Saturday, 16 February 2008

Thatcherism, Royalty, and Arse Relations

So Life on Mars is back but fast-forwarded to 1981, and renamed Ashes to Ashes. Thatcherism has started to assert itself and London’s docklands is about to be transformed into apartments for brash Essex boys who will make loads of dosh as the City’s financial markets are deregulated under the Big Bang. The suited wide-boys who throw up on the train back to Billericay now enjoy the financial rewards that were once the preserve of the public schoolboy. But one whelk-chewing, brown-ale swigging East End publican is not prepared to lose his boozer to the property developers without a fight, and being a former Desert Rat, wages a lone crusade with a few strategically-placed sticks of dynamite.

This causes some headaches for DI Hunt (Philip Glenister) and his band of Philistines as it is the time of the Royal Wedding between Charles and Diana, the significance of which goes far beyond something that was just going on at the time. Thatcher’s Conservatism was both radical and a throwback to Disraeli’s ‘one nation’ Toryism. Battalions of workers organised in the unions repeatedly went into action in the 1970s, and it had to stop. So Thatcher’s solution was simple - abolish the class distinction. Sell off the council houses at knockdown prices and transform working class tenants into homeowners. Privatise the nationalised industries and offer cut-price shares to the masses. We are all one class now and all thriving in our land of opportunity through hard work and enterprise. There was more than a hint of postmodernism here. The ‘industrial society’ symbolised class war and conflict, while its ‘post-industrial’ successor was the society of the shopper. And what better way to encapsulate this Brave New World than the Royal Wedding where one unified nation celebrates the new order in flag-waving street parties?

But DI Hunt is of the old order. He refers to a drug dealer as corrupting ‘good working class kids’. He has a new assistant in the delectable, time-travelling DI Drake (Keeley Hawes) who he accuses of talking ‘lardy posh bollocks’ and who he nicknames ‘Bollinger Knickers’. Gene Hunt would have been just at home as a full-time union official, doing deals in smoke-filled rooms over a large scotch, keeping the peace but ultimately identifying with the working classes he would claim to represent. And, as a responsible trade unionist, he would give short shrift to the ultra-left, just as the no-nonsense lawman slams his pool-ball into a local leftie’s meat and two veg.

And now I move to the subject of ‘arse stamping’. This is not creative licence on the part of the script writers. There are recorded incidents of female recruits to the Metropolitan Police having the station stamp embossed on their bottoms. DI Drake obligingly goes along with the initiation ritual (performed of course by DI Hunt in front of the lads). The cameraman teases us by taking the shot from the front so I cannot make an academic comparison between the bottoms of and Keeley and Kylie. Anyway, AVPS is a serious blog: we deal in class relations, not arse relations.

5 comments:

Foxessa said...

So Thatcher’s solution was simple - abolish the class distinction. Sell off the council houses at knockdown prices and transform working class tenants into homeowners. Privatise the nationalised industries and offer cut-price shares to the masses. We are all one class now and all thriving in our land of opportunity through hard work and enterprise. There was more than a hint of postmodernism here. The ‘industrial society’ symbolised class war and conflict, while its ‘post-industrial’ successor was the society of the shopper.

That describes what has happened in the U.S. as well, and a large underlying cause of the subprime loaning for private home ownership (as opposed to erecting affordable housing that might also be more environmentally friendly) that became this global scam. Sure, you knew it was too good to be true, this loan for this house, but you couldn't find anyplace to rent at a price you could remotely afford either. So take the chance and get your own house that would rack up, some, you know, presumed equity.

Love, C.

Phil BC said...

Good stuff Brother S. One thing that's different about Ashes to Ashes is how they focus on the differences between now and the past. Entertaining as Life on Mars was, it was basically an apologia for modern day policing. Gene Hunt might like to have fitted people up or slapped the crims about a bit, but Sam Tyler would never have done that. 21st century policing is all very touchy feely. Police brutality no longer exists.

But in Ashes to Ashes, Alex Drake couldn't care less about the casual brutality Hunt and chums unleash. Is it because she thinks it's all a coma-induced dream? Maybe.

Jay Livingston said...

I assume that Bush's "ownership society" was based on Thatcherism, and that it was part of the plan by Rove, et. al., to create a permanent Republican majority. Turning housing estate renters into owners does seem to have loosened their ties to Labour. We in the US can only hope that our post-Bush Republicans enjoy the same long-term success as the Tories.

As for arse-stamping, I was reminded of the scene in "Closely Watched Trains" (which, if you've never seen, do so immediately). The proclivities of those in uniform seem to transcend national boundaries.

Andrew Bartlett said...

Wasn't the problem with that episode the fact that the only person objecting to the redevelopment/appropriation of property was a cowardly old man and his not too bright son?

After all, who could object to 'progress' but a bunch of weirdoes.

Oh, and that the person making a mint was a salt of the earth Londener, offering cash lump sums and jobs for every man. Jobs for every man - in the early '80s? Balls!

Of course, this weird vision Thatcherism as the benign march of history, welcomed by all, with no victims, does make sense given that it is all playing out in the imagination of a member of the upper middle class, thoroughly incorporated into the security apparatus of post-Thatcher and Reagan capitalist states. She claims a secondment at Langley, after all.

If that is the justification, then I hope that the scriptwriters explore that angle, not just use the licence of the series taking place in an imaginary world to continue with unquestioned political dubiousness.

All that said, I liked the A-Team reference, where, during the gun-fight, every bullet hit the floor around people's feet, or the walls behind them. The only bullet that hit a target was when Hunt disabled a car with a single shot into the engine block.

Louise said...

I have to say that Life on Mars was much much better. When I first heard they were making a sequel to Life on Mars called Ashes to Ashes I assumed it was a spoof. Not so....
Sam Riley (I thought John Simm's portrayal was understated and a great foil to the "Gene Genie")was keen on the old police procedure..i.e. Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE), while Alex Drake comes out with irritating psychobable...She really irritates me and I am starting to not give a damn why she has constructed this unconscious nether world..where she is fluctuating between life and death...Who bloody cares!

But.......the music tracks have been brill as they have taken me back to those sad old days of Dexys, Visage, Duran, OMD and the Flying Lizards..makes me wanna reach for the eyeliner, use lots of ozone unfriendly hairspray and it is a night out at B'ham's finest club, Rum Runner (shut down circa 1986).. Ah bliss...those were the days..

Btw: Phil I see you are listening to Go by Moby. It has got me listening to the wonderfully haunting Porcelain...