Yesterday I learned that Bob Hoskins passed away. Already there have been tributes and obituaries praising his performance in films like Who Framed Roger Rabbit and The Long Good Friday. But I’ll always admire him for The Raggedy Rawney. Hoskins didn’t just play a starring role in the film – he also directed it and co-wrote the screenplay. The film follows the story of an army deserter who joins a group of Gypsies, leading to tragic consequences.
Why am I getting misty eyed over a film that few people have probably even heard of, let alone seen? Aside from the fact that it’s actually a good film with a cast of surprisingly big names? It’s because it’s one of the few portrayals of Travellers alongside settled folk that has them work together, rather than emphasising the differences. Maybe this is because Bob Hoskins comes from a Traveller background himself? According to a few sources, his mother was Sinti.
As I’ve said before on my About page, I am a poshrat. This basically means that I am part gypsy and part “gadje”/”gorjer”/settled folk. I imagine this isn’t an issue unique to me or other poshrats, it’s probably something that affects many people from a mixed background – the sense of not quite fitting in either group. Many settled folk are quick and loud to voice their objection to the very existence of Gypsies, Roma and Travellers. And on the other side, there are some in the Travelling community who detest the fakes, who call themselves gypsy on the strength of one great grandparent they’ve never met, who have never faced the kinds of struggles “real” gypsies have.
Balancing in between is an awkward place to be! Sometimes it feels as if both sides wish you’d just vanish and stop being their problem. The characters in The Raggedy Rawney aren’t one big happy family by any means. There is mistrust and suspicion on both sides, sometimes justified. But the message I choose to take away from it is that Gypsies and settled folk in the film were not the real enemies. When it came down to it, they worked together to fight against the true threat.
I’m thankful to Bob Hoskins for showing me that it’s ok to be me – a “mixed up milkshake” as someone once called people like me on Twitter; that you can be yourself without betraying either side of your heritage.
RIP Bob Hoskins.