"I don’t care!": Masculinity, Disability and Care in Top Boy
Dr Morven CookZoom
Capturing life on a deprived East London estate, the Netflix series Top Boy deftly weaves multiple storylines to reveal the impact of austerity, systemic racism, and hostile immigration policies. Top Boy’s creator, Ronan Bennett, describes the series as ‘show[ing] a world that is ignored’ and frequently misrepresented. This paper considers how Top Boy promotes alternative masculine norms through its representation of caregiving and disability, successfully capturing the complex inner lives of characters and showing the structural conditions that constrain their choices. Contrasting scenes of extreme violence with quieter, intimate moments of care, the audience witnesses gang leader Dushane (Ashley Walters), coercing children and murdering rivals while simultaneously looking after his mother, Pat (Marsha Miller), who has diabetes. In one scene Dushane administers his mother’s insulin injection, gently scolding her for not changing where she inserts the needle, with Pat explaining that ‘It hurts more that way.’ The conversation speaks to Dushane’s own circumstances, where the choice is not between right or wrong, but rather easy or difficult. Dushane is not a character who does not care, but rather has grown up in a world in which he must pretend not to care.