Top Boy Commentary: Positive or Negative Message?
7 Nov 2011
I was initially intrigued and excited about the series ‘Top Boy’. The title suggests greatness and immensity. Unfortunately it is a mere delusion of grandeur.
It has taken a long while for Black People to have a significant voice within society, particularly in the western world. To say that we have overcome struggles to become successful in our own right is simply an understatement. We have broken off the chains, shackles and driven forward further than we could have possibly imagined. We now have Black people in authoritative positions in the government. A great example of this is David Lammy who is a good representative of success and has been a Labour party politician since 2000. Additionally, the entertainment industry has given Black people a level playing field. It is a popular outlet used to illustrate culture and tradition. We can produce theatre productions, books, musicals, and films.
Whilst black people have evolved in their own right, technology has also evolved. It has gone from dial-up internet connections to wireless connections. Standard televisions have become a distant memory while flat screen televisions are now the more desirable option. High Definition and 3D quality is also high in demand. I speak of such evolution because though black people have advanced, we still remain static in some aspects. Most of you will agree that ‘Top Boy’ is a golden platform for young Black youths to showcase their acting skills. It is also inspiring that music artists such as ‘Scorcher’ and ‘Kano’ play some of the leading characters in the show. It demonstrates that they have a range of talents outside of music such as versatility and the willingness to peruse other crafts and develop it. What other high level is there other than the television? However, this dynamism is not present with the producers of the show. They fall into the calamitous trap of portraying the negative stereotypes of ethnic youths. It is fair to say that this stigma has been around for a long time. We are no longer in chains but yet majority of producers in the Western culture still insist on binding us in these chains.
The series is four episodes long and broadcasted over four consecutive nights. After closely analyzing the television drama, the layout is innovative and has no trouble engaging its viewers. However, the same cannot be said for the storyline. The story follows the lives of a group of youths that turn to a life of crime. Upon first viewing I felt the cold breath of déjà vu, which sent chills down my spine. Some may argue that it provides an insight into the harsh realities of those who reside in East London. With this being said, others may view it as a crime deterrent due to the consequences that the characters encounter due to their involvement with crime. Nevertheless, those are consequences most young people would not want to endure. Yet, I am confident that this representation does far more harm than good. The news of gun crime amongst youths is comparable to the darkness that covers the land when the sun goes down. It starts off steadily, and then darkness eventually engulfs the land. Furthermore, the timing of this show is also destructive as it comes on the back of the recent London riots that tore apart many communities across England. Young people were scrutinized, stereotyped and heavily discriminated during this period. On a whole, the image that ‘Top Boy’ represents threatens to eradicate much dignity which is left within the community. I hope that one day it will be possible to produce a drama which focuses on positive aspects within the Black community which people usually fail to mention such as charity, education and skills development? Yes, gun crime and violence is a prominent issue within our community, but my fear is that it casts a grim shadow on the positive movers and shakers.
By the end of the series there are up to five stabbing’s, with no positive resolution. We see Asher D’s character investing in more drugs. Many will identify him as the ‘Top Boy’ by the end. Is this because he came out on top after several gruesome incidents? Is it because he lasted long enough to continue applying his ‘trade’? Perhaps the director’s intention was simply to entertain. If that is the case then he has succeeded. But in terms on illustrating any kind of constructive message then he has failed miserably.
What are your views?
Written By: @NanaK247
Top Boy is set amidst East London’s drug gang underworld and stars a host of music talent including Giggs, Scorcher and Sway. Check out the mixtape hosted by 1Xtra DJ Charlie Sloth.
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