My Child the Rioter, the latest Wonderland film on BBC Two last night attempted to unravel last year’s riots through interviews with a range of children involved in the riots and their parents.
Award-winning Olly Lambert’s film began with David Cameron blaming the riots on bad parenting. By having rioter and parent side-by-side for many of the interviews that followed shows that their actual reasons for rioting runs much deeper than bad parenting.
Here, you had every side of the coin – the parents who, were they younger, would have joined their son in rioting; the parent who refused to give bail to her son because of his behaviour; the parent rocked by the jailing of their daughter. A disturbing portrait was slowly emerging of the middle and working classes.
Remorse wasn’t evident here, most of the rioters were remorseful for getting caught more than anything – many would do it again given a chance.
What emerges most from this documentary is stupidity. A single action, or ten seconds of stupidity have ruined people. The crowd mentality whipped up by few, and demonstrated by so many his cost dearly to properties, careers and lives.
So, if it isn’t bad parenting, what is it that caused the riots? The answer still isn’t clear. Ryan, 19, from Manchester paints himself as a social crusader fighting for justice. His response when asked what united the rioters was simply “Get some free stuff”. Lei, 23, also viewed it as a chance to get his own back on *something*. Yet, when the parents are openly disapproving of their children, the children look smug with their suspended sentences.
In the midst of this however are tales of brutal honesty. When Liz Oppong refused bail for her son on the grounds that she couldn’t reconcile her son’s deceit with how she brought him up, she comes across as one of the most dignified ladies possible – even though she has lost the son she knew. Maybe this will destroy their relationship, maybe it will reaffirm it for life. Her son will have the chance to turn his life around when he lives prison – which is more than can be said for the remainder of the ‘middle-class radicals’ shown in this documentary.
Non-judgemental, with the right questions being asked of the interviewees and allowing you to draw your own conclusions, My Child the Rioter tackles one of the main ’causes’ of the riots head on across the board. Its disappointing and worrying for us as a society that we’re not going to like the answers we get either.
**NEW: The Fiction Stroker reviews a related book, Third Party, Fire and Theft: The London Riots here NEW**