BBC's new talent show, 'I'd do anything' has attracted criticism for being an extended advertisement for the new production of the musical 'Oliver' but could it also be revealing prejudices in the voting public?
The show has a number of musical actresses who are all competing for the opportunity to be the new Nancy; there are ten actresses in total and each week they perform a song which is firstly critiqued by a panel and then by Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber. The viewing public then vote for the woman they would like to see remain in the show. The bottom two sing once more and Lord Webber decides who will remain.
There were two black performers in the show. In week two both were voted in the bottom two and had to sing off against each other. Lord Webber said that this was not a fair result based on the performances, but one had to go.
Week three saw the remaining black woman Keisha in the bottom two again despite the panel and Lord Webber deeming her to be better than some others. Last week she was in the bottom three.
Does this reveal the racial bias in the viewers? Well on the surface you might argue yes, but it might not be as straightforward as that.
Do we really think of any of the main characters being anything other than white?
The images that come to my mind of Oliver Twist are based on old photographs and classic black and white movies. I didn't associate any of the above with black people. The same will be true of Nancy.
The celebrity panel and Lord Webber very admirably stick to their task of picking out talent. Lord Webber attempted, at the start of week three's programme, to remind viewers to judge the performances in the same vein. He referred to not judging people on whether they are from England, Scotland, Wales or Ireland, but on the way they perform. This instruction, worthy as it was, did not work in week two and hasn't been repeated since
Colour is one of the most identifiable features we have and our brains register someone's ethnicity almost before anything else. The association we make between Nancy and a white woman is so strong that we can't cast it off. The Lord needs to keep reminding us though on what we should be judging the women on but Keisha unfortunately will continue to have a rough ride unless she puts in some truly exceptional performances. This is probably the experience of many ethnic minorities struggling for recognition of their talent in a lot of organisations.