In 2019, we’ve become rather desensitised to the countless acts of violence that are sprawled all over the news on a daily basis.
But the recent story of teenagers fighting with machetes in a Birmingham cinema surely stood as particularly disturbing.
At 5:30pm on Saturday, 23rd November, police were called to the entertainment complex Star City in Birmingham, where 100 people were having an all-out brawl. Two machetes were seized, and several young people were arrested for assaulting police officers – a 13 year old girl, a 14 year old boy and girl and a 19 year old man.
Even as far as youth violence goes, this is particularly troubling. A hundred young people to descend into unrestrained violence in a public place – with families waiting to watch Frozen 2 – should be a matter of public discussion. Every political candidate vying to be Prime Minister should be asked what they’ll do to try and reverse this trend of youth savagery.
But, because we live in 2019, we seemingly prefer to avoid the issues at hand and go off on tangents. This tendency is best seen in Vue – the brawl broke out in one of their cinemas – deciding to pull the film ‘Blue Story’ from all of its cinemas. Showcase Cinemas also joined in the campaign and pulled the film from four of its venues.
‘Blue Story’ is a film about a postcode war in South London, and apparently the film has attracted multiple incidents around the country. In a statement, Vue said “The film opened in 60 of our sites across the UK and Ireland on Friday November 22, but during the first 24 hours of the film over 25 significant incidents were reported and escalated to senior management in 16 separate cinemas.” This is apparently the biggest number of incidents the cinema-chain have ever seen, particularly in such a short time span.
I’m not going to try and dictate how they should conduct their business. From a practical business standpoint, it makes sense – particularly when one takes public safety into consideration.
That’s not my issue.
No, my beef with this whole story is that people are now focusing all of their rage towards Vue.
#BoycottVue trended on Twitter, as many accused the cinema-chain of racism, claiming that withdrawing the film drew a link between the Britain’s black communities and violence.
This is a distraction from the larger issue – why on earth are teenagers caring machetes? And why do they show little reluctance in brandishing them? What turns a bunch of teenagers into a mob?
Nobody would seriously make the argument that films like ‘Blue Story’ cause violence. That would be tugging onto the ‘Video Games made me do it’ line of reasoning, and I don’t have much sympathy for that out-dated way of thinking.
I have no doubt that ‘Blue Story’ is intended to be a cautionary tale to young people who are drawn into gangs. And kudos to them for trying to get this message out there.
Instead of restricting the film’s circulation, we should be having a honest and upfront conversation about youth violence.
Family breakdown is undoubtedly the factor that plays the greatest role, yet goes undiscussed in the public sphere. People are either wary of vilifying single mothers or don’t want to come off as old-fashioned conservatives. But we can’t dither on this issue – lives are being lost.
Seven out of ten offenders come from broken homes, and their crimes cost the state £24 billion a year, according to the Centre for Social Justice. The Centre for Social Justice also estimated in 2013 that lone parent families were increasing by 20,000 year on year. In one neighbourhood in the Riverside ward of Liverpool, fathers were absent in 65% of homes with dependent children.
That’s a lot of children growing up without a father. Fatherlessness is linked to higher rates of teenage crime, pregnancy and imprisonment. I’m not a betting man, but I can almost guarantee you that the teenagers arrested with machetes don’t have a father.
It’s a national tragedy, and one that desperately needs addressing. This shouldn’t be a political issue either – the Labour MP David Lammy has been talking about this problem for years. Conservatives and Labourites should have a shared interest in this issue.
Behind almost every societal ill in British society, you’ll find family breakdown. No subject is of greater importance in assessing the health of a nation.
If we want to fool ourselves into thinking that films and music are behind youth violence, then we’ll continue to reap the rewards of a broken society – and have less access to entertainment alongside it.