You should make it a point to see a movie entitled “This is England”. According to ‘Box Office Mojo’, this little British delight about the Tea Party did around $330,000 in U.S. box office in 14 theaters in a September, 2007 release. That doesn’t even rise to the level of peanuts in cinematic fiscal parlance. In truth, that’s a pathetic number even though it won numerous international film ‘awards’ and many respected American newspaper critics gave it their maximum total of stars. Newsweek’s David Ansen called it “A classic coming-of-age story. Raw, exuberant…pops off the screen.”
The foreign gross, where theater-going sensibilities don’t demand nudity and intergalactic wars, but some actual grinding of intellectual wheels, was a more respectable $8 million with England, France and Sweden leading the way. The producers probably made a few pounds. It didn’t look like it cost much to make and you’ve never heard of any of the gifted stable of actors, unless the likes of Thomas Turgoose, Stephen Graham and Jo Hartley ring a bell.
But how could I say it was about the Tea party when it’s release pre-dated the party’s birth by some two years, not to mention the action takes place in 1983? Full disclosure? OK,I confess; it’s not really about the Tea Party. I’m just saying its story line with appropriate substitutions of characters and philosophies makes for a perfect allegory for America’s most radical political organization.
Let me share the description of ‘This is England’ from its DVD case liner notes. “This summer, 12 year-old Shaun will stumble upon a dangerous new group of friends. The recent death of his father and ridicule from classmates has made life difficult in this small, punk-loving coastal town in northern England. But when Shaun meets the local skinheads, they offer friendship, fun and protection in exchange for his loyalty. When Combo, an older (at age 32) and more violent skinhead returns from prison, Shaun looks up to him as a father-figure. Following Combo’s lead, Shaun will witness a devastating act of violence leaving his friendship and loyalty to Combo in question.
Let’s break down this description into its symbolic Tea Party component parts. Shaun is neither dumb nor particularly bright. He is, however, at his core a budding, naïve, racist nationalist who finds a home with like-minded individuals. A home he would never have found among his youthful peers. With the exception of Combo, the referenced skinheads are all about 3-5 years his senior, one of whom is surprisingly black. The Tea Party is a nationalist party. Not an all-encompassing nationalist party, but one of a single, ethnic American ‘Exceptionalism’ nationalist party limited to white folks with a few minorities for misleading window dressing. In other words, modern-day skinheads incarnate.
Shaun’s father was killed in the Falkland Islands in 1982, a skirmish neither side (England and Argentina) is willing to forgive or forget even to this day. The father’s death had a big impact on the lad and while his mother tried to fill the void, Shaun’s skinhead associates were far more influential. I would describe the range of upper lower-class to lower middle-class to be the socio-economic status of most of the skinheads. That’s the ideal spawning ground for those desperately in need of feeling superior to somebody! I fully believe that need to feel superior largely drives most Tea Party members as well. That’s why they appear to welcome legislation designed to make sure that those who are perceived to be their inferiors stay that way. It also explains why the party is prepared to vote for Mitt Romney. They can live their largely mundane lives through the very wealthy prism of a man with narcissistic material possessions they aspire to but can never have.
The appearance of vicious ex-con character Combo, who has just completed a three-year prison sentence, creates a chasm, with only the true racists remaining. Just like Dick Armey and his ‘FreedomWorks’(ironically founded in 1984) money give the Tea Party life. Combo’s hatred of all non-white human beings is palpable and reverberates in every subsequent skinhead action. The main targets are Pakistanis. There is an extraordinary scene in a Pakistani-owned store between Shaun and the owner that could serve as the consummate case study for racial hatred. I could well imagine such a scene being played out between a Tea Party member and a black or Muslim store-owner.
Extreme positions carry extreme consequences. And an even more hateful scene than the one just described conveys that maxim in one of the most violent, realistic confrontations I’ve ever seen in a theater or in real life. Remember the single black member of the skinhead group? The one skinhead who seemed totally out of place? As it developed he was. Director Shane Meadows is a master of the buildup. Of using almost throwaway pieces of dialogue and isolated shots to hint at the menace to come. Initially innocent, even playful comments, followed by an emerging tone of tension. Then comes the single exchange that changes the whole tenor of the scene. After that you know all hell is going to break loose – it’s just a matter of time.
In this case, Combo takes all his hate out on the black skinhead, beating him viciously and maybe to death. We don’t know until the end of the movie when his mother promises he’s going to be OK. Just like We also don’t know if the Tea Party will beat American democracy to death with their selfish, mindless platforms of worshiping the rich, totally disrespecting women, ignoring the poor and following the tenant of every man and women for themselves. There are many other elements of this movie tying it to the Tea Party – sexism, uncompromising ‘partisanship’ and self-loathing being chief among them.
A necessary disclaimer here. The language is raw, coarse and extreme. Just like the language of the region and the political language of the Tea Party. If that might offend you, leave well enough alone. Otherwise, rent this movie. After 101 minutes, you’ll know all you need to know about the Tea Party and the extreme danger it represents to this country.