Just a Girl (partially found BBC online short film; 2016)

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Gallery-1477915824-just-a-girl1.jpg

Amy Jones in Just a Girl.

Status: Partially Found

Just a Girl was a 34-minute drama about a transgender child, written by Mark Davies Markham[1]and produced by CBBC (the children's entertainment division of the United Kingdom's state-funded BBC network). It was released in September 2016.

Significance

When Just a Girl was released on the internet it caused a brief but massive lightning bolt of public backlash for its generally positive depiction of an eleven-year-old transgender girl, Amy, going through gender reassignment by taking hormone blockers while dealing with the challenges of starting secondary school.

The Mail on Sunday's response to the show.

It was a significant release, as it was the first time the BBC had put out a drama aimed at children that were centered around transgender issues and was a first of its kind from any broadcaster. The shock it provoked reached not just the print and television media, but went all the way to national government, with Conservative MPs going out of their way to complain about the show. MP for Wellingborough, Peter Bone, told The Mail on Sunday:

It beggars belief that the BBC is making this programme freely available to children as young as six. I entirely share the anger of parents who just want to let children be children. It is completely inappropriate for such material to be on the CBBC website and I shall be writing to BBC bosses to demand they take it down as soon as possible.[2]

While Julian Brazer, Conservative MP for Canterbury, said:

This programme is very disappointing and inappropriate. Children are very impressionable and this is going to confuse and worry them.”[3]

Journalists in the British news media were even harsher in their criticism. In one of the most scathing attacks, The Mirror went with the headline:

Fury at a sex-change programme that shows transgender ‘Ben’ dressing up as ‘Amy’ and is aimed at six-year-old children”. [4]

It even appeared as the banner headline on the front page of The Mail on Sunday.[5]

Other media took a more balanced view while organisations such as TransPride and diversity consultant Tara Hewitt condemned the comments made by Bone and Brazer and supported the show[6][7], as did The Huffington Post and transgender children's charity, Mermaids.[8] With specific reference to the Mail on Sunday headline, Susie Green, CEO of the charity said:

The writer for this series did a lot of work with Mermaids parents and young people to make sure that he represented the challenges that children and their families face. The horrific headline detracts from a wonderful series that has been well received as educational and empathic.

Toward the end of October 2016, the BBC itself released an official statement in defence of the show, stating:

Just a Girl is about a fictional transgender character trying to make sense of the world, dealing with bullying and work out [sic] how to keep her friends, which are universal themes that many children can relate to, and which has had a positive response from our audience. CBBC aims to reflect true life to our audience, providing content that mirrors the lives of as many UK children as possible.[9]

Loss

The full CBBC Just a Girl webpage on 13th September 2016.
To date, the show was released only online, but is no longer available for viewing on either the CBBC website[10] or CBBC’s official Youtube channel.[11] It was removed from both platforms at some point during the first three months of 2017.

All the controversy flared and died quickly, and after October 2016 the video ended up being apparently totally forgotten about in the media. Because of this, along with the BBC’s draconian copyright-infringement takedowns, there are no alternative uploads on Youtube or other video-sharing sites. Perhaps this was the BBC’s way of quietly erasing the controversy from their history, although the official page (without the video) for the show is still up as of this writing.

The Web Archive has an archived version of the official page from 13th September 2016 when the video was still up. Unfortunately, the Web Archive doesn’t always archive video and Flash content, so the video has not been archived.[12]

It is difficult to know whether or not the BBC has kept a private archive of the film, and according to the BBC Archive website, asking the BBC for a copy is a waste of time unless you are one of the show's creators.[13]

Mumsnet Thread

On 10th September 2016, not long after Just a Girl was released, a Mumsnet thread was opened by a worried mother whose seven-year-old daughter had stumbled across the show, asking whether or not it was appropriate. This was before the controversy flared after the show became widely noted.[14]

The thread was a likely ground-zero for the spread and controversy that followed. It appears to be the earliest date at which concern over Just a Girl was publicly expressed and noted.

Radio Play Source Material

The story was based on a BBC Radio 4 drama of the same name, also written by Mark Davies Markham, and consisting of five 15-minute episodes over two series. It was broadcast as part of Radio 4's Women's Hour. The story featured the same characters and a very similar plot, but contained a number of changes, such as focusing more on Amy's parents, and was not intended as a children's broadcast.[15] The show is also not available online, but ought not be considered lost as it is likely to be re-broadcast on Radio 4 at some future date; according to Markham's agency profile, a third series of the radio show is in development.[16]

Radio Times described the show as follows:

Drama exploring how parents cope when a child feels that he or she was born the wrong gender. In the first edition, Gary and Charlotte visit the doctor with their daughter Amy to see if hormone blockers are the right choice.[17]

Format

The story is told through the main character, Amy Jones, narrating recent episodes from her life into a recording app on her phone. Tashi's is the only other voice we hear directly, being the only other character who speaks into Amy's phone.

The narration is accompanied by animatic sequences, combining human models with a variety of animated collage and cartoon animation.

The piano refrain from Ellie Goulding's version of Elton John's Your Song is used as a musical theme throughout.

Synopsis

Amy, an eleven-year-old transgender girl and aspiring pianist, is spending the summer holidays practising piano and anticipating the start of secondary school where she will go with her best friend, Tashi, in September. She talks about how her parents acknowledged that she is transgender after some reluctance from her father and that she is now on a course of hormone blockers to prevent her from going through male puberty.

When she starts at her new school, things go well, and she makes new friends, looking forward to inviting them to her 12th birthday party, but a bully named Connor from her primary school turns out to be in the year above her. Connor remembers Amy as a boy and begins to harass Amy, calling her by her birth-name, "Ben", and referring to her as "the girl-boy". He tries to tell the rest of the school her secret: that she is transgender. Amy starts to fear going to school, believing her new friends will be disturbed by her past and abandon her, or worse: start bullying her themselves.

After braving going back to school, despite knowing her secret has leaked out, Amy saves one of Connor's friends, who is picking on Amy's friend Tashi, from injuring himself in a fall, and an understanding teacher finds out about the bullying that's going on. Connor's grandmother comes to the school and makes him apologise, albeit reluctantly, to Amy.

After this, Amy decides to go in front of her class and tell everyone, on her own terms, that she is transgender and what it means, and afterwards plays them a piece of piano music of her own composition, titled Just a Girl.

The story concludes with Amy attending a friend's 12th birthday party along with her classmates. Connor is there, but reconciles with Amy, now being an admirer of her musical abilities.

Initial Finding

The entire film was initially found on April 17, 2017 when "Allegro DX", who did a review on the film, was made aware of its scarcity and provided a Mega link to the full film. However, the Mega link eventually became dead without the film being archived elsewhere, leading to most of the film becoming lost again.

Video

5 News broadcast containing eight seconds of footage, with audio, from Just a Girl (starting at 0:25) and featuring a discussion between Tara Hewitt and Roger Kiska, a representative from Christian Concern.

Screenshots

References

  1. https://www.independenttalent.com/writers/mark-davies-markham/
  2. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/media/tory-mp-attack-cbbc-just-a-girl-awareness-transgender-peter-bone-julian-brazier-a7387461.html.
  3. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/media/tory-mp-attack-cbbc-just-a-girl-awareness-transgender-peter-bone-julian-brazier-a7387461.html.
  4. http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/fury-sex-change-programme-shows-9156593
  5. http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/mail-on-sunday-story-on-cbbc-transgender-show-slammed-as-transphobic_uk_5815e3f1e4b0672ea688f732
  6. https://twitter.com/TransPrideNorth/status/792664684717568000?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw&ref_url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.independent.co.uk%2Fnews%2Fmedia%2Ftory-mp-attack-cbbc-just-a-girl-awareness-transgender-peter-bone-julian-brazier-a7387461.html
  7. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7X68vQb4sM
  8. http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/mail-on-sunday-story-on-cbbc-transgender-show-slammed-as-transphobic_uk_5815e3f1e4b0672ea688f732
  9. http://www.radiotimes.com/news/2016-10-30/bbc-defend-cbbcs-just-a-girl-following-claim-that-transgender-series-is-inappropriate-for-young-audience
  10. http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbbc/shows/just-a-girl
  11. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JyOp5SyEo5s
  12. https://web.archive.org/web/20160913033846/http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbbc/watch/just-a-girl
  13. http://www.bbc.co.uk/archive/help.shtml#copy
  14. https://www.mumsnet.com/Talk/am_i_being_unreasonable/2729040-to-find-CBBCs-Just-a-Girl-programme-re-a-transgender-child-inappropriate
  15. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04v8czp
  16. https://www.independenttalent.com/writers/mark-davies-markham/
  17. http://www.radiotimes.com/radio-programme/e/c9rsxc/just-a-girl--series-1---episode-1