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How others see us

January 31, 2013

Pampered and repressed

This week’s (28 Jan 2013) New Yorker review of the Michael Apted film 56 Up, the latest update on the lives of 14 Britons, first filmed as in 1964, is unflattering. “The British class system has its protections at every level, but also […] a built in inertia. None […] have become alcoholic or drug-addicted, but the predictability of […] working class kids rising slightly, rich kids staying rich – makes one impatient.”

No, we cry. That’s not us. That’s the lazy French, and the socialist Scandinavians.  We’re different. We stand on our own feet. We’re entrepreneurial, market-driven Anglo Saxons.  But from across the Atlantic, David Denby, the reviewer, sees us as predictable, risk averse, wage slaves, made fat and lazy by our cradle to grave welfare state. The accusation stings.

It gets worse.  Denby notes how “no-one in the group has married bravely up or down in class, however, and if there have been sexual adventures they are being kept well hidden. […] one has the impression that erotic drives were defined and constrained by a stern sense of social reality”.

What? Sexually repressed too? Give us a break. These are not the usual exhibitionist reality show contestants. Selected age seven, they have had the cameras on them every seven years since.  Only one of the originals has withdrawn, but it’s hardly surprising that the rest don’t reveal all their secrets.

It ‘s odd to defend your countrymen against the accusation of having conventional sex lives. But trust me, David, we don’t.  We just don’t go on camera to talk about them.

Jim Thornton

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