My Love Hate Relationship with Heritage Britain

It won’t surprise anyone who has encountered this blog before to know that I spent most of the Bank Holiday avoiding the Jubilee.

It would be a slight understatement to say that I found the celebrations both tedious – boats on the Thames = massive yawn (especially in torrential rain)

and inappropriate when loads of people are totally broke and scratching a living.

I’m particularly horrified by this:

– the idea that loads of people on the dole were forced to clear up after the crowds assembling by the Thames is quite frankly obscene. Props to John Prescott

for having the guts to stand up and protest about this disgusting and exploitative practice.

So far, so good. I’m making all the  noises you’d expect, encapsulated here:

I’m not a huge fan of Progress (the Blairite wing of Labour) but this is actually quite a clear article outlining the case against monarchy and for an elected head of state. If Progress had their way we might get President Blair!

Computer says no.

Anyway, despite my deep seated reservations about the orgy of red, white and blue, union jack bunting, cup cakes and street parties that was the Jubilee, what was I watching on Saturday night?

A gritty documentary about the class struggle? A worthy foreign film about the environment.

No, dear reader, I was watching this:

Notting Hill. Starring foppish posh boy Hugh Grant. Written by posh boy Richard Curtis, set in a fictional world where the buses are red and bumbling under achieving members of the upper middle classes live in the kind of houses that now sell for about £7 million.

If you don’t believe me, have a look here:

To live in Notting Hill these days you have to be a banker, an arms dealer, Simon Cowell or a Hollywood celebrity – like the real Hugh Grant. Not Hugh Grant’s character, a floppy haired bookseller called Will who flops around making googly eyes at Julia Roberts.

Even when Curtis made the film in the late 90s, the likelihood of ‘Will’ and his bumbling chums being able to afford a gaff in Notting Hill was about zero. But then Notting Hill is not set in London in the 90s, but a far away land called ‘Heritage Britain’, where everyone is nice and polite and no one swears or shouts. There are no black people – in Notting Hill; never mind that other than the film the area is most famous for the Notting Hill Carnival.

But don’t forget, this is Heritage Britain. A Britain that was on display this weekend as we celebrated the Jubilee. A Britain where no one is poor or on benefits, where to quote our old mucker David Cameron: “We’re all in it together.”

It harks back to the days when Britain was an imperial power, rather than the 51st state of America. To a bygone era. That was long gone well before I was born.

Very, very seductive.

What I guess I’m trying to say that although intellectually I resist this representation of Britain – because I know it’s a load of propaganda, I still get suckered into it via popular culture. I know Richard Curtis’s films are schlock, but the older I get (and the less concerned I am about being cool), the more I enjoy wallowing in them. Not just Notting Hill, but Four Weddings and a Funeral (Hugh again, muttering and stuttering for England), About a Boy (Hugh minus the floppy hair) and the Bridget Jones films.

Should I really be admitting this in public?

Basically, I’m driving at the point that our enjoyment of popular culture can often fly in the face of our political or aesthetic values. For me it’s Richard Curtis films; for someone else it may be X-Factor or Eastenders. These products (and this is what they are) are designed to push all our buttons and make us laugh, cry and suspend our critical faculties. They play on the emotions – on the heart rather than the head. They feature actors or performers chosen for us to lust over.

Hey, perhaps if the Royals were better looking…

Only joking – or am I?

This entry was published on June 6, 2012 at 8:26 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

One thought on “My Love Hate Relationship with Heritage Britain

  1. Notting Hill is one of my guilty film pleasures too. As for About A Boy and Bridget Jones, I love that they’re on ITV2s regular rotation along with Ocean’s Eleven. Heck, I even found myself watching Four Weddings the other night ON CHANNEL FIVE (!!) as there was absolutely nothing else on at all.

    Anyway, without wanting to stand up for Richard Curtis but it’s entirely feasible for Will to have lived just off Portobello. Think about it, once upon a time, it was not a desirable place to live, indeed, a sixth form college friend of mine’s parents owned a massive, detached double fronted Edwardian 5 story villa which they bought for practically nothing as no-one wanted to live round there (indeed, their street was full of squats and smack dens – my mum used to hate me going there), it’s now worth millions. So if Will, with help from his parents by way of a deposit had purchased a house back when he left university, then he’d have been able to afford it. One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t use the small amount of money my mother left me as a deposit, back then I too would have been able to buy something round there but heh, it didn’t occur to me back then to buy property.

    Property prices aside, Richard Curtis is making films for the Vicar of Dibly crowd and the Americans, which you know, so of course it’s going to portray a very idealised version of London life, although Notthing Hill is a dime a dozen these days with international movie stars, so that’s completely and utterly accurate!

    PS. I just wanted to add that the scene set to “Ain’t No Sunshine” where WIll walks through the market as the seasons change is one of my favourite move ellipsis of all time. Rather trite and not an especially imaginative way to show the passing of time I know, but oh so effective.

    PPS. I have another friend whose parents bought a similar property in De Beauviour Town (Dalston to you and me) around the same time for practically nothing. It’s also worth an obscene amount of money now.

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