3 October 2018 | gwyyynth
Top Boy: An Unanticipated Realistic Look into How the London "Ghettos" Parallels the U.S. "Projects"
Top Boy (2011-2013) is the name of an eight episode series about the unsavory side of London: The ghettos. Wikipedia even has an article on this subject. Just like in America, this is a "problem" we like to ignore; pretend does not exist; turn our heads; look away; remove funding after they become felons and are ineligible for public assistance; hoping that will make "these people," the poor people, go away. But it doesn't, does it? In fact, by taking social funding away from these indigent drug dealers and pushers and drug mules, it only causes the problem to get worse. Less social funding means more illegal activities for these lower class packs of "hopelessnesses."
I stumbled onto Top Boy on Netflix a few months ago whilst I was searching for newer entertainment. Top Boy can be retrieved on YouTube as well, for free. I being a published author by trade, I tend to watch certain shows more than once, to learn better plot formulations, more creative ways to implore character depth exploration, and interactions between the characters is sometimes the most important part in the development of new story lines and plot thesises.
When I think of the British, in particular London, what comes to mind first, is class, the kind of upper class found in another installment in the latest James Bond saga, always the upper classes, and the few times the lower classes are involved, they get killed off in a beyond traumatic experience, like when the lead female protagonist was shot and killed in the James Bond movie, SkyFall, by her own boyfriend.
The United States definitely has the lower class ghettos, and one expects to see that when heading into the unsavory part of town. But the British, just are not supposed to have such areas. Kind of like in 1888, in the White Chapel District of London, where Jack the Ripper continuously killed off prostitutes, for a period, whoever he or she even was. Except the problem was, The United Kingdom never had prostitutes, only destitutes.
Top Boy, all eight episodes proves the British have gangs and illegal drugs same as the United States. They just try to hide it better.
The music is the best part of this brilliantly designed insight of the British lower crusts; second best are the camera angles, like in the opening scene, whereby the camera is just on Dushane and Sully for one part of it, and because of their eye movements, yet even though the camera does not pan over to what they are looking at, their behaviors give it away, they are eye-balling an ultra sexy girl.
The music is very moving, and helps tell the story. And even introduces the viewer to musicians they may not have been made aware of. One in particular is Lee Fields & The Expressions - Money is king playing on YouTube here. Lee Fields is from North Carolina, United States, as found on Wikipedia.
And one last excellent part of Top Boy that made me love this British crime drama, is their attitude on mental illnesses. In the United States there is such a severe stigma on mental health and treatment; it can kick you out of clubs, cause you to lose friends, cause the police to "pick on you," a line from Top Boy by the way. Yet in the United Kingdom, mental illness is treated the same as any other illness of the human condition, as it should be.
But before you watch Top Boy, a few terms you should be familiar with:
(1) Wagwan: is mentioned often by the cast of characters. Apparently it is used in London, and it is of Caribbean origins, and it means, "What is happening?"
(2) They call each other "bruv" as if it means "brother."
(3) They say "innit," after almost every sentence, meaning, "Isn't that right?"
(4) They call rap music "O music."
(5) mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of... at all. It is accepted socially and by their medical care payers, without hassle.
(6) "Bowcat" means cunning linguist.
(7) They actually call "kids," "youths."
(8) "Foster care" in the U.K. is called just "care."
(9) "Chippies" are french fries, and they eat them like we eat potato chips or Doritos. And They eat a lot of them, sometimes, the "chippies" are the whole meal.
(10) "armed" in the US means just "carrying" in the UK.
(11) The British call lawyers "solicitors" or "barristers" and they are completely not like American lawyers at all: The British lawyer in Top Boy actually appears to be helping her criminal client... in more ways than just legally. American lawyers usually look down on their clients, especially the criminal ones.
(13) They call the police, the feds. I like that better actually.
(14) Cash, or money is called "paper" or "paper work."
(15) "food" or "grub" means the drug they are selling, heroin, code named "brown;" not sure what the code word for heroin in the US would be...
(16) in jail or prison is referred to as "shanked up."
Sadly, and that word is not used lightly, after further research, no one, not even other producers are making more episodes; and demand is high for more shows. Kind of hard though when the majority of the characters are killed off or have run off.
So, for the time being, there are eight episodes of Top Boy on Netfilx for now, and probably always on YouTube. Eight hours of entertainment seeing our own ghetto class crime in the United States being played out on the other side of the Atlantic drink in London, in a sort of parallel universe way: Real enlightening in an over-educated intellectual way, like me.
Kudos to Top Boy for showing the world a different side of London, the side of London we do not like to acknowledge, and some of us like myself, did not even know existed, living in my sheltered upper middle class life in my upper middle class world. Quite shocking indeed, since my first job after university graduation, I worked for an American company in the United Kingdom for two years, and I never once saw this side of London.