21 – This Is England ’86 – And how does that make you feel?

The media blog has now passed its 21st blog which means if the blog was american it could now drink. In a sense the blog has come of age which is appropriate for the themes throughout This is England 86′ when it comes to Shaun. So to celebrate the blog turning 21 in this post I will be looking at what the creators of This is England 86′ have tried to make the audience feel.

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Shaun was the main character in the film and we were shown his journey into adolescence. However in this series Shaun takes more of a supporting role. The coming of age story carries on with Shaun though and we see him continue his romance with fellow character Smell. As this series is set in the 80’s many of the audience may remember the 80’s quite well and possibly grew up in that decade. I think this makes Shaun easy to relate to as he might be a similar age to what the audience might have been and this makes the audience possibly more empathetic to him. Even if the audience were not alive during when the character would have been in the series (like myself) the events that happen to Shaun can hit very close to home, especially at the beginning of the series where he gets pressured by bullies and is feeling lonely and isolated from all his friends. These are problems a lot of people face at some point so the audience can definitely relate to this.

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As said in this series Shaun has become more of a side character and instead former loyal skinhead Lol has assumed the main character role. In this series she struggles with some very big emotional problems when her father comes back to the city. From the start she alleges her father of coming into her room at night with implied possible sexual intentions. She then starts to become more distant from her partner Woody after he ruins her wedding and leaves her at the alter, this leads her to fall into the arms of Milky. This relationship then ends badly as Milky feels guilty about betraying his friend. Lol then confronts her father who has by this point raped her friend, and eventually kills him. Despite Lol doing questionably bad actions like cheating and attempting to murder her own family as the audience you are definitely on her side throughout series. This is done through portraying her father as completely evil and the audience really hate him as he is so disrespectful, aggressive and abusive towards all of the characters. Also her cheating is almost justified as Woody is generally shown as being a bit of and idiot and he doesn’t appear to make much of an effort with the wedding. This makes the audience feel really sympathetic towards Lol. Yet again it is credit to the writing and the acting that a character can be shown brutally murdering someone and the audience is almost cheering the character on.

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I’m not sure this is relevant but the final episode where Lol kills her father reminds me a lot of the story of little red riding hood. Some original versions of the little red riding hood folk tale involved the girl being eaten by the wolf at the end. The story was then thought to have hidden meanings, some people believe the wolf represented male sexual aggression and red riding hood being eaten was actually her being raped. If these metaphorical theories are to be believed the final episode fits very neatly into the tale. The father is the wolf who has tried to hide himself as something more innocent (throughout the series he continues to deny he is a rapist) and is then confronted by little red riding hood, who would be Lol, he then tries to ‘eat’ the girl which in this case is literal attempted rape. In the brothers Grimm’s version of the tale a woodcutter then arrives just in time to save the girl. In the case of This is England this would be Combo who comes in at the end and saves Lol in the sense that he does time in prison instead of her to protect her.

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Though a lot of the context and environment that the characters are defined by may not be relatable the audience still feel involved with the series and get behind the plot and characters. I think this is because the characters are really interesting and can go from humour to tension very easily through fantastic acting. The performances feel very genuine which help to not remind the audience that the series isn’t real and as said creates this strong empathy.

7 – The Call Centre rings true

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The Call Centre was a documentary shown on BBC earlier this year and is set in the third largest call centre in Britain ran by head boss Nev. Nev as a person in the show comes across as very enthusiastic and has a warm personality but in the first episode he, perhaps inappropriately, gets involved in an employee’s relationships and sets up a date night just to find her a partner. In this sense Nev feels like he could have been a sitcom character. He sets himself up as a brilliant and creative boss but sometimes cringe worthingly trys to be funny with his employees. Often when someone has gone into his office when they are finished he would shout “Get Out” as loud as possible and the employee will awkwardly leave the room while Nev sits there giggling to himself.

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As a consequence in some reviews of the show critics compared Nev to Ricky Gervais’ comedy character David Brent from his sitcom The Office. I would definetly agree with this however it’s almost funnier watching The Call Centre as it is real. The two shows themselves are very alike in the way that they combine footage from the main floor of the business set against interviews with the people working in the building. This is probably due to the fact that the reason The Office is so famous is because it is shot like a real documentary and is completely hilarious. In the same way you could watch The Call Centre and think its a sitcom, you could watch The Office and believe it is real.

The following 2 clips are from both shows and it is fairly easy to see why people have compared them to each other.

Throughout each episode of The Call Centre Nev and a tea lady called Hailey (seen below) who is presented as being a little thick are the most prominent people which suggests the producers of the series were focussing on comedy rather an accurate representation of working in a Call Centre. In this way it probably isn’t a great example of social realism.

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6 – This is Textual, this is Analysis but most importantly This is England

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This Is England (Shane Meadows, 2007) is a gritty representation of 80s Britain. The film starts with a montage of iconic news clips from the time, set to a song from the same time period. This establishes the setting for the rest of the film in a visually interesting way. A number of the clips may make the audience feel reminiscent of the time period (as long as they were alive of course) and remind them of their own youth which is part of the ongoing theme throughout the film of a coming of age story.

Another strong theme of the film is the British attitude to other cultures and immigration into the country. Towards the end this becomes the critical theme and the nationalist attitude of one character results in the beating up and possible murder of a character simply because of his nationality being different. This reflects some of the attitudes that were present in the time period within Britain which means the film can be called an example British social realism.

The camera work in this film is quite clever as most shots appear to be hand held and filmed at eye level. Also each shot tends to be moving. This adds to the realism of the film and the directors attempt at making scenes feel uncoordinated and almost like a documentary.

In addition to the faux documentary feel many shots stay on for a long period of time and show a great deal of the scene. Obviously in documentary’s sometimes a singular camera would be used as it easier to film. This technique is most prevalent when there is 2 or 3 characters in the scene probably as the more characters are in the scene the more shots would be needed to cover everyone in the scene’s reactions.

The film begins with a montage of news clips regarding the Falklands war amongst other significant moments in the 80s (shown below) which quickly establishes the time and setting of the film. A similar montage is done later in the film which shows more images of the war which is significant to the plot as the protagonist’s father was killed in the war and at the time this montage appears in the film the character is reflecting on his fathers life and questioning wherever or not his dad would be proud of him after witnessing an attack made by a nationalist and aggressive character to a Jamaican character.

There is a grainy texture throughout which is most likely a filter added over the top of the footage in post production which looks like the kind of quality you would expect on a VHS tape which makes the film seem like it could have been filmed at the time, yet again this is another key factor of how the film feels realistic. Also the colours are quite saturated which could be representative of the bleak attitude in the country at the time (due to recession, a lack of jobs and the war etc).

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A great deal of the sound design utilises non diagetic sound and if there is music at least in the first half of the film any music in the film is part of a compiled score of songs from the 80s. The music genre involves a lot of reggae, specifically tracks by the Toots and the Maytals who are famous for reggae and ska music. The Toots and the Maytals come from Jamaica which is significant because of the racial themes throughout the film and the skinheads were associated with being a following for music which was built from new music that was being created between different ethnicities from different countries. There is a scene in the film where this is mentioned and the 2 characters (one of which was originally from Jamaica and one who was from Britain and was a nationalist) get to a point of seeing each other as equal through their taste in the same music.

The third act of the film features a more composed score that is very emotive and matches the dramatic changes occurring in the film. It may also represent the change in the main protagonist as it goes from the fun and more fast paced pop songs to the more sombre and slower music reflecting the character becoming more mature and witnessing the darker sides of some of the other characters. An example of the music is shown below, the following clip makes up the depressing and bleak end to today’s blog.