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How accurate is Bleasdale’s portrayal of family life in the 1980’s in ‘Boys from the Blackstuff’?

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Introduction

Jenny Corcoran 10a How accurate is Bleasdale's portrayal of family life in the 1980's in 'Boys from the Blackstuff'? It is the 1980s. Britain's working class are suffering due to high unemployment and a bleak and depressing world recession. The mood of the general public, especially the unemployed, is one of despair and resignation, coupled with the fact that the government do not understand their hopeless predicament. Then, amongst the riots and protests breaking out all over the country, a new and extremely relevant drama is aired on the BBC. 'Boys from the Blackstuff' by Alan Bleasdale, a series depicting the effects unemployment has on family life, is immediately popular, among audiences and critics alike. This is mainly because of its startling similarities to Britain at the time, enabling the general public to relate to the scripts in one way or another. The Anglican Bishop of Liverpool (the setting of 'Boys from the Blackstuff'), Reverend David Sheppard commented, 'it's about people with great gifts and abilities being robbed of a chance to use them'. This reflected the situation of many families at this time. Unemployment had varying effects on the relationships between husband and wife. While some couples were brought closer together by their troubles, many family bonds became strained and volatile. ...read more.

Middle

Dixie and his wife Freda are also adversely affected by the problems unemployment causes. Both husband and wife are committing benefit fraud (hence the title of the episode, ' Moonlighter'), a situation that leaves Dixie feeling resentful and frustrated. He often takes it out on Freda, or treats her like a child. An example of such treatment was when Freda wanted to go and warn her friends about the DHSS, but Dixie objected. He said, 'You go see other girls, right? Bad man with binoculars see you, right?' By talking down to Freda and patronizing her in this manner he feels as though he is pushing himself upwards in the household hierarchy, as well as hanging on to what little masculinity he has left. Bleasdale also uses the language of the area and era to further implement the idea that Dixie and Freda have an unbalanced and unfair relationship. Dixie often refers to her as, 'girl' or 'my tart' Although he may mean it as a term of endearment, the audience generally see it as derogatory and another indication that the Dean's relationship is degrading due to their respective unemployment. The patriarchal character of George Malone is a stark contrast with the behaviour of families like the Todds and the Deans. It is clear that George commands a certain respect through his extended family bonds, whether it is the differing language used ...read more.

Conclusion

It is clear that Yosser loves his children and wants the best for them. He says, 'When you were born...I was all right then...without me you...' However, although Yosser believes that he is doing the best for his children by keeping them out of the reach of the Social Services, he is actually achieving the opposite. By stopping them from going to school and out of contact with children of their own age, the children's social skills degrade and disappear. This is apparent when Anne-Marie, Yosser's daughter, head butts the social worker as she tries to take her away from her father. It also proves that Yosser has inadvertently set a bad example for his children, therefore the Social Services were right to take them away. It was not just the children of unemployed parents that suffered during the recession of the 1980s. Miss Sutcliffe, a DHSS worker was a character shown with an elderly and senile mother. By showing the problems they experienced, such as the pranks Mrs Sutcliffe played on her daughter, Bleasdale creates a human side to the DHSS, who were often portrayed as unfeeling automatons. In this way, Bleasdale accurately portrays family life in the 1980s as by creating the different family units the audience sees all aspects of the suffering and hardship people encountered. By showing the point of view of those that are happily employed as well as those that are impoverished and destitute the drama is much more realistic and true to life. ...read more.

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