Thursday, 16 September 2010


I liked Shane Meadow's film largely for its performances - the kid was especially good - but was less convinced by the "period detail" (music, dad killed in Falklands) that quite a lot of the critics enthused about. I'm also more than a little ambivalent about skinheads, anyway; I know there were anti-racist skins around, but there weren't any where I grew up. What seemed to get a lot of people excited when the film came out was its apparently shocking premise that the working class were not all knuckle dragging xenophobes.

Anyway, to the series - which follows the characters from the film a few years on. I haven't yet watched the second part, so maybe what I'm going to say will be proved redundant. Brendan O'Neill in Spiked has already pointed out what is probably the most telling sequence of part one:

"One of the most striking things about the first episode is how people-free the settings were. This was most clear in the scenes in the hospital...Utterly bereft of other patients, doctors and nurses, the hospital becomes a playground for the good skins to muck about in...having a wheelchair race...or to resolve their personal differences in..."

There are no other people. The whole point about youth subcultures is that they were oppositional, you defined yourself by your tribe and your tribe was defined against not just other tribes but society in general. Meadow's skins exist in a bubble, they are not in opposition to anything. In this, it is absolutely unfaithful to the 1980's in particular and to the meaning of youth cults in general. However, in this it is faithful to the 21st century.

O'Neill makes the comparison to "Friends", which I think is pretty accurate. That enormously successful sitcom was a quintissential product of the "Happy '90's", its protagonists occupied a de-politicised (one assumed that they were vaguely liberal/left)and largely depopulated void. Their semi-incestuous inter-relationships were posited not just as a defense against the world, they were the world.

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