Minorities may die in Midsomer Massacres

Picture of John Nettles, who played DCI Tom Barnaby in Midsomer MurdersThe BBC doesn’t have a monopoly on ridiculous plotlines in its drama, despite the recent trends of Casualty, Holby City and EastEnders (not to mention the sappy ridiculousness of the school drama series, Waterloo Road). ITV has been running a rural crime drama called Midsomer Murders since 1997, in which, according to today’s Daily Mail, there have been 222 murders over 81 episodes, all taking place in the fictional English county of Midsomer. Today, the programme provoked some controversy when the producer, Brian True-May (who lives in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire), insisted that there had been no ethnic minorities in the series and it was going to stay that way, because “it wouldn’t be the English village without them”. ITV have suspended him. (More: Enemies of Reason.)

The Daily Mail article notes that several commenters have pointed out how unrealistic Midsomer Murders is, with or without ethnic minorities — English villages do not generally have such a stupidly high murder rate. I once heard it said on the radio that urban French do not have a very high opinion of the countryside, regarding it as a place where “everybody’s mother is also their sister”. Midsomer Murders (or Midsomer Massacres as we call it, given the large numbers who come to a sticky end) seems to take a very French view of the countryside, a place of inward-looking groups of people with vicious grudges that frequently lead to multiple murder. It’s a very unflattering portrait of the English village and one which ethnic minorities might feel more comfortable left out of.

I’ve always thought Midsomer was meant to be somewhere in the south-west, given that there is a place called Midsomer Norton, in north Somerset, but it’s actually set in south Buckinghamshire where there is actually a substantial ethnic minority (particularly Asian) population. There are substantial Asian populations in Slough, Chesham and Aylesbury, the latter two being very close to Great Missenden. If there is such a thing, the typical English village is not to be found anywhere in the Chilterns any more than it is to be found in the North Downs or anywhere else in the London commuter belt — a fairly substantial proportion of residents are people who commute by car to Aylesbury or Reading, or by train to London. I very much doubt that these people would relocate to the countryside if it really was the near-war zone portrayed in this series.

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