Start listing English classics set outside the capital with just as strong a local flavour, however, and inspiration soon runs dry (or mine did, anyway). What’s striking about Meadows’ movies in this context is how London is scarcely even referenced. But as soon as I began to scribble down what I think of as the great, quintessentially English films, what I found was that almost all were either set in London or had at least one narrative foot in the capital… But why are Meadows’ ordinary lives still so exotic in British film? Does all inspiration really stop at the exits of the M25? Are there truly no stories to tell among England’s cul-de-sacs and shopping centres?
Of course, it’s this extreme Britishness that seems to be keeping Meadows from making much headway here in the US (a shame, because "This is England" is pretty damn good). Portraits of grubby urban living are easier to relate to than portraits of grubby regional living, which presumes context audiences aren’t often willing to learn.
On the other hand, Patrick Barkham, also at the Guardian, describes how the archetypal British film figure has become to much of the rest of the world Rowan Atkinson‘s Mr. Bean â€” to the point where one of the British sailors taken from the HMS Cornwall three weeks ago after it allegedly strayed into Iranian waters was taunted by his interrogators by being compared to the bumbling, speech impaired character. Barkham writes:
AgnÃ¨s Poirier, the social commentator and author of TouchÃ©: A Frenchwoman’s Take on the English, has some consoling words. In some respects Mr Bean’s elevation to an icon of Britishness is a step forward for the way we are perceived abroad. "At least he’s not as seedy as Benny Hill. For years Benny Hill was the representation of the British man abroad. So it could be a relief it is now Mr Bean. At least he’s just awkward, and not a pervert," she says.
If the New York Times’ weekend article responding to Stephen Fry‘s speculation that Americans are softer on British actors because of their accents signifies anything, it’s that here we do still attach values of aristocracy, repressed emotions and superciliousness to our general idea of Britishness, even if it’s often put in service of camp â€” an effect that, as A.O. Scott wisely points out, is not about British Acting as much as it is about Acting British.
+ Why is Shane Meadows’ ordinary England so extraordinary? (Guardian Film Blog)
+ National buffoon (Guardian)
+ Jolly Good Show … Or Was It? (NY Times)