You couldn’t make it up.
The name of the killer dog is ‘Killer’. The 11-month old baby which it killed, was ‘like a china doll’, according to her paternal grandmother.
Infant Beauty murdered by Chavs’ Beast of Choice, geddit?
There’s more: father and mother are no longer together; the dog, which was put down after the attack, belonged to the mum’s current boyfriend. Mum-and-Baby-Photo, as released to the press, has both of them doe-eyed and Bambified; while the current boyfriend – seen in another photo – boasts high cheekbones, cupid bow lips and a hard look.
The attack took place on a redbrick housing estate in Blackburn, 20 miles north of Manchester. The litany of those involved sounds like the cast list from a nearby episode of Shameless: Bernadette, Chloe, Lee, Dean and ‘china doll’ Ava-Jayne.
What were the parents thinking of, mashing-up Ava (Gardner) with Jayne (Mansfield)? Just the one film star wasn’t enough?
Shame on you, Mr News Compositor! Their moment of grief is not the time to inflict your cultural snobbery on Ava-Jayne’s parents. You’ve reduced their lives – and the sad death of an innocent child – to the level of a cartoon show, The Chavs.
Agreed, it can never be right to write anyone off like this (see Shane Meadows’ movies: he takes the lives of working class people and writes them up properly). But please note that if I have caricatured the baby’s family members, it was only to draw out the way their lives have been cartooned in mainstream media coverage.
More reductionist than mainstream media coverage, amounts to a critique of it – really?
Conceded, this is not sufficient justification. But there is something more – and more important – which my piece is meant to draw attention to.
Perhaps the cartoon character of the death of Ava-Jayne was not only introduced after the tragic event (in the subsequent depiction rather than the event itself). To some extent, it may have been there all along. Not because these really are the creatures of a mythical underclass; more that in this part of the world acting the part might have become part of a general attempt to get real.
Blackburn – how exactly does it work upon the world nowadays? Does it do anything for anyone else – anything that would make it real to the rest of us?
Blackburn used to be King of the Cotton towns, playing a dominant role in the textile industry. But the UK textile industry is now defunct – gone way, moved, address unknown, though everybody knows it’s not here. Furthermore, when the mills of the town were decommissioned, so too were the people: disassociated from the rest of the productive world; demobbed from social reality.
This means that towns such as Blackburn are not all there.
The people of these towns continue with their little, local existence – same as anybody else, anywhere else. Except it is not the same: not without the means of connection to the rest of the world; the connection to our common humanity previously provided by employment within the means of production.
Without this, there is bound to be a search for something else to effect reconnection, and this, in turn, seems to promote the tendency to act out ready-made roles. At least such roles are recognisable, tangible; a discernible part of the bigger picture.
Even if the roles themselves are so crude and one-dimensional they can only negate the complex humanity of the people playing them – Killer Dog Owner, for example, taking on these roles is nonetheless an attempt to re-enter the realm of social being and rejoin the human race.
Anything’s better than remaining on the terrain of merely individual existence – even if one of the unintended consequences is the sad death of an 11-month-old baby.