THIS IS ENGLAND - Film Review
Shane Meadows is a brilliant British film maker. His last film Dead Mans Shoes is one of the best British gangster movies of the last decade, a film that haunts the memory. His latest offering is This Is England, a semi-autobiographical movie set in Grimsby in 1983 during the Falklands War that charts the story of 12 year old Shaun Fields, played by Thomas Turgoose, whose father has just been killed in the conflict. Bullied at school for his 'Keith Chegwin' flared trousers style of dress by various boys he falls in with a group of multi-racial Skinheads led by the ever amicable Woody, who takes him under his wing then lets him join the gang and offers him a real sense of belonging. Then one night the nemesis of the film Combo appears, played with real power by Stephen Graham. Combo has just come out of prison after serving three and a half years for a crime actually committed by Woody. Whilst in prison Combo has become politically radicalised and is an active supporter of the National Front. After meeting the gang Corby begins race baiting the black Skinhead member of the gang, Milky, and as a result the gang split into two groups, one an anti-racist gang led by Woody and the other a pro-National Front gang led by Combo.
As a result of the void in their lives due to their missing fathers Combo and Shaun are inexorably drawn together as though kindred souls and discover a relationship of mutual dependency, as each in their own way are alienated orphan outcasts. Both are fatherless, bullied, isolated and angry and both are in search of an identity. Joining the National Front for Shaun represents keeping faith with the sacrifice of his father for the country. For Combo it allows him to express his own self loathing and sense of rejection caused by his fathers rejection and collapsed family life.
During the film we discover that before Combo had been sent into prison he and the girlfriend of Woody had a drunken one night stand. Combo secretly meets up with her and declares his love for her and is rebuffed. He is seen distraught, crying and alone in his car. Combo then sets up a meeting in the street with Milky, the black skinhead of the gang who is a small time drugs dealer for the skinheads led by Woody and makes a deal to buy some marijuana from him. At the end of the film Combo attacks Milky after a night of drinking at a party in his flat and beats him to death. The attack on Milky is triggered when Milky is describing how close he is to his extended family and his warm home life to Combo. The film ends with Shaun throwing an English flag into a river symbolising his rejection of his English identity. I suspect that this film was Shane Meadows way of reclaiming the flag again. It is a quintessentially working class white English film, set in a predominantly Midlands white working class community just beginning to be 'enriched' by multi-culturalism.
The local shop owner is Asian and we meet him at the beginning of the film banning Shaun from his shop for reading the comics without paying for them. The Asian shop owner at the end of the film is subjected to a vicious racist attack by the gang led by Combo. The only black character in the film, Milky, is from a Jamaican family from the British Commonwealth who regards himself as British in culture, language and loyalty and also English. The two ethnic minority characters in the film that have important plot roles, one Black Christian and the other Asian Muslim, represent the ideological schism that begun in the 1980's between the previous social integrationist model adopted by the Black Community in Britain as denoted by Milky and the Multi-Cultural Model adopted by the new Asian immigrant Muslims as depicted by the Asian shop owner and some Asian youths shown later in the film. This symbolic division is later explicitly highlighted when a group of young Asian school kids are shown playing football in the streets in prayer caps and in traditional dress. Combo is shown being racist to the Asian Muslims and tells them to leave the street and not return. This moment in the film represents the moment when the fault line between the two ideologies of Multi-Culturalism and Integrationism finally began to impact in society at the level of the street and also when British society chose to adopt the Multi-Cultural model and the break up of the country into competing ethnic and religious community blocs created by incoming immigrant colonists rather than trying to impose the previous Integrationist Model.
In the final few scenes of the movie when Milky is being racially abused by Combo we see Milky smiling enigmatically at Combo, even though he knows he is about to be attacked by Combo. We are not told directly by Meadows through the characters in the film why Milky is smiling, nor are why we told why Combo reacts so violently to Milky. The reason is because Milky has discovered Combos secret. This is that Combo is mixed race and that he is 'passing' as white and that this internal conflict is the true source of his anger and racism, not any politics or the state of British society. Combo at one point talks about the British Army invading the Falklands and picking on the poor Falklands farmers. His politics are so vacuous and so obviously absurd that they are just a pose, a front for his sublimated rage and merely a mechanism for Combo to express his hatred of the society that rejected him. Milky when he smiles at Combo has understood that Combo has a 'black soul' referring to Combos love of black music. This is because Combo is himself mixed race and that the father who rejected him was half black. Meadows has explained in interviews that Combo was sent into care after getting into trouble before being adopted by a white family. Though not explicitly spelt out in the film the back story of Combo has been revealed by Meadows at a recent press conference and discussion about the film. Rejected by his father, his black family, his two black brothers who were born looking black whilst he was born looking white and the extended black community, and also having been the victim of racist bullying in prison by black inmates who thought he was white, Combo has no roots or identity and as a result has come to hate all black and Asian people. His skin colour has become his only uniform for everything else has been taken from him. His only experience of blacks in his white adopted family was to be bullied by them in prison. The cumulative psychological effects of this rejection by the black community and his alienation from his roots meant that Combo had rejected entirely his black ethnicity and ancestry, except for his black soul and love of black music that he expressed through being a skinhead. In the end it was inevitable that due to the internal psychological pressure of being a black, Nazi, skinhead who has a black soul but a white skin meant that he would eventually explodes into rage and violence.
It is his self loathing for his own self denied ethnicity that drives his hatred for all blacks and immigrants not any politics. The rejection by his black father is the source of the pain he inflicts upon Milky who is black, for Milky has a large and happy extended black family and is close to his father. He hates Milky not because of his race but because he has the family and life that he himself was denied. The fact that the black people he met in prison also saw him as a racial stereotype, that being just another white, and the fact that the black community had rejected him because he looked white instead of looking black, meant that Combos whole mindset and psychology was predicated on race and motivated by rejection and alienation. Alienation from society, communities and fathers is a powerful and topical argument at the moment what with the crisis of black on black violence in they black community being allegedly caused by a lack of fathers and also single parents families. Combo symbolises the secret tragedy of Multi-Racialism that is never discussed which is the problems of identity of those born of m mixed racial parentage. Those that look white are claimed by the White community and those that look Black by the black community, but what of those like Combo who have skin of one colour and the soul of another. Combo is the rootless product of a society that is based on liberal racism. In a society where race is regarded as a major issue for all communities, then what of those who are mixed race. As Combo looks white he becomes a skinhead, but equally if the story had been about a youth who looks black from the same background then he would have become a black gangsta, a Death Angel or a rap singer involved in the criminal underworld listening to Public Enemy, Onyx and N.W.A. Combo becomes a disciple of white nationalism, but others who are of mixed black and white parentage, but who look black, seek to sublimate their white ethnicity by becoming radical afro-centrists and become disciples of Black Nationalist organisations such as the Nation of Islam, Chuck D and Malcolm X. This tragedy has the same outcomes but always played out in a different way. Combo by becoming a National Front member becomes more white than the average whites, just as many mixed blacks become more 'right on' than the average black person. Combo is a tragic figure, yet in their rush to attack his 'racism' the very liberals who crated our racist society are furthering de-humanising him and further racialising his pain. Liberals have become lost in a labyrinth of their own illusions and lies and an offer no way out of their racial limbo for those such as Combo.
What this back story of Combo reveals is that it is not the 'racist ideology' of the National Front that drives Combo to attack Milky, it is own sublimated self hatred that finally erupts when Milky is talking about his idyllic family life. During this scene in the film you can see the pain and loss in Combos eyes, as he wipes away his tears in secret so that his gang cannot see he is crying. Combo hides behind the politics of the National Front as the basis of his hate just as a rapist uses a mask to hide himself from his victims. Combo uses the National Front as a vehicle to project his self hatred upon society and his own black family and community. The National Front are not using Combo, Combo is using the National Front. The fact that the Liberal Left so called 'film critics' and intellectuals that sit on the soft sofas of Newsnight Review, regard this as a powerful film with an anti-racist message suggests they either did not understand the film or are deliberately misrepresenting it for their own reasons. It is in fact a powerful attack on Multi-Culturalism. The main leads are a young white boy with no father, community, identity or culture and a mixed race skinhead neo-Nazi. For Shaun it is only the skinheads that give him all these essential building blocs for self respect. The question they should be asking is why this is. The answer though would need to address issues such as the psychological problems caused by miscegenation in a Liberal Fascist society predicated on racial identities and the ongoing effects of the de-culturalisation of the white British working class and its effects on white youth and identity and therefore can never be debated.
Setting the film during the Falklands Conflict was also interesting. It is an irony of history that whilst the Thatcher government was pro-active in defending the Falklands Isles from Argentine invasion, at the same time mass immigration was being encouraged and facilitated by Thatcherite economists in government to lower wage levels in the UK. The tragedy of the Falklands War was that whilst British soldiers were dying in the Falklands to stop British territory being invaded and taken over and the British way of life being destroyed, the British troops and British people were themselves being stabbed in the back at home by a government that was deliberately choosing to open the immigration floodgates, who enacted amnesties for hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants and who refused to prosecute Islamist extremist lunatics in the country who hospitalised dozens of police at ' Kill Salman Rushdie ' demos. The attempt to portray the Falklands War as Britain 'bullying' a weak Argentina is frankly laughable, as Argentina was at the time a well armed military dictatorship with a powerful navy and air force. The navy had submarines and an air force with Mirage 111EA interceptor jets that were armed with Etendard/ Exocet missiles systems that were far more deadly than any missile systems utilised by British forces, FMA IA 58 Pucara fighters, McDonnell Douglas A-4C Skyhawk fighters and also surveillance Boeing 737's and C-130 Hercules in use. They were a well disciplined army with mass public support whose one weakness on the ground was an over reliance on conscript soldiers as opposed to professional troops. This was not a walk over war. They had aircraft carriers such as the ARA Veinticinco De Mayo and Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King helicopters and anti-submarine fighter planes such as the Grumman S-2E Tracker in operational use. Our national nuclear weapons capability was rendered tactically and strategically useless and the Argentinians after they had invaded the Falkland Islands had the ground prepared with defence positions, air cover and were confident in their superiority as per their missile systems and attack systems to target our ships and troops as they landed and sought to re-supply the British forces. The fact we lost ships such as the Sheffield, Galahad, Ardent, Antelope, Tristan and ships such as the Argonaut, Coventry, Atlantic Conveyor, Glamorgan and Antrim are hit by bombs shows how tough this fight was. On just one day, the 21 st May 1982, the ships Ardent and Argonaut were sunk and 13 Argentinian fighters shot down. 255 British troops died in the Falklands War. It was not a war that was a walk over I an way, and regurgitating left wing myths about the war is a major flaw in the film.
Combo sees himself as much a soldier as those in the Falklands, except for Combo the Skinheads are the Home Guard that are defending British soil itself from foreign invasion. The fact that he has become an 'super patriot' fighting for 'England' is due to his own innate inferiority complex. He is over compensating as regards his sublimated and suppressed ethnic identity, for he himself is the alien he hates. At one point in the film Combo asks Milky if he regards himself as Jamaican or English, when Milky replies " English " , Combo says that he considers him as English and British as he is because he is proud to say so. Yet at the same time he uses racist language to attack blacks. This incident demonstrates that the hatred of Combo for blacks is neither rational nor based on any political reason, for it is entirely irrational and makes sense only to Combo.
To say this film should be regarded as an polemic about so called 'racist' politics is to misunderstand the entire basis of the film. Politics is not the cause of Combos racism, it is his own confusion over his racial identity and issues regarding his rejection by his half black father. The skinheads in the gang run by Woody are able to form an inclusive skinhead group that rejects the uniform of race as they all share other 'uniforms' that unite them, these being a shared British culture, language, religion, history , music and clothes. They are symbolic of the old Integrationist Model, and even though Combo as a metaphor reflects the failure of Multi-Racial society at the level of the family and the individual, they can still unite around those things as a group that they have in common other than their race. The Asian Muslims that Combo meets in the street scene near the end of the film represent the Multi-Cultural Model that we have now. There could be no assimilation into Woodys skinhead gang with the Asian Muslims they meet in the film for they share no 'uniforms'. They have a different language, culture, customs, traditions, values and religion from Woody and Milky and the rest of the gang. Many geographically self isolate themselves in ethnic enclaves so physically preventing any forms of assimilation. If many of them as an organised community group and took political power in Britain then our society would no longer be British and there would no reggae music, smoking weed, drinking beer, bacon butties and football matches, pre-marital sex and skinhead clothing or British culture in such an Islamic Fundamentalist society. Therefore those on the Left that will try and use this film as a device for indoctrinating children into the idea that some sort of multi-cultural skinhead model existed in the past, and try to peddle the myth that prior to the racism of the National Front that British society was multi-racial and inclusive, face the problem of explaining what Woodys gang would be doing today and also that Combo the arch-racist of the film is also part black himself. It is impossible to use this film as a propaganda device to indoctrinate modern British children into believing the lies of the Multi-Culturalists that all the problems of British society are due to white racism caused by groups such as the National Front. The film is a snap shot of a past long gone, and reflects the moment when a unified national narrative was torn apart into a series of competing communities.
The film also critiques the social effects of the destruction of traditional White working class communities that were torn apart by socialist town planners in the post-war years, the effect on white families torn apart by mass unemployment in the eighties and finally the betrayal of the entire white working class by New Labour. The White working class as a community were deliberately abandoned by successive Tory and Labour governments to poverty, alienation and drug abuse in favour of the creation a new immigrant middle and working class as part of what became ' Cool Brittania '. Whilst all ethnic minority groups in the UK were expected to celebrate their identity, the ethnic English were denied the right to have an identity and called racists if they dared to organise as a community to represent their community and ethnic interests. This was liberal hypocrisy at its sickening best. Whilst a new immigrant ethnic middle class prospered from the breakdown of traditional British society, the indigenous white working class were thrown onto the social scrapheap to be despised as the underclass. In Cool Britannia the Muslim woman was encouraged to wear a veil and mosques proliferated in our towns and cities, the Sikh community were allowed by law to carry a Kirpan and not wear a crash helmet, the Scots to embrace Scottish Nationalism and seek national independence, the Irish to have subsidised St. Patricks Day festivals, West Indian and African immigrants to dance all night at the Notting Hill Festival and the Jamaican to fly the Jamaican flag during the cricket. But any expression of communal pride in being ethnically British or English was regarded as racist.
As Bertholt Brecht wrote " If the people will not vote for the government, then the government must change the people ". It is no coincidence that mass immigration into the UK has coincided with mass white emigration out of the UK. Governments both Tory and Labour, with Liberal backing, have sought to ethnically cleanse the indigenous white working class from Britain. This is because the white working class have always been resistant to the latest asinine utopian ideology or political fad that had swept the coffee bars and salons of the bourgeoise. They remained loyal, patriotic and infuriatingly apathetic. The White working class have always been regarded as obstacles of progress to those both on the Reactionary Right and the Revolutionary Left. Stalin sent them to Gulags whilst Blair sends them to war in Serbia, Afghanistan and Iraq. The white liberal middle class has a particular loathing of them. Between bouts of sterilising them during the epoch of Social Darwinism and shipping them off to colonies in the West Indies as bonded labour and convicts, the white liberal middle class have done everything they can to assist the social engineers and psychopaths both right and left in their missions to eradicate the white working class. The 'useful idiots' of Lenin have served both capitalism and communism as accomplices to the sociocide of the working class in Britain.
Shane Meadows has made another entertaining, poignant, thoughtful and humorous film. He manages to say important things concerning the de-culturalisation of both white and black British youth in relation to the problems of the Multi-Racial Model that have not been debated before. The film hints at some of the less addressed problems caused by the Multi-Racial Model such as the issue around the loss of ethnic identity due to miscegenation and racism from the black community against mixed race people and hints at the problem we face today as a result of the racialism at the heart of Multi-Culturalism. It is ironic that due to the opposition of ethnic minorities as communities to the political rise of the National Front in the 1970's and 80's, and the ensuing community radicalisation that resulted, that the dynamic of the Multi-Cultural Model really took off. The growth of the Multi-Cultural Model has resulted in the death of the skinhead movement as depicted by Woodys gang. People do not have to integrate anymore and communities are polarised and exclusive, not united and inclusive. Another irony is that Multi-Culturalism has itself become Liberal Fascism. It is only by the Liberal Fascist elite actively suppressing the identity of the ethnic majority in England, that of the ethnic English, that the Multi-Cultural Model been able to form the Tyranny of the Minorities social model that we live under today. The lesson of this film is that the real fascists in our society were not the so called racist groups like the National Front, who never had any political power not ever passed a single racist law, but are in fact the multi-culturalists. All the racism in our society can be laid only ay the feet of the Tories, Labour and Liberals for they alone have had and exercised the political power that created the racial problems in our society. Blaming the National Front and other political parties is plainly illogical. Correlation and causation are two entirely different things, and only fools and scoundrels seek to adduce a connection where non exists. Whilst the speaker in the National Front meeting in the film said that those from ethnic groups who stood up for Britain could stay in Britain and be part of British culture, it is only the Liberal Fascists whose politics have run the country since the 1980's who have created our racially polarised communities, the ethnic ghettoes and who have attempted to ethnically cleanse the ethnic English from British society. They alone are the real fascists.
This is England is a great film and Shane Meadows has managed to make a film that not only entertains but also gets one thinking. It is a real pity that the so called 'cultural commentators' of our society are either so thick or so frightened of this film that they cannot debate its real messages. Like Shane and Shaun I was also raised on a white working class estate and hung around outside the shops with the local skinheads drinking cheap cider from bottles with a straw with blokes with names such as Rory, Pecker, Big Kev, Scrapper and Kip. Much of this film reflects the reality of that era and the scenes where Shaun rides around on his grifter bike and the gang go shooting with air rifles are also scenes from my childhood. It is an evocative and moving film that for those of us in our late thirties from a working class background will remind us of an era that we all lived through. It is a pity that Shane has started to try and indulge in the a sub-Ken Loach type politics, as his facile analysis of the Falklands War proves, and I only hope that he avoids such crass political sloganeering in the future. Shanes films work best when they reflect working class community life, they fail when they try and become vehicles for political comment.