Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

The Pistols and the Queen at the Olympics.

Yesterday, I put together some incoherent words on the subject of patriotism. If you can’t be bothered to read the piece, here is the shortened version: I’m largely against it. While perusing the column, I had another read of George …

Sun, Jul 29, 2012, 22:41

   

Yesterday, I put together some incoherent words on the subject of patriotism. If you can’t be bothered to read the piece, here is the shortened version: I’m largely against it. While perusing the column, I had another read of George Orwell’s great essay The Lion and the Unicorn. Written during the second World War, the piece deals attempts — among other endeavours — to reconcile Orwell’s socialism with his slightly guilty patriotism.

“The clatter of clogs in the Lancashire mill towns, the to-and-fro of the lorries on the Great North Road, the queues outside the Labour Exchanges, the rattle of pin-tables in the Soho pubs, the old maids hiking to Holy Communion through the mists of the autumn morning. – all these are not only fragments, but¬†characteristic¬†fragments, of the English scene. How can one make a pattern out of this muddle?”

How indeed? Well, in his often confusing, but impressively right-on Olympics opening ceremony, Danny Boyle attempted to answer just that question. It looked like a gigantic school pageant, created by a left-wing, Guardian-reading Geography teacher in a knitted tie. As you will now be aware, at least one Tory MP had apoplexy about this “lefty multicultural crap”. David Cameron and Boris Johnson made grumbling noises at Aidan Burley — the same MP who had to apologise after attending a Nazi-themed stag party — but two of those three words were entirely accurate. It was undoubtedly left wing and it was proudly multi-cultural. How else to describe a ceremony that celebrated both Windrush and the National Health Service? That was one of the good things about it.

But I have, of course, come here to moan. The UK press have got themselves into bizarre tizzy about the fact that the Queen seemed able to utter a single line of dialogue without falling over or asphyxiating herself. The sketch was passably amusing. But, given that its existence had been leaked months before, the segment involving Her Maj and James Bond hardly came as a massive surprise. In fact, it all seemed just a little undignified. If you’re going to pretend to be Supreme Leader of the Planet Albion then you would be well advised not to participate in too many music hall turns.

Meanwhile, almost unnoticed, the soundtrack included two songs by The Sex Pistols, including the once incendiary and now (apparently) rather charming God Save the Queen itself. It seems an awfully long time ago that the Beatles and the Stones were regarded as dangerous, but some of us still felt that the Pistols were unsuitable as evening entertainment for the Royal Family. The boys turned down the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. But the Olympics is, it appears, the contemporary version of the Blitz. We’re all in this together: punks, computer pioneers, classical composers, peace protestors, suffragettes, furry peasants, sheep, geese, the Arctic Monkeys.

Who was more compromised: the Pistols or The Queen? I’d say it’s something of a draw. Mind you, we did learn something from all of this. The post-1960s counter-culture has now been totally, utterly subsumed into the cosy mainstream. Is is time for Rat Scabies’s knighthood yet?

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