Ban text messages in drama - My first act as leader - Mo Fanning Author
Ban text messages

Ban text messages in drama – My first act as leader

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What would you ban forever? In the first of a series of rants and rails, self-confessed old person Mo Fanning imagines what life would be like if British politicians stopped arsing around like silly boys at summer camp and got their act together. His first act as leader would change society, promoting kindness and fair play.

It’s fashionable for any gentleman of advancing years to complain about mobile phone usage. Nobody cares that the world is falling apart. They’re too busy liking someone’s filtered photo or caring what David78333521 thinks of their recent status update.

To rail against this would make me a Luddite. Technology moves on. Twenty years ago, an illicit affair meant feeding coins into a secluded phone box, daubed with out-of-proportion sexual organs. I’m prepared to admit mobile phones have their uses.

My actual beef lies not with the phone itself, but with its ever-growing place in televised drama. Or comedy. Or anything with plot.

My first act as leader will be to impose a ban.

The Fannings have never bought into the trend of buying a TV set the size of one wall, but neither do we prescribe to the idea that having a tiny screen suggests television matters little in our otherwise busy lives. Whatever the average daily viewing hours might be for British households, add two. Or four if the bathroom needs a clean and one of us should work on his novel.

I love a good drama. What irks me is the increasing use of text messaging to carry the story.

Friday night dinner

An otherwise mundane dinner party hides the fact that one guest plans to first torture and then murder the hostess – an international spy hiding in plain sight – or Surrey – as a mother of two with a penchant for Boden fashion. As our soon-to-be in trouble heroine serves coq au vin with buttered carrots, an unseen phone beeps and the assassin shifts in his seat.

‘What’s that old chap?’ says Bertie Jeeves-Chopperhands. ‘One of those newfangled portable phones?’
‘My daughter got the bally thing for my birthday.’ Assassin fakes a smile. ‘It’s her way of keeping tabs.’
‘Big Brother is watching, eh?’
The table erupts in polite laughter and Assassin squints at the screen.

Viewers get two seconds to make sense of tiny text on a pixilated square. And the scene ends.

Ban this text messageThis is where, in the Fanning household, one of us dives on the remote control, mutters about it having a hundred fucking buttons and attempts to rewind, freeze frame, and make sense of what was likely a vital plot point.

In most cases, the wrong button gets pushed and a tense dinner party fades to an ironic BBC4 repeat of Top of the Pops from 1979.

Why can’t TV producers over-lay text messages on screen? I’ve seen this done. It doesn’t interrupt the flow. And there’s no frantic fumbling or the (frankly hurtful) suggestions that someone who can’t operate a remote control is showing their age.

One of my first acts as leader will be to ban reckless, thoughtless, feckless television trickery.

And then I’ll start on mobile phones.


By Mo Fanning

Mo Fanning is a British author of dark romantic comedies including the Book of the Year nominated bestseller 'The Armchair Bride', 'Rebuilding Alexandra Small' and 2022's hit holiday romcom 'Ghosted'.

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