Nick Love and Shane Meadows, two directors of white workingclass origin who like nothing better than to tell the world how much they empathise with the white workingclass world they grew up in. In pursuit of this they make films such as Football Factory (Love) and 24/7 (Meadows). As films their products are watchable but they are also profoundly dishonest. The problem is that both Love and Meadows have donned the liberal bigot coat of many pc colours and the white workingclass world they show is robbed of one essential ingredient: an honest portrayal of the racial friction between workingclass whites and black and Asian immigrants and their descendents.
The dishonesty takes one of two forms: race is either completely ignored (Football Factory) or the story is skewed so that (1) non-white characters are included in an attempt to show workingclass whites and nonwhites “living in harmony” and (2) to allow some of the white characters to be represented as racist boneheads and some to display a white liberal’s appreciation of “the joy of diversity”. Outlaw and Made in England display these latter traits.
Outlaw could have been an English taxi driver. It has a first rate cast which includes Sean Bean, Bob Hoskins and Danny Dyer. The story is of a group of men who form a vigilante gang in response to the supposed crime wave politicians are always feeding the populace. Bean as the leader of the vigilante group gives a dynamic charismatic performance as a workingclass northerner Royal Marine just returned from Iraq to London. . The rest of his gang bar one are entirely plausible, being white and working class Londoners. The “bar one” is a posh black QC who supposedly joins the group because his wife is killed by gangsters on behalf of a Mr Big whom the posh black QC is prosecuting for the Crown. The killer is inevitably white.
The sheer improbability of this scenario – white workingclass lad, posh black QC – alone made the film ridiculous. The clunking political correctness makes it wearisome : the Hoskins character (a serving detective) fawns over the black barrister whom he is part protecting part driving around, utterly robs Hoskins of his normal upfront bluntness, while the rest of the gang never think to say “’ere, what’s this posh black geezer doing with us?” The clear message of the film is that this is that race is utterly unimportant and that everyone no matter what their background is perfectly happy to muck in together and violent crime is really a white thing – none of the characters the gang attacks is non-white. The film is worth seeing for one reason as a film – Bean’s performance.
Made in England is rather more subtle. Here we have a skinhead gang in Lincolnshire around the time of the Falklands (1982). The gang , led by “good guy” Woody ( Joe Gilgun) adopt an eleven year old boy Shaun (Thomas Tugoose) whose father has been killed fighting in the Falklands. The gang, despite being skinhead, has a black member (natch). Meadows attempts to justify this improbable scenario by claiming that the roots of the skinhead phenomenon lay in white boys taking a liking to black music in the late sixties. Whether that is true or not, by the early eighties skinhead culture was resolutely anti-immigrant and the existence of a gang of skinheads who not only have a black member but never mention race even when the black member is not with them, is improbable in the extreme.
All goes along swimmingly in a multi-culti fashion until an ex-con Combo (Stephen Graham) returns from prison and tries to take over the gang and inject a racial element into it. He merely splits the gang between himself and Woody. Bingo! We have the “good” skinheads (Woody) and the “bad” skinheads Combo and the trite little pc agitprop piece is then played out to show how the “bad” skinheads are violent thickos and not at all representative of England while the “good” skinheads are the real English deal, all bubbling with enthusiasm for “the joy of diversity. The film ends clankingly with the Shaun symbolically tossing his flag of St George into the sea. Despite its agitprop by numbers nature, this film does have some very strong performances from the main actors, especially Tugoose who gives one of the great child actor performances.
The PC lesson to draw from the two films is simple: the white workingclass’ real problem is not race or immigration or a lack of national expression it is their social circumstances.