Crap Journalism: Re-naming Titty


This next example of Crap Journalism is by regular Guardian columnist Ben Child. The article is about the forthcoming new Swallows and Amazons film, which I mentioned here months ago. Famously, the Swallows themselves were based on a real life family of four children, the third of whom, Mavis Altounyan, was immortalised under her family nickname, Titty.

Yes, I know. Times change and the book was written in 1928. For the forthcoming film, Titty has become Tatty (she was Kitty in the 1963 BBC TV adaptation). You could hardly do anything but change the name, but the late Mavis’s niece has complained about the change, calling it disrespectful to her aunt.

In that she’s objecting to applying the name ‘Tatty’ to her late aunt, Barbara Altounyan would appear to have a case. It seems to be completely unsuitable. On general terms, however, objecting to any change at all, she’s on dodgy ground.

But the crap journalism that made me snap at this article is when Childs sets up the background of Ransome’s using the Altounyan’s as templates for the Swallows. He names them all, starting with Mavis’s elder brother John, the model for Captain John Walker. There’s just one problem: John Altounyan never existed!

The eldest Altounyan child was the tomboyish Tacqui, a daughter (who later wrote a memoir, In Aleppo Once). Ransome used her as a model, but changed her into the boy, John, for commercial reasons (a two boys, two girls split read better), sexist reasons (a girl giving orders?) and possibly unconscious personal reasons (John Walker was a means by which the 40+ Ransome could take part in his children’s adventures).

This isn’t esoteric information, it doesn’t take ages to dig out, it’s crap journalism. Get the facts right, Child, it’s your job to be accurate.

Incidentally, if the film is a success, there are hopes to turn it into a series. I for one would support that gratefully. But I’m on the family’s side over ‘Tatty’.

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