Wednesday, 8 September 2010
This is England '86 - Review
Image - the casuals - oh the horror, the horror.
Shane Meadows is a brilliant director with an eye for an image and scene that is truly beautiful, such as at the start of This is England 1986 with the actor playing Shaun catching rain drops in his hand.
But the weakness of Meadows is his writing.
The story last night was simply self indulgent rubbish.
I was 18 in 1986, which would have placed me smack in the middle between Shauns age and the age of Woody and the others, who appear to be in their early twenties.
Anyone who was a skinhead or a casual in 1986 where I came from was regarded as a tragic fashion victim.
For those who were not living in the past in 1986 and wearing stupid Sergio Tachini tracksuits that made them look like escapees from Zippy and Bungles Rainbow TV show or wearing crombies and DM's ( and hence were virtually guaranteed not to pull any females - EVER ) were listening to the start of a whole new genre - which was early rap music.
The music of 1986 and the upcoming musical movement of that era was defined by two bands - The Beastie Boys and Public Enemy, both of whom were on the edge of becoming massive.
In the wings the first stirrings of another musical genre which was just beginning to filter through to the mainstream as well, that of Rave Music which at that time was still defined as Acid House Music.
Watching the TV show last night, one was struck at just how dated it was - even the soundtrack featured an late 1960's Fleetwood Mac track to finish the show !
This is England is based on Shane Meadows own youth, as he is Shaun.
He has said this many times in interviews, and the vicious beating scene of Milky by the half black nazi skinhead Combo, is based on something he himself saw.
It appears that Shane Meadows had a shit childhood that he is now attempting to glorify via this series.
The mob of casuals on their motorbikes were funny, but tragic.
If anyone like that had lived on my working class estate then they would have been run over.
The only casuals by that time were my younger brother and his small firm of mates, who all used to follow West Ham, go to every West Ham and Gillingham match, hated Millwall and glorified the ICF.
They were only 15 and 16 years old, so we forgave them their youthful folly, tragic haircuts and even more tragic fashion sense.
Casuals even by then were becoming dated, as rap and rave were on the scene and becoming massive social and musical movements.
Though I must admit I was no role model at the time for I wore brown brogue and dealer boots with blakeys on them, super skin tight spray on stretch denim jeans, white fred perry t-shirts and a red fred perry cardigan with a black Harrington jacket with a skinhead, and even worse, a bubble perm at one stage - a look that was a tragic cross between a pikey and an ex-skinhead.
As for that time period, the biggest thugs of all where I lived were not the last of the skinheads, who had all left the British Movement by that time, but the police.
We had a local section of the BM in our village called Section 79 run by a half Irish guy called Rory who I was friends with.
The Kent NF organiser also used to live in my village and was friends with the skinheads until they all left the movement en masse after one of them called Big Kev was badly beaten up by a psychotic fellow skinhead in a skinhead pub in East London.
He was beaten so badly by his fellow skinhead that the rest of the gang were sickened by it and all left the skinhead movement at the same time.
Once the group of around twenty ex-skinheads in my village had left the BM, they still hung around together and it was then that I started to hang around with them, as Big Kev had been my best mate all through school.
I was around 17 at that time.
By then one of the local mods, a guy called Graham, who the skinheads had regularly kicked off his scooter, terrorised and beaten up for being a mod over the years, also joined the gang with a few other ex-mods.
There was then about thirty of us, who all used to drink together in the local pubs.
Once the skinheads had left their skinhead phase, then the emphasis within the group was drinking, partying and having a good time.
At the time of the show, 1986, people could still have a good time without the council using anti-social laws to shut you up.
Every weekend people had a party, either in a house or down on the local beach.
One of the ex-mods who joined the group was the son of a publican who owned the best pub in the area, almost right on the edge of the beach - and so we used to get lock ins till 3 and 4 in the morning.
The life though depicted in the series seems desperate and tragic, a relic even in 1986 of an era that had already ended.
The skinheads and casuals then were all on the edge of a new experience, that of the Rave Scene.
Ecstasy first appeared on my estate around 1988.
I remember seeing the first ecstasy pill in late 1988 - and it resembled a transparent suppository filled with multi-coloured small balls.
My mate Graham took it.
It changed him overnight.
He went from being a normal geezer to becoming someone who said 'man' a lot and who tried to tell you how much he 'loved' you and how great the world was whilst talking rubbish for hours at you when he was on them.
I made a decision there and then never to take an ecstasy pill, as to be frank I thought it turned people into plonkers.
Even ex-Neo Nazi skinheads who took it ended up trying to dance to rave music and talking about how much it made them feel warm and fuzzy about people and the world.
I thought it was contrived and a bit effeminate for blokes to go around hugging each other and dancing with each other for eight hours in field in Essex without a break.
But none of this sense of transition is featured in the show.
The characters are the same as they were three years before, none have moved on - which during the 80's was what everyone did - everything was moving on.
The working class were earning good money, my mates who were 16 - 20 were all earning a fortune at the time from all sorts of jobs - and the country seemed to be booming.
Yet the estate where the show is set is depicted as a stereotypical down in the dumps estate, when in reality the 1980's were a time of vibrancy of rising aspirations and opportunites for the majority of the white working class.
I hope the series gets better, as to be frank at the moment it is bloody boring.
The fact that Meadows has a fantastic sense for visual shots, such as the scene on the roof of the hospital with the NF sign in red on the wall acting to contrast the closeness of the group with the racial divisions preached by the NF at the time, does not make up for the boring script.
Occasional scenes such as when the casual thug beat Shaun up were funny, but overall it was like watching a bunch of weirdos and saddos who even in 1986 would have been regarded as pathetic, unfashionable freaks.
I dont remember anyone being like them in 1986.
My score so far ;
9 out of 10 for the visuals.
3 out of 10 for the script.
1 out of 10 for the music.