Date of Award

5-2010

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Communication

Advisor

Nathan Stormer

Second Committee Member

Laura Lindenfeld

Third Committee Member

Eric Peterson

Abstract

Shane Meadows' This is England {2001) follows Shaun, a 12-year-old boy living in a northern, coastal English town in the summer of 1983. Shaun is lonely, on the brink of manhood and aching for paternal attention after his father's death in the Falkland war. A run-in with skinheads sweeps Shaun into a life of Ben Sherman's, Doc Martin's, marijuana and root-rock-reggae. Yet his newfound "family" is challenged when Combo, an ex-convict, returns to the racially-neutral gang to recruit the skinheads for a white supremacy group, the National Front. In this thesis I argue that This is England (2007) establishes a perspective on the fragmented state of national identity in contemporary Britain. This fragmentation is related to changing notions of white, heteromasculine hegemony faced with the infiltration of the Other into postcolonial Britain. The reaction against this threat incites violence, yet the violence that occurs in the name of retaining a nostalgic past identity (historically defined by heteromasculinity and whiteness) only furthers the dissolution of what is desired to be reclaimed. This is articulated through the fictional narrative that occurs within the conditions of actual historical events, most notably the Premiership of Margaret Thatcher and the 1980s global shift toward neoconservativism. I engage in a critical exploration of the text, which reveals complex layers of meaning that invite a discursive analysis of the way that British identity is presented in crisis. I present the challenge of the film's certification as a statutorily British film (based on a variety of criteria established by the U.K. Parliament) and argue that this creates a paradox of meaning between its own identity as "British" and its presentation of Britain as no longer definable. I present evidence of two distinctly British film genres referenced throughout the film that traditionally depict oppositional notions of historical British identity, that of the working class "kitchen sink" films and the heritage films that center on the aristocratic and privileged legacy of Britain as a world empire. Furthermore, these binary styles are situated within a cinematic space of critical dystopia that locates England as a dislocation and incites a consideration of how the politics and policies of the 1980s directly influenced the contemporary state of British national identity fragmentation. Ultimately, the film offers no conclusion or real answer for the question of "thinking England." It uses a hybrid cinematic genre situated in a space of critical dystopia to present postcolonial British identity as a fragmentation, paradoxical to its contemporary classification as a thoroughly British film. This is England problematizes the events of the recent past to question the conditions of postmodern, post-global national identity. This invites further scholarship on the implications of contemporary identity fragmentation as the "imagined communities" of nations becomes increasingly indefinable.

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