I watched The Execution of Gary Glitter tonight. Just as executions have a morbid fascination, dramas about executions, like Dead Man Walking or The Green Mile seem to have that same fascination (although perhaps one degree removed).
I think the death penalty is a valid subject for Channel 4, a public service broadcaster. Though it is not a live debate here, it is a real and divisive issue for our cultural cousins in the USA. The hanging of paedophiles is an oft repeated thought experiment, whenever a Huntley or a Vanessa George is arrested, and it is sufficiently discussed in the UK for pollsters to regularly ask the public’s opinion on the issue. According to the programme, 54% of British adults support its reintroduction.
There’s no doubt that the choice of Glitter as the anti-hero was was a fantastic marketing ploy. He is, shall we say, the most culturally significant bogeyman we have. However, this also gave the narrative extra depth, because his rock-star past allowed the programme makers to pass commentary on popular culture. The Daily Mirror headlines for a Glitter trial felt real, and the MP3 remix sending Gary Glitter back to No.1 (on downloads) on the day of his execution was an obvious slam dunk. It is an uncomfortable thought, but I think he is the protagonist many writers would have chosen. The device cannot simply be marked down as the product of pure cynicism.