiting and privileged.
Watch now on Netflix. They’re offering a month free subscription so get on it.