Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Dated but still true

I found myself staying up last night to watch BBC4's documentary 'To Kill A Mockingbird Turns 50' - followed by the 1962 film version of the book. I hadn't seen it or read it for many years - becoming a standard text in schools or featuring in  lists of 'must reads' is a death sentence for any book: 

My memories of the film (and the story itself) are of of it being very dated: The brutality of Southern segregation undeniably  sanitised for genteel consumption - very much anti-racism through the lens of the white middle class.  I'm pretty confident that history shows that justice - social or racial - doesn't come through benevolence  or enlightenment but from struggle and self-emancipation.

But emotionally, the simple message of the humanitarian need for empathy cuts across this sophistication. On a practical daily basis, when forced to rub along with every kind of -ism, small-mindedness and ignorance you keep coming back to the simple wisdom of Atticus  Finch; You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.

Which is why an old cynic like me found himself slightly choked up at an old black-and-white film in the small hours of the morning.

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