Sunday 5 May 2024

Nerd Church - Unpopular Opinion: I've Never Liked Gavin and Stacey

...confessions of a rebel Welsh chick, I guess. 😅

Title: Unpopular Opinion: I've Never Liked Gavin and Stacey

OK - I know that there are international fans of this series, but since it's less well-known outside the UK, a little background:

Gavin and Stacey is a BBC sitcom about a Welsh woman from Barry and an English dude from Essex meeting on the internet, falling in love, and trying to get together despite being from opposite ends of the country.

It's also where James Corden hit the big time, in the UK at least. So... there's that. Make of it what you will 😅

There was an announcement this week that the last ever special episode of this show will air on Christmas Day on the BBC.

( - for cultural context, the Christmas Day schedule on the BBC is a Big Deal™.)

It was on the news - that's how big a deal this thing is here.

Lots of Welsh people absolutely adore Gavin and Stacey. And that is valid and a-OK.

A lot of people swear by this show. 

A lot of people think it's the best thing ever. 

A lot of people would think I'm awful for even thinking of criticising it.

Even in Wales, I'm in the minority for disliking this show.

But the fact remains: I've never liked it.

Because to me, it's a performance of Welshness - a caricature, (though that comes off as harsher on co-creator Ruth Jones than I'd like it to.)

I admire Ruth Jones for managing to be so successful in a media that isn't always the most receptive to stories of working-class Welsh people, especially if they're contemporary, rather than historical pieces.

I don't begrudge her or any of the other actors and showrunners any of that success.

I just... don't like the show.

It feels cheap. It feels naff. A bit cringe.

It's a bit much. It's like the friend who's a bit... messy. A bit cheap, a bit crass, and weirdly proud of it. 

...OK to hang around with in small doses, maybe, but annoying and overwhelming if you have to spend too much time with them.

Maybe people in Essex feel the same about that part of the show, I don't know.

To me, Gavin and Stacey feels like Wales through an English lens. 

Like we have to over-do every aspect of overly-stereotypical Welshness or the English won't understand that this is Wales.

...But we also can't be too Welsh. 

We can't include the things that jar with English culture - the surreal sense of humour, the Socialism, the connection to the land, the everyday-ness of singing and music, the way Chapel can be used a noun, an adjective, or a verb... Those things aren't allowed.

It feels like performing a version of ourselves that we think the English want to see. And the sad part is it worked - because they did want to see it.

Honestly, I wish my criticisms sounded less harsh, because I love it when Welsh people find success in media.

...But that's how I feel, and I'm not one for undue sugar-coating.

We make a lot of TV shows here, only a few of which are actually set in Wales, instead of using us as a stand-in for elsewhere.

It's never sat well with me that this performative stuff is what gets the attention, no matter how much money it brings in to the local economy (and, Lord knows, it does bring in a lot of money.)

Meanwhile, programmes like the English-language version* of Tree On A Hill are little-known.

...And Tree On A Hill is so, so, much better. 

So much funnier - despite being ostensibly a drama - and giving much more of a genuine, rounded, view of Welshness, than shows like Gavin and Stacey do.

*It's not uncommon for Welsh programmes to be filmed twice - once in Welsh and once in English - to be shown on S4C yn Cymraeg, and BBC Wales, (or full nationwide BBC, if we're lucky,) in English. 

I didn't actually realise, before writing this post, that Tree on A Hill was one of these, and might try to find the Welsh-language version just to compare.

Also well worth a watch is Michael Sheen's The Way

- which was a surreal mix of social commentary and mystically-tinged dystopia, with a good dose of the existential crises of Socialism and the identities of post-Industrial communities.

It's a show which a lot of the English critics -

(especially the right-wing, who hate Michael Sheen on principle,) 

- did not even slightly understand, being unable to comprehend a Welsh show which was about more than the surface action, but which was nonetheless so, so, Welsh.

...There is literally nothing Welsher than an existential debate about Socialism, and someone's ghost talking to you on a mountain. Nothing.

I feared that The Way would be as performative as Gavin and Stacey.

- That it would be a caricature of itself, and of every drama you've ever seen about a struggling industrial town, in Wales or not.

I needn't have worried. 

Michael Sheen knows where the line is between leaning into Welshness and mocking it. (And The Way is very Welsh and very Michael Sheen.)

There are voices coming out of Wales.

Passionate, intelligent, and unafraid to be actually, genuinely, Welsh.

Don't let the English lens be the only way we're seen.

Os gwelwch yn dda. Please.

Do you get what I'm saying?

Or am I persona non grata now?

Talk to me! 😊💬

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