Peter Rhodes on gender-bending at 30,000ft, TV tributes and a shortage of big hearts in high places

Read today's column from Peter Rhodes.

The Aeronauts: Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne
The Aeronauts: Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne

“It’s at the top that the problems lie. There is a lack of anything to really get hold of, and get behind. A lack of deep thinking and big hearts.” The depressing state of Parliament, as seen by Paul McNamee, editor of The Big Issue. Wise words, worth repeating.

Historians may shudder and purists may flinch at the makers of the movie The Aeronauts inserting a woman (Felicity Jones) into what was an historical ballooning epic which actually involved two blokes and no women. But, hey, what’s a bit of gender-bending casting so long as it provides a level playing field for women actors (or actresses, as we are no longer supposed to call them)? Indeed, let us hope that the use of one non-existent female in The Aeronauts paves the way for a blockbuster movie about the greatest pair of siblings in the history of aviation. Olive and Wilma – the Wright Sisters.

Last week I questioned the orthodoxy that says sport is good for us. By coincidence, a leaflet entitled “Have Your Say” has just arrived from my local council, inviting comments on a proposed swimming pool and recreation centre. By which they mean we can comment on things like the design and timetables. What we cannot do is challenge the decision to spend millions of pounds of our council tax on sporting facilities. That appears to be set in stone, part of the universal mind-set which dictates that sport is great.

But is it? Where’s the proof? We are raised to believe that organised sport makes us stronger, fitter, magnanimous in victory, gracious in defeat and all that stuff. You could equally argue, and produce solid evidence, that sport is sometimes a happy hunting ground for workplace bullies, cheats, prima donnas and thugs.

And, as I noted last week, there are still no UK figures showing how much sporting injuries cost the NHS. The truth is out there, like pieces of a jigsaw, in isolated research papers and a few low-key local studies. In 2012, for example, the Health and Social Care Information Centre reported just over 388,500 sports injury cases attending A&E in the previous year. But there seems to be a conspiracy not to produce up-to-date national statistics.

Inevitably, when a television series runs to dozens of episodes over several years, some actors or members of the production crew will die and be honoured with “In Memory Of Our Friend” in the closing credits. But do the bereaved get any say in which episode is chosen for such tributes? In my current binge-viewfest, Breaking Bad (Netflix), for example, would you really want to be memorialised in the credits for the episode where the cop squishes one drug dealer with his Jeep, takes four slugs in the guts and then blasts the other dealer’s head to pieces with a dum-dum bullet? Or might you prefer flowers..?

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