These intelligent twists that are unique to the television iteration of Noughts & Crosses make sense in the vibrant world that they’ve created, where being an African is something to be proud of. I almost wish I had a show like this to watch when I was younger, whilst I was growing up with the name Oluwaseun in predominantly white areas in England and subjected to racist taunts. Seeing Noughts & Crosses on screen and seeing characters take pride in their blackness would have been a gamechanger for me. And it has been for so many young people, with just a glance at #NoughtsAndCrosses on Twitter you can see many young tweeters exclaiming pride at their cultures being depicted on screen.
Last Thursday at 9pm, BBC One broadcast the television adaptation of Malorie Blackman’s popular young adult book, Noughts & Crosses, into the homes of roughly 2.5 million people. Noughts & Crosses was first published in the early 2001 and is the first book in a series of five books and three novellas that depict what life is like in a fictional dystopian Britain, called “Albion,” where Crosses (black people) are the historical and contemporary oppressors of white people (Noughts). The books focus on the consequences of what happens when two young people Persephone or ‘Sephy’, a Cross, and Callum, a Nought, fall in love.
Some who clearly have not read or, perhaps, have misread the book and/or misunderstood the TV series took Thursday’s broadcast to be “anti-white” and “anti-British” propaganda. A writer for the Daily Mail lamented that the programme was nothing more than an attempt to “stir up antipathy” and that representations of deaths in police custody on the show, in the wake of the killings in police custody of Mzee Mohammed in Liverpool and Edson Da Costa in London a few years ago, were an “incendiary misrepresentation of law and order today.” A writer for UnHerd echoed this sentiment, claiming that this iteration of Noughts & Crosses was a “moral disaster,” that somehow “insults” the “British people that voted Brexit.” He went on to state that such programming was not necessary in 21st century Britain anyway because racism is “so absent from our society,” as evidenced by the fact that there are people of colour in Parliament and a person of colour in the Royal Family.