I still cringe in horror when I think about how I acted, aged 11, when my mum told me she was gay. I cried. I shouted. I lashed out. To this day I still don’t know why I did it. How on Earth was that kind of horror and prejudice ingrained into the mind of a child? How did a young girl who hadn’t begun to explore sexuality in any form have the slightest notion of what was ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ or even just ‘normal’? The sheer level of subliminal messaging that must have gone in to producing such violent emotion chills me to the bone.
FIT -The Movie was created in partnership with LGBT charity Stonewall to address this exact issue. Last night I went to a Brighton screening of the full film, which originally toured schools nationwide as an interactive play. Ben Summerskill, Chief Executive of Stonewall, said that when they first began to take FIT the play on tour, they got responses from teachers like: “But we don’t have any gay pupils in our school…”
This is exactly why FIT is so necessary and long overdue.
Writer and director Rikki Beadle-Blair said that when they initially asked audiences of secondary school children whether they thought being gay was (quote) “a bit dodgy”, the majority of hands went up. When they asked the kids whether they knew anyone who was gay, almost no one raised their hands. Despite the fact that in Brighton this appeared to be a different story, as the kids were all aware that they knew gay people and reluctant to own up to prejudices, when the play got under way it still revealed more than a few anxieties under the surface and LGBT myths in need of busting.
The film, or rather mini-series, follows six main characters – sixth-formers Lee, Carmel, Tegs, Jordan, Ryan and Isaac, along with their Dance & Drama teacher played by Rikki himself. We can all remember being forced to watch horrific and poorly acted ‘social education’ videos… but the fantastic thing about FIT is that it isn’t patronising or overly ‘educational’ in the slightest, fitting comfortably into the genre dominated by the likes of Channel 4’s Misfits, Hollyoaks and Skins. In short, it’s the kind of thing kids would choose to watch. It’s also incredibly well-acted (better than Hollyoaks, anyway).
Rikki’s managed to use a perfectly balanced mix of humour, drama and grit to make FIT truly believable. Although a few of the characters appear highly stereotyped, there’s far more to each individual than meets the eye showing just how incredibly observant Rikki is when it comes to young people. FIT takes you on an easy-to-relate-to, emotional journey with each individual as they gradually discover who they are. That’s when each of their stereotypes goes into meltdown, teaching one of the most valuable lessons in life: people are rarely what they seem.
Every teacher should be made to watch this film. When I was at school, Section 28 was still in place and I was incredibly confused about how to respond to my mum’s sexuality. This, in turn, made me confused about myself with no idea where to start trying to find out. Something like FIT would have inspired me with that much-needed confidence to be who I was and to respect differences in others. While countless soaps and dramas have recently attempted to address the issue of teen sexuality, they never go far enough. They’re never frank enough. But bravo Rikki, you’ve managed to do what should have been done years ago.
You can watch the FIT launch trailer HERE.