Some further additions to The Canon

On Monday, I came up with the idea of The Canon: the films and TV programmes British people need to have watched to be a literate member of society who understands British culture.

My, hasn’t that gone down a storm?

All the same, I’m carrying on since I think it’s relatively worthwhile doing.

My latest thought on the subject is that there might well be two Canons – one for men and one for women. I came to this conclusion by examining the following films and TV shows:

Group 1: The Italian Job; The Sweeney; Monty Python’s Flying Circus; The Professionals; The Fast Show
Group 2: Sex and the City; Pride and Prejudice; Bridget Jones’ Diary

Now, if you’re a British male, you will need to have watched all the shows in Group 1 to be able to function properly in British culture. If you don’t, you will not understand the deep cultural significance of “You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!”, “Shut it!”, the Ministry of Silly Walks, the Ford Capri and “Scorchio!”, phrases and topics that will pop into conversation at various points of your life and which you’ll have to have patiently explained to you like you’re a small child if you don’t know what they are.

If you’re a British female, there will be no expectation that you know anything about anything in Group 1. Even if you do know about them, no British male will try to discuss them in conversation unless you raise the subject yourself – and you’ll probably be hailed and saluted if you do (and potentially thought a little odd, unfortunately).

However, there will be an expectation among other women that you know about Manolo Blahniks, Colin Firth swimming in a lake and giant pants*. Men knowing about any of these things risk being thought of as gay, which as we all know, Will Never Do. Unless you’re gay.

So at the very least, there need to be two Canons. Nevertheless, there’s also a very big overlap. Doctor Who, formerly part of the male Canon, is now officially in both groups thanks to Billie Piper and David Tennant. Whether you’re male or female, you need to have a passing acquaintanceship with both EastEnders and Coronation Street and know that houses/planes blow up a lot in Emmerdale. The Sweeney might well be moving into both groups, too, thanks to the necessity to understand it to get to grips with Life on Mars.

Any suggestions for shows that belong in only the male Canon or the female Canon? Or indeed both?

* This might only be true for middle class women.


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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