After watching the 2006 film This is England, I could not help but draw a comparison to a similar film, American History X. Both of these films deal with a skinhead sub culture that is shadowed by racial hatred and bigotry. In American History X, the main character Derek has been led down the path toward racism by several factors. The casual racist ideology of his father’s dinner table ranting is validated for Derek when his father is killed by a black man. This leads Derek down a snowballing path of aggressive racism and brutal hate crimes until he is locked up for a vicious murder of a black gang member. He then realizes his mistakes, which prompts him to save his brother from this dangerous ideology. He saves his brother from following in his footsteps, however his brother is then shot by the brother of the black man that Derek killed at the beginning of the movie.
This is England has many similarities to this movie. Derek and Combo share a racist ideology that seems to stem more from their own insecurities than anything else. Likewise, Derek’s little brother is comparable to the character Shaun. Both characters join the subculture out of need for belonging; Derek’s brother joins when his father and Derek are both taken from him in a matter of months, while Shaun’s own membership stems from his desire for a surrogate father figure. While Shaun is able to escape the subculture before it can turn him into something like Combo, Derek’s brother is fated to be a victim of hatred from the other side.
These two movies share many interesting similarities, and both raise many important issues. The movies demonstrate how subtle racism can explode into something extremely toxic.