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“This is England” is a comedy drama written and directed by the young and versatile British Director, Shane Meadows. It is a tale of how racism and gangs play a major role in shaping the lives of teenagers in the United Kingdom.
Poverty and Boredom
Set on the precincts of the history of the skinheads, Meadow has been able to get into the finer details in terms of Mise-en-scene as well as characterization and general artistry in the film. With a young and relatively inexperienced cast featuring Thomas Turgoose as Shaun, this film is in a nutshell a magical exposure of creativity and talent from both the crew and the cast. Back in the 80’s, skinheads were teenagers who were working and doing nothing else apart creating havoc in their neighbourhoods. It is with this background that Meadows addresses some of the major issues associated with skinheads.
Poverty and boredom are dominant features in the lives of skinheads, they are so much overwhelmed with the idea that they can always go scot free however much damage they cause. It is because of boredom that they go about destroying almost everything that they see as it is the case where they go vandalizing a house down in the plains. They break windows and destroy sinks just to have fun. It is the height of boredom in the scene where skinheads sit in round smoking and drinking. They have nothing else to do save for passing time doing nothing constructive; at least in my opinion. They go to the Indian’s shop and pick cigarettes, sweets and wine because not only are they racists but because of boredom as well. Looking at the houses where they often meet do not have any furniture. They are always sitting on the floor with rugged beddings and sharing every drink that they have. They cannot afford to buy themselves drinks no wonder they cannot stop shoplifting as seen in the case where they carry drinks from the Indian’s shop.
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Race overtakes class when Combo puts Milky on the spotlight concerning what he considers himself as. Shockingly, Milky considers himself English so as to remain as part of skinheads even though he is Jamaican. Combo further insists on the need for every member of skinhead to define himself as English since he assumes that everyone who stays there should be proud to be English. He draws a line that separates those who want to associate with his race and those who don’t; as a result, Milky falls out with skinheads. He eventually ends up killing Milky and hurting other friends because they questioned his dominance and selfishness.
Combo had been arrested and imprisoned; it is when he is released from jail that the movie takes a different twist. While at the prison, Combo is recruited by the National Front which is a racist political party that preaches discrimination against people of other races other than Britons. Combo comes back with a racist ideology and goes on to influence the rest of the team in discrimination. He associates Indians with the smell of curry, a title that other gang members such as Shaun adapt.
It should be noted that many supporters of the National Front are basically youths, who have been recruited due to their poor status (Meadows). The most significant point in this film that clearly explains the rate at which racial discrimination is rife is when Shaun, Combo and other gang members find 3 Muslim boys playing on the streets. They snatch them their ball and warn them never to be found along the streets. When they go to the Indian shopkeeper, Shaun despite his young age hurls insults at the shopkeeper calling him a “paki bastard”. When Combo points a knife at the shopkeeper, there is a close up shot of his eyes that clearly shows his hatred for anybody who is not a white. Combo hardly knows the shopkeeper yet from his reaction, we come to understand that he has no soft spot for any other race. Combo leaves after making it clear that he is not pleased with the way foreigners came over and took their opportunities after their parents died in the war.