The review of the BBC’s adaptation of “Black Narcissus” by Lucy Mangan (Dec. 27) made it clear that this imperial-era tale is very much of its time.
The right ingredients were there, as she pointed out, but somehow they didn’t hit the mark.
Let me suggest why: we are already being told a tale in a post-colonial world in 2020, somehow, primarily from the viewpoint of white European characters (in this case, nuns). There was a whole community of natives about whom we knew absolutely nothing. Why couldn’t we meet the sick baby’s family so that we could relate to the resentment they felt towards a well-meaning sister’s interference? Who stood up for that holy local guy when he was deemed “godless” by the nuns? And why wasn’t Kanchi, the orphan girl, presented as a three-dimensional character in order to view her sexual abuse as a universal yet profoundly personal issue? Instead, only through a white British lens were we asked to consider these storylines. The original narrative would definitely have been altered by a more holistic, decolonized approach, but it would also have unimaginably enriched it.