We’ve still got Years and Years to go when it comes to diversity, but people like Russell T Davies are moving us in the right direction
By Valentina Kristensen, editorial board member for CIPR’s Influence Magazine, phenomenal young woman, friend, advocate of diversity and all round power house. At work: she’s Director of Growth and Communications for Oak North, a challenger bank.
Looking back over the last 12 months, there’s much to celebrate when it comes to diversity.
This was the year that Megan Rapinoe, the lesbian co-captain of the US women’s football team, led her squad to victory at the Women’s World Cup which attracted over 1bn viewers globally; it was the year that Margaret Atwood and Bernadine Evaristo jointly won the Booker Prize with Evaristo being the first black woman ever to receive the award; it was the year Siya Kolisi, the first black man to captain South Africa’s rugby team, led the Springboks to a World Cup championship; it was the year that Valentina Sampaio became the first openly transgender woman selected to be a model for Victoria’s Secret; it was the year that saw more women and black nominees take home Oscars than ever before…I could go on and on.
But it is also the year when transgender people were banned from joining the US military as new recruits unless they’re willing to serve as the sex they were assigned at birth; it was the year that saw women in nine US states stripped of their reproductive rights; it was a year where we once again witnessed dozens of mass shootings and terrorist attacks targeting people because of their race, religion, gender and sexual orientation…I could go on and on.
So, we still have a very long way to go, and someone who I admire for their work in highlighting this is Russell T Davies, the homosexual Welsh screenwriter and television producer whose works include: Queer as Folk, the 2005 revival of Doctor Who, and Years and Years, the BBC’s dystopian drama series which aired in June. It was this show that first drew my attention to Davies’ work – online plot summaries describe it as “an ordinary British family (the Lyons) contending with the hopes, anxieties and joys of an uncertain future that begins in 2019 and propels the characters 15 years forward into an unstable world”.
The show got an 8.4/10 rating on IMDB, a 90% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and attracted millions of viewers, but what made it such a unique success was the fact that Davies was able to make a family in which two of the four siblings are gay, one is in a biracial marriage and has a transhuman daughter, and one is played by Ruth Madeley who was born with spina bifida so requires a wheelchair to get around, “ordinary”.
This is from a man who a decade ago, poo pooed the idea of making Doctor Who a woman. He’s since said “That was 13 years ago. Thirteen long years. I’ve grown up, and learnt, and I hope I know better, and the world has grown up too.” I wouldn’t say the world has grown up just yet – there are still HUGE changes needed to improve gender and sexual diversity on screen – but thanks to the efforts of people like Davies, things are moving in the right direction and I can literally see [on the big screen and everywhere else] the positive change that’s inspiring.