We’ve been watching: We Are Family

by Lynn Connolly

the deeble familly

For once, the BBC has produced a show which is actually worth the money we pay for our licence fee. In We Are Family’s second outing, we met the Deeble family, a family of jolly, kind and ready-to-laugh people whose father, Reginald, came to this country from Jamiaca in the ‘50s.

He was searching for a better life, though quite how Port Talbot constitutes better than the glorious haven that is Jamaica is something of a puzzle, however, soon after arriving here, his wife passed away, leaving Reginald with five children to care for.

Once the cheery greetings and it’s-been-too-long meetings were over, the Deeble family got to the crux of why one of those five siblings, Selina, had gathered them all together again. To confront the skeleton in their closet; that their step-mother abused them and hitherto, before that moment, few of the children had ever openly acknowledged or discussed it.

Like many raw wounds, several of the Deebles seemed to think it was best left untampered with and firmly locked inside a box labelled ‘Bad Memories’ which was to be stowed in the backs of their minds, and rarely, if ever, opened.

But Selina wanted it opened, and in order to do so, she traveled to Jamaica to confront Nomi, the step-mother, about her treatment of Selina and her siblings. She also videoed the uncomfortable event and that film was shown to the rest of her family at this gathering.

What ensued comprised tears, regret, repressed anger and sadness. It was all genuinely palpable, and hopefully, by opening up to discussion those old abuses, they will begin to be healed.

Nomi had responded to an advert that Reginald had placed detailing his need for a mother figure for his children, but Nomi merely saw the ‘job’ as a vehicle to getting her to the UK. She didn’t care about or for the children at all, and we heard of a catalogue of cruelty that compounded the notion of Nomi as a fairy-tale-esque wicked step-mother.

So perhaps this programme was a form of therapy for everyone involved, but as ever, I always wonder why it is that people feel the need to ‘expose’ these skeletons on public television.

That said, maybe that was partly the point; to demonstrate to other families who’re similarly afflicted by a gulf created by emotional distancing – which was in turn created by an unwillingness to discuss the elephant in the room – that disclosure isn’t always a bad thing.

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.