Literature in Lock Down: Malorie Blackman’s Noughts + Crosses in Adaptation

Literature in Lockdown is a special blog series in which our students share what they’re reading whilst face-to-face teaching is suspended at YSJU. In our second post, Molly Routh discusses BBC One’s Adaptation of Noughts + Crosses.

By Molly Routh

If you’re like me, social distancing requires finding the perfect series to watch amidst all the chaos we are facing. BBC One’s Noughts + Crosses has offered me a binge-worthy watch whilst also providing me with a lot of thought-provoking ideas.

I was lucky enough to watch Noughts +Crosses at the York Theatre Royal last year, and alike the live performance, the on-screen production did not disappoint. From costume to casting, this is the ideal series to focus on something that isn’t COVID-19. With that being said, Noughts + Crosses is a heavy watch. The series, based off Malorie Blackman’s profound novel, depicts a world where racial politics have been flipped. Noughts (whites) are the inferior class; they have to do what they can in order to survive under a ruling African (in the series, Aprican) world. The series focuses on the Nought’s oppression and the physical reality of what they face in this alternate universe; Nought’s are stripped of their individualism because of the colour of their skin. The plot is a Romeo and Juliet narrative; two lovers, Sephy (Cross) and Callum (Nought) are divided by a society that prevents them to be together. As a lover of the romance genre, any series that relates to Romeo and Juliet, I’m in. The series provokes you to rethink the world in relation to power and social status, especially the abuse of power and corruption in a world of segregation. Ideology, created by Western Society, is challenged and remoulded in an alternate universe. Perhaps Blackman was suggesting that this reversal of hierarchy could never have happened in the world we are living in today.

Noughts + Crosses has been accused of race-baiting by various critics, Malorie Blackman’s personal response being ‘I’m not even going to dignify your absurd nonsense with a response. Go take a seat waaaay over there in the cold, dark and bitter haters’ corner’ – nice to see Blackman using the power of language to shut down ignorance. Noughts + Crosses focuses on individuals trying to find a place in their world, whatever their class is. It emphasises the power of language, how we communicate and express our feelings. It provokes an audience to reflect on our own judgements – the ‘you wouldn’t judge a book by its cover’ cliché creates a whole new meaning in this series. So, if you are like me and want to find some escapism in this chaos – Noughts + Crosses is the series (or book!) for you.