Choose a case study of one example of a representation of the 'English North' in film or literary form.
In this assignment, I will be looking at how the north is represented in film and literary. For my example, I have decided to choose the film 'Billy Elliot' to give a modern day representation of the north in the 1980's. The film is based around the life of Billy Elliot, an 11 year old boy growing up with his father and brother in northern Britain. The film is bset in 1984, at the height of social and political unrest due to the miner's strikes. Whilst at boxing lessons, Billy finds no enjoyment in the sport and is more interested in the ballet lessons taking place next door, so he decides to start taking part. When billy's dad finds out the he has not been attending his boxing lessons but instead has been doing ballet, he acts in a stereotypically aggressive way and does not allow him to attend any more lessons. After a night of heavy drinking, billy's dad arrives at the village hall to see billy enacting an emotive dance to one of his classmates, Michael. Billy’s dad is so moved by the passionate dancing that he comes to the realisation that his masculine and egotistical perception on ballet may be a misjudgement, and he decides to stop striking and go back to work in order to give billy a chance to get into dance school. Aggression is portrayed as a stereotypical trait within northerners, and this is shown after Billy has completed his audition to get into the London dance school. When in the changing room, one of billy's fellow auditionee's tries to console Billy after he believes that he has messed up his audition, due to Billy referring to the whole trip as 'A waste of fucking time.' Billy reacts in an aggressive manor and ends up punching the other child in the face, displaying the so called 'aggressive nature' of northerners. The film explores many different common perceptions on northern culture, ranging from a lack of emotion supposedly shown by northerners, too a drinking culture which is seen as a common feature by the population of the north. In the north in the 1980's, the main issues usually revolved around unemployment, different social class and gender. Unemployment is a recurrent theme in the film, with Billy's father and brother both on strike due to sever loss of jobs in mining and manufacturing industries. This is especially seen in one of the early scenes in which Billy's dad and brother are involved in protesting along with hundreds of other unemployed people, with many of them seen visually attacking the bus used to transport people currently still in work. This scene shows unemployment is rife within northern communities, but it also shows anger and aggression which a common perception of northerners. With many preconceptions, it is often that they derive from outside the source. So with this film, it was directed by a southerner from Dorset, Stephen Daldry. This could have led to the film being portrayed from a southerners point of view, therefore exaggerating the true extent that the stereotypes adhered too. Defining features of modern day film depict the north showing a decline in working class life and values. In Billy Elliot, this is shown through the decline of the family in many different scenes. One scene in particular is the conversation between Billy Elliot and his dad after he has Just found out that he has been dancing instead of boxing. The scene shows a level of aggression between the two that is often portrayed in northern film, but it also shows the decline in the relationship between the family due to all the external factors , such as economic loss, decline of the mining industry and the loss of social cohesion. One of the big themes which is explored throughout the film is the impact of de-industrialisation on masculinity. In the late 19th early to mid 20th centuries, masculinity was underpinned by manual labour and being the bread winner, but the...
Bibliography: Hill, J. (2000b), ‘From New Wave to Brit Grit: Continuity and
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Russell, D (2004) Looking North: Northern England and the
F. Musgrove (1990) The North of England: A History
from Roman Times
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