Recently the news arose that a particularly ground-breaking and important TV series was to be rebooted, which might not seem like a big deal in the scheme of things today; with the amount of films, books and comics being rebooted or adapted in various forms, this is hardly a surprise. Yet, on this occasion, it is a pretty big deal. Aired originally in 1977, the TV miniseries Roots centred around the life of a slave called Kunta Kinte, a character from the novel of the same name written by Alex Haley.
It was quite possibly the first time that many of the true brutalities of slavery were shown on screen, from the capture and transport, to the ordeals involved in the slave auctions and on the plantations. Thus, the effect it had on an audience in the late 70s can only really be imagined. It is an ugly period of history, but one that nonetheless has had repercussions we still feel to this day.
Why reboot it though, you might ask? Why not just let people watch the original series? I have watched the original Roots, and being somewhat aware of this aspect of history, it was clear even to me that what was portrayed in the series was incomplete. I know if I struggled to really connect, then my children and my grandchildren would find it virtually impossible – perhaps the reboot will be more capable of covering this ground more evenly. A reboot also means a possible mainstream broadcast, which hasn’t happened since Roots was first on TV.
Nowadays, there are several different sides to this discussion – far more than when the original was broadcast – and the whole issue can be discussed to far greater extent. So much so that, last year, David Cameron even declared that it was time for black people to ‘get over slavery’. Many others share this view too: it is in the past, move on.
People have argued against this view – I am included in that category – saying that, if we do not acknowledge the past and its effects on today, the wounds it has left will never truly heal. A reboot of such a potentially hard-hitting series like Roots has a chance to begin that healing process.
Others argue we don’t need another TV series or movie essentially telling us that the people of African descent in the West are nothing more than the descendants of slaves. After all, we’ve had both Django and 12 Years a Slave – surely we could do with a new angle.
Ultimately, the debate is still open. But at the end of the day, it’s still important that our understanding of history in the UK is more balanced than what children are made to learn in schools. Plus, if we’re not going to learn it in school, then why not on TV?
The Roots reboot is due to air this year.