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Sins of the fathers are still with us; TV REVIEWS.

IT'S TRUE that men have never been allowed to express their feelings as openly as women, but BBC2 is sure making up for lost time.

On Monday we had men talking about the male role in society (A Bad Time To Be A Man); on Tuesday they were there again in Straight From The Heart; last night it was the turn of older men in A Man's World.

It's all good stuff, though, and genuinely attempts to analyse (without whingeing) men's roles in a vastly changing world.

A Man's World is especially compelling. Billed as "an oral history of masculinity", it combines excellent footage with talking heads and a voiceover .

The first programme looked at boys, whose job it once was to "play the game, control their emotions and be physically brave." Some of the stories made you wonder how any of the poor mites make it to adulthood and remain sane.

Take poor old Wilf Page, born in 1913. He was once required to write a poem for school and worked hard on Ode To A Ship. "You didn't write this poem. You're a liar!" was the teacher's response. He grabbed Wilf's tie and nearly throttled him.

Joe Phillips was once pulled aside in the corridor and caned because he was "swaggering". He didn't even know what swaggering was.

Story after story built up a terrifying picture of masculinity in the first half of the century. While fathers encouraged their sons to fight, mothers developed their gentler sides - but only after father had gone to the pub at opening time.

Frank Davies recalled his mother bringing out the chess set and the encyclopaedias the second his father left the house. At closing time, she would look at the clock and put them away. If his father came back early, he would look disgustedly at the books and his family.

The thing boys were especially discouraged from doing was crying. When Geordie Todd's mother died when he was 11, he couldn't cry: "I don't think I knew how to do it."

The frightening thing is how little things have changed. We think we are living in a more enlightened society, but a quick visit to any playground will soon reveal that boys still regard fighting as right and crying as wrong.

Middle-class families still send their sons to boarding school in the hope that it will toughen them up, and Kipling's poem which concludes, "you'll be a man, my son," is still the dictum by which most boys are encouraged to live.

The fact that thousands of young men continue to go to war - at the instruction of other men - is evidence enough that the man's world is still a world apart from that of women.

JIM McDonald (Charles Lawson) in Coronation Street (ITV) is not far removed from the fathers of the men featured in A Man's World.

He is filled with remorse after last week walloping his wife Liz (Beverley Callard) when she confessed to having once bedded his best friend.

"What did she do to deserve it?" asked his mate, Bill (Peter Armitage).

It was gross irresponsibility to throw in so casual a comment, which gave the impression that if women get beaten they have only themselves to blame.

When will Liz realise that nothing but a stake through the heart is going to get her husband out of her life?

SILENT Witness (BBC 1) ended with a great twist, in which Dr Owen (Ronald Pickup) turned out to be the crazed killer.

I was glad. The beautiful Colin Salmon, who played Sebastiane Bird, would never have made a convincing baddie. He's going to be a huge star.



(BBC1, 10pm)

MEN Behaving Badly of a very different kind as the serious documentary Mistresses examines infidelity.

Susan Elliott, wife of actor Denholm tells how she coped with his affairs - with men and women.
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Copyright 1996 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Stephen, Jaci
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 7, 1996
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