19 October 2012

Stereotyping the English

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It is often noted that the English do not do so much to mark St George’s Day, though there is a gradual trend towards celebrating it more. Not everybody is clear about when it is, argues Sunder Katwala.

Still, it seems curious for the new film titled “St George’s Day” was released in September.

Seeing its tagline “A firm, a match, a heist … Blood will be spilt on St George’s Day” on the posters of the tube, it didn’t strike me as representing the spirit of a new civic Englishness.

St George's Flag

These hoary old gangster stereotypes of Englishness, the one major film release of the year to use the English flag seems all too keen to reinforce negative stereotypes and perceptions of English identity.

YouGov polling for British Future found that as many as one in four associate the flag of St George with extremism and racism, though a clear majority of us do not.

The critics have not been impressed.

Total Film called it woeful.

The Independent were not impressed by a “a pitifully derivative package of Britcrim villainy”, and didn’t think much of its invocation of Englishness:

“The script is repetitive, cliché-ridden, uncouth and, in its co-opting of the English fighting spirit, actually offensive. Despite what they think, invoking Churchill, misquoting Shakespeare and toasting Nelson doesn’t make you any less of an unscrupulous, violent, drug- dealing scumbag”.

But the Sun thought its bark worse than its bite, with its mix of cliche caricatures and the odd attempt at comedy making it “more like being nuzzled by a bulldog than mauled by one”.

Perhaps the film-makers were confident of finding enough of a market for Englishness as violence, though takings of £14,145 on the film’s opening weekend must have been a little disappointing. Could it be a sign that it is time for Englishness to move on?

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