Ed Vaizey

According to Tuesday’s Daily Telegraph, film-makers applying for funding from the British Film Institute will in future be tested against a “Three Ticks” scheme to prove that they are ethnically, sexually and socially diverse – both on-screen and in the production team. To be eligible, films must tick at least two out of the three following boxes: on-screen diversity, off-screen diversity and creating opportunity and social mobility. At least one leading character must be “positively reflecting diversity”.

Films are more likely to receive funding if they “explicitly and predominantly explore issues of identity relating to ethnicity or national origins, a specific focus on women, people with disabilities, sexual identity, age and people from a socially disadvantaged background”.

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has, according to the Telegraph, praised the scheme and declared that all television, film and performing arts companies should follow the BFI’s example.

The Honourable Edward Henry Butler Vaizey is obviously feeling a load of guilt about being a privileged white male and son of a life peer, whose presence in government does little to enhance its cultural diversity. Why else would he applaud this nonsense? Can it be that he really thinks the performing arts would be enhanced by the Three Ticks system?

Let’s take a look at a few of the great classics of literature and see how they might be assessed by the Three Ticks judging panel:

Pride and Prejudice: nice title, suggests overturning the social order. Feisty female author and heroine. But, oh dear, far too many toffs and not much social mobility, unless you count Elizabeth’s audacious leap from the Bennett household (modest unearned income and small frock allowance) to Pemberley (landed estate). Fitzwilliam Darcy seems sadly unable to explore issues of identity in relation to ethnicity or national origins.

A few tweaks might be necessary to reach the target. Maybe recast Darcy as an Arab prince (better cut the wet shirt scene though). At least one of Lizzy’s sisters could be in a wheelchair, and her bosom friend Charlotte Lucas might be a secret lesbian, whose marriage to Mr Collins is a sham.

Captain Wickham’s background could just about pass for socially disadvantaged – he certainly resented Darcy’s superior status. And maybe there were paedophile issues, as his romance with Darcy’s little sister almost certainly took place before she reached the age of consent.

Will that do? I’m sure Miss Austen would have understood the need to raise her game to meet 21st century tastes.

The Portrait of a Lady: another feisty female heroine gets us off to a good start. Would the exploration of Isabel Archer’s American origins be eligible as an issue of identity, do you think? Worth a try, although if we could recast her as black or mixed race that would be a real advantage.

Lord Warburton is even more of a toff than Ed Vaizey’s dad, but he was an enthusiastic proponent of social reform so might score a few points. Consumptive cousin Ralph could turn out to be a heroin junkie, and Henrietta Stackpole’s unhealthy interest in Isabel’s personal life hints strongly at lesbian tendencies.

Mr James, you might treat the BFI thought police with magnificent disdain, but you’ve got to admit there is room for some reworking here.

David Copperfield: Hero is white, straight and male, although he surely has social mobility, both upward and downward. But where is the diversity? David’s love life is entirely conventional and his friends unremittingly white. Steerforth may be flamboyant but his seduction of Little Emily leaves his sexuality in no doubt. All the leading female characters are decidedly insipid.

Mr Dickens, you must work harder to convince us that this Victorian favourite is worth televising.

Wuthering Heights: Oh yes, now this looks like a winner. Swarthy hero from socially deprived background, almost certainly a member of the Traveller community. Heroine with borderline personality disorder. Edgar Linton seems confused about his sexuality. Plenty of mental health and disability issues, especially if you count all those untimely deaths.

Miss Bronte, we may have reservations about your prose style and your implausible story line, but your novel will never want for remakes. You have ticked all the boxes! Just be sure to hire a director and film crew from a disadvantaged background (Bradford not Haworth please) and your funding will be assured.

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