Watching Shane Meadows’ This is England was shocking to me because of how relevant the content of this movie is today. The movie depicted Britain in 1983, but I saw so many parallels between that society and the society that we currently live in.
Combo was able to gain followers by playing off of the fear and anger that some of the characters, especially Shaun, felt. This technique is nothing new, but it is effective and it continues to be employed throughout society. In this last election Donald Trump played off of the fears and anger that white working class America was feeling, and it worked. Many people voted for him because they believed that he would bring change for that group of people without even understanding what his policies would be. Instead, many people focused on the rhetoric that Trump used and his promises to “make America great again.” This became Trump’s slogan, but at what cost? Does making America great mean splitting up families? Does it mean denying women their rights to choose? And does it mean that the white man will continue to sit at the top with no opposition? I want to be clear that I don’t think everyone who voted for Trump is racist or misogynistic, but when Trump was elected president all of the hateful rhetoric that he spewed throughout the election became legitimized. The same thing happens in the film, especially through Shaun’s eyes. Combo took them to a rally where hateful and racist rhetoric was used, and it became validation for their actions because other people felt the same way.
I think one of the hardest scenes to watch in this film, other than Combo beating Milk, is the scene that depicts the skinheads’ violence against children who they believe are from Pakistan. Grown men threatening children because they are a perceived threat is completely unacceptable. I also thought it was inappropriate that just because of their skin color and their clothes that these children were automatically “pakis.” I think that these children could have been from any culture but that it would not have mattered. All that Combo and his group saw was that they were not white. This scene disgusted me because Islamophobia is still something very real happening today. Just the other day I read a news article that talked about the rising rate of violence against Muslims in the United States. It hurts me to know that Muslims are being targeted simply because people fear or disagree with their religion.
The realistic nature of this movie was disturbing because it still resonates in society. I have always been told that we have come so far and that soon racism is going to be a thing of the past. I used to believe that, but now I am not so sure. As I said earlier, I don’t think that everyone who voted for Trump is racist, but I do think he validated that behavior. Seeing someone who acts in that manner and spews hateful rhetoric has opened the door for people who are racist to be more open about it. This is England has so many parallels with our society that sometimes I wonder how much progress we have actually made.
This is England. Directed by Shane Meadows. Warp Films Limited, 2006.