Saturday, October 15, 2005

What links Gromit with Pinter

Mark Lawson has a very good article in this morning's Guardian looking at the sudden respectability of Englishness in the arts.

He is very good on the midatlantic awfulness of many modern British films:
film-makers believed that movies from the UK had to genuflect to America in their look (the permanent Dickensian Christmas of Richard Curtis movies) and casting (Andie MacDowell in Four Weddings) to succeed.
The latest example, out this week, is Kinky Boots, in which Northampton railway station, in reality a buzzing commuter hub, is depicted as a sleepy rural halt where the platform contains a single passenger.
He also writes about the way that, while every other culture is celebrated, Englishness has often been the nationality that dare not speak its name:
Until very recently, being seen to carry an English ID card so visibly might have been a handicap for these artists. If a work had too much of a whiff of the Thames and tea bags, it risked classification as retrograde, conservative or, in the ultimate insult, "Little English". Being identified too heavily with traditional language or values made a writer seem resistant to multiculturalism or pan-Europeanism and therefore a de facto racist. Read the late-career reviews and obituaries of Anthony Powell, Philip Larkin or Kingsley Amis to experience this perception of Englishness as an illness for which doctors would hopefully soon find a cure.
But all that has changed, Lawson argues:
The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, while it has the defence of being a Plasticine fantasy, is also guilty of sentimentalising and simplifying England; but unexpectedly this vision no longer feels like the concoction of a "heritage" country for export but as a heroic refusal to bend to American expectation.
A little fancifully, he continues:
This new fashionability - indeed even political correctness - of militant Englishness is a consequence of the Iraq war and is what links Gromit with Pinter. Twenty years ago, when the playwright first turned against the British and American governments over their foreign policy, such vociferous opposition to the special relationship was widely considered maverick or treacherous. Now Pinter's vilification of his own prime minister and the US president is broadly mainstream newspaper opinion, with only the Times consistently dissenting.
I am very fond of Stephen Tall's words, which you find beneath the title of this blog: "An amusingly eclectic mix of culture and politics." But if I ever replace them, the new ones will come from Lawson's article:
In a culture enraged by US arrogance and expansionism, parochialism becomes a form of radicalism and resistance.

No comments: