Welcome to Day 16 of our pop culture advent calendar. Every day we’ve been handing out a little treat in the shape of a mini-blog on something or someone we’ve admired or thought worth noting in 2012. Yesterday we’re we took a new tack and made a prediction that rock’n’roll wasn’t about to die. Today we return to lobbing awards at random moments from 2012 and behind door 16 there’s one all about national identity….
Consider your reaction whenever you see a photo of yourself. For example, you and your bezzie mate are flicking through images on the morning after a night before. A part of you cringes, you visibly wince, and you mutter in a crushed tone as you are confronted by a shot from below, your eyelids half closed, mid-slur.
‘Do I really look like that?’ you pathetically offer.
And your closest buddy and confidante, in one merciless act of nonchalance, dismissively replies ‘but that’s how you look’. This heartless response is made of course because this friend is too busy concentrating on containing their own horror at the gurning self-image they see before them.
Scale that up by 60 odd million people and you get a feel for the pointless attempts occasionally made to establish a national identity. For a start who is this ‘national identity’ for exactly? If it’s for ourselves, we’ll rarely, if ever, be satisfied. And if it’s for the rest of the world, they really couldn’t care less anyway. And why? Well, because as we cringe at the idea that the world thinks we’re a toff led dour bunch of whingers that drink too much, Brazilian’s plead with the world not to think instantly of carnival and favelas, Americans cross their fingers that we all don’t think they are bible belt crazies, and Australians shudder at the thought of the damage wreaked on their burgeoning cultural flowering by Mick Dundee.
However, this summer, the UK did finally take that ever so prized profile pic and it proudly uploaded it to its timeline. And for once, you know what, the world actually did take notice.
This award is named after Danish detective Sarah Lund from The Killing who has turned Denmark into the most morally complex and fascinating country on the planet after being previously known for salted butter, bacon, and red-nosed goalkeepers. Oh, ok, and maybe some kids stories. The Sarah Lund Award for National Renewal goes to….
Danny Boyle’s Olympic Opening Ceremony
A day after the opening ceremony, Pop Lifer concluded its blog:
“The Olympic Ceremony is both a projection of national identity and an invitation to the world. Last night, Boyle merged the two – inviting the world to enjoy and contribute to British culture and in so doing made the most reaffirming point of all – this invitation is open to all, sincerely made and permanent.”
We were pretty gushing at the time and we were not the only ones. Danny Boyle’s exuberant, magnificent and inspiring Olympic opening ceremony greatly impressed and only slightly confused the world with floating pigs, Olympic rings forged on industry and misery, private jokes, a celebration of public and private invention, children’s literature and a gag which involved the Queen and James Bond which we still don’t think is all that here at Pop Lifer. It put a spring back into a national step long since mired in a bog of empirical guilt and post industrial malaise.
We looked good.
And, make no mistake, we remain impressed. But here, at Pop Lifer Towers, we are also concerned.
There is a fitting precedent from that other mythical sporting year: 1966. If you were an ardent Tory from that era, you may have always carried a certain ambivalence about England’s World Cup triumph. Courtesy of a Russian linesman’s generous line of vision, England not only won the World Cup but Harold Wilson won an election. Feeding of the feelgood Wilson famously took advantage of this to get his Labour government a working majority via a snap election.
Pop Lifer hates to admit but as card-carrying Guardianista pinko liberals, we may come to feel the same about the Olympics.
We have unfortunately not had a snap election. Cameron may be many things (and he is many, many things) but he is not an idiot. No, instead with a renewed vigour framed by Boyle’s successful redefinition of British identity, he has approached questions around Europe, welfare reform and bureaucracy with a misplaced vigour. Cameron has channelled the success and conveniently dispatched the redefinition as he has done so. And this is deliberate but above all, it is a travesty, because Boyle’s sublime ceremony is in all but name a three-hour celebration of what the Tories have not done for us.
They resisted the Industrial Revolution of the Whiggish North. They opposed immigration and have long dog whistled on multiculturalism. They had nothing to do with the construction of the NHS and have instead only provided the recent template for its deconstruction. Libraries are closing. JK Rowling votes Labour FFS. Whilst it may be pushing the envelope to suggest Voldemort was based on Norman Tebbit, there are shades of the child catcher in our Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Boyle’s ceremony was not a leftie lecture however. It was just a brazen and brash representation of our past and present performed with wit, joy and love – a true celebration among friends which the whole world just happened to be invited to.
We enjoyed it at the time and we celebrate it now with this award and we hope, beyond, hope that the future allows us to continue to remember it with the same unqualified joy we did on the night itself.