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Thatchers britain booklet

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  • 1. AS Film Studies FM2:British & American filmSection B: British FilmThatcher’sBritain1
  • 2. ContentFM2 is the second of two modules at AS Film Studies. You will study threekey areas.Section A: Producers and AudiencesFor section A of this unit, candidates will study the UK and US film industry, theaudiences for films produced by these industries and their interrelationship.Section B: British Film TopicsThe study of at least two films with a focus on how macro elements of film,particularly narrative, construct meanings and raise issues.Section C: US Film – Comparative StudyTwo films must be chosen from a specific genre or dealing with a specific theme.Since this is a comparative study, the two films selected should enable sufficientcomparison and contrast to be made. One way of ensuring this is to select filmsmade at different historical moments.These three elements will form the basis on a three-part exam in the summer.We will be starting with British Film Topics, focussing on ‘Thatcher’s Britain’.This module will look specifically at Britain in the 1980’s under Conservativerule and how film reacted to this period. As we will come to recognise, thisperiod saw significant changes in Britain, and not all for the better. Risingunemployment, strikes and poverty contrasted against individual success,growing economic markets on a global scale and a new found patriotism. Theresults saw a society divided and a country changed and cinema of this periodreflected this.AssessmentSection B: British Film Topics (40 marks)One question from a choice of two on each of the six topics. Candidates arerequired to refer in detail to a minimum of two films. The first of the twoquestions will have a focus on narrative and thematic issues. The second willinclude a more broadly-based consideration of areas of representation, suchas gender, ethnicity or age.2
  • 3. • What do you know about life in Britain in the 1980’s?• What comes to mind when you think about the Conservative Party?• Margaret Thatcher became leader of the Conservative Party in 1975and Prime Minister in 1979.• Under Thatcher, the Conservative party made significant changes to itspolitical outlook, becoming dominated by what was known as ‘the newright’.• Tony Blair oversaw similar changes to the Labour Party when, in 1994,it was re-branded ‘New Labour’. They have dominated British politicssince taking power from the Conservatives in 1997.• Comparisons between the two parties can be identified here as bothwere keen to reinvent their political outlook, particularly in repositioningthemselves in relation to an emerging new capitalist world order basedon the global marketplace.Post-war Britain (1945 onwards)• Importance of maintaining full employment• Maintaining a social ‘safety net’ of dependable welfare support for eventhe poorest members of society. The NHS, which was introduced in1948 is a prime example.3Homework task: Research Margaret Thatcher. Make note of a few wordsyou might use to describe her:
  • 4. What changed?• By the 1980’s capitalism was changing. What traditionally concernedthe UK, the US and a few European countries was now taking on aglobal profile. New communications technologies allowed businessesto be operated globally.• ‘Fordism’ was over. This term was named after the early US carmanufacturer Henry Ford. His method was based on mass productionof standardised products by large, nationally based companies. In thisperiod, stretching roughly between 1920 and 1970, companiesemployed a predominantly male workforce, used assembly-lineproduction techniques, and favoured hierarchical managementstructures. Cultural theorist Stuart Hall identifies key changes in the‘Post-fordist’ world:o economies were now based on information technologies ratherthat heavy industryo individual companies were now no longer usually overseeing allaspects of productiono The market sectors were becoming increasingly segmented withdifferentiated products aimed at niche-group consumerso The industrial working class was contracting while the number ofservice sector workers was increasingo The workforce now contained more women and there weremore part-time jobso Major companies were ‘multinational’ in organisation andstructureo The financial system was increasingly ‘globalised’o The gap between the two-thirds of the population doing well andthe one-third not doing so well increasedWatch extracts from the documentary The Filth & the Fury (JulianTemple, 2000, Film Four, UK). What do we learn about the ‘winter ofdiscontent’ just before Thatcher was elected?Know your left from your rightIn politics, left-wing, leftist, and the Left are terms applied to a wide variety ofpolitical positions associated with progressive or radical causes. The term hashad different meanings in different countries and time periods. Originally,during the French Revolution, left-wing referred to seating arrangements inparliament; those who sat on the left opposed the monarchy and supportedradicalism. Later, the term became associated with socialism andcommunism, and anarchism and social liberalism. Today, in most of Europe,the Left refers to socialist parties, while in the United States, the Left usuallyrefers to modern liberalism.The political right and the Right are terms applied to a variety of politicalpositions associated with conservative positions. The term has had differentmeanings in different countries and time periods. Originally, during the FrenchRevolution, those who sat on the right supported the monarchy andaristocratic privilege. It has since been used to refer to wide variety of4
  • 5. politically conservative and reactionary ideologies and support for traditionalvalues.CaptalismAn economic system in which the means of production and distribution areprivately or corporately owned and development is proportionate to theaccumulation and reinvestment of profits gained in a free market.An economic system based on a free market, open competition, profit motiveand private ownership of the means of production. Capitalism encouragesprivate investment and business, compared to a government-controlledeconomy. Investors in these private companies (i.e. shareholders) also ownthe firms and are known as capitalists.GlobalisationGlobalisation in its literal sense is the process of transformation of local orregional phenomena into global ones. It can be described as a process bywhich the people of the world are unified into a single society and functiontogether. This process is a combination of economic, technological, socio-cultural and political forces. Globalization is often used to refer to economicglobalization, that is, integration of national economies into the internationaleconomy through trade, foreign direct investment, capital flows, migration,and the spread of technology.ThatcherismMargaret Thatcher was very successful in shifting public opinion in Britaintowards the right. Support for the conservative party was achieved by:• Echoing popular prejudices in their political statements• Seeming to be in tune with key aspects of the popular mind-set held bythe public such aso The desire to own your own home (‘right to buy’ was introducedto enable council tenants to buy their own homes at knock-downprices)o The wish to buy consumer products (credit possibilities wereextended by the finance sector in order to enable people to buymore goods on a repayment basiso The willingness blame visible, easily identifiable scapegoatswhen social and economic problems aroseUnfortunately, the downside to such policies was loss of social housing stockand increased public debt.The new rightThe winter before Thatcher came to power was dubbed ‘the winter ofdiscontent’ with over a million public service workers on strike for almost threemonths. This included refuse workers, gas and electricity providers (whichwere then owned by the state, not privately). Power cuts, rats and rioting wereamongst the many problems facing the country as a result of this.The Conservative party brought forward what it saw as strong political5
  • 6. leadership. ‘New right’ politics helped to deal with what it saw as ‘enemies’within society, which it said, threatened the social fabric of Britain. With suchcivil unrest the country welcomed this view. Some of the moral panics putforward by the new right included:• Criminals alone are responsible for crime, rather than the cause• ‘Scroungers’ were taking advantage of the welfare system• Teachers were failing to exert discipline in schools• Trade unionists (workers unions) were constantly threatening the socialorderThe extreme right would go further by bringing in race and ethnicity as acause for public concern, for example linking crime to Afro-Caribbean men.Extreme groups such as the National Front and, later the Brtish National Partyare examples.Stuart Hall suggests that such moral panics were crucial in enabling theConservatives to gain support for their policies: by telling the public what theyshould be afraid of and then offering ‘solutions’. Hall identifies this as‘authoritarian populism’.Watch extracts from This is England (Shane Meadows, 2007, Film Four,UK). How is race and identity represented here? What is the effect on theaudience? How is this achieved?A contradiction?‘Thatcherism’ was in social terms highly conservative, embodying what wereseen as ‘traditional values’: self help, effort and aspiration and a collectivenational pride. It pointed towards British power and individual endeavour.However…In economic terms, ‘Thatcherism’ was liberal, believing in a free, globalmarket. Such freedom and lack of regulation meant that only the fittestcommercial enterprises survived. Such old-fashioned ideas such as ‘Fordism’were no longer viable in this new market.Ultimately, Britain’s old manufacturing base had ended with the advancementof telecommunications and the burgeoning global markets, which began in thelate 1970’s. This escalated into consumer niche-market segmentation, hugemultinational companies that could always do things ‘cheaper and better’ andthe fragmentation of the work force. Given such huge global shifts, it would bewrong to suggest that Thatcher alone pushed Britain through the changes ofthe 1980’s. Rather, Thatcher embraced the ‘new right’ that capitalised on theglobal changes and imposed these ideas on the public. As we will see throughthe course of this study, the results were far reaching: both positive for theprivileged and devastating for those who were not.6
  • 7. Watch extract from the BBC documentary on Thatcher.• What was happening in Britain in 1979? Consider social contextsand music.• Why do they describe Thatcher as a ‘lady of the 1860’s?• Why did the public vote her in?OppositionWith a government that seemed to be only offering short-term solutions tovery real problems such as poverty, crime and unemployment, opposition tothe ‘new right’ was fierce. It became clear that Britain was becoming a ‘two-tier’ society: those who were prospering under the free market and individualenterprise (often those in towns and cities around London which had faredwell in private sector investments and opportunities brought about by the newmarket economies). The other tier was those who had worked in industry:miners, factory workers, and labourers. This working classes who now facedunemployment had no control over their future, contrary to the‘aspirational/go-getting’ suggestions of the Conservative party. The workers,predominantly in the north of England and the midlands, and their familiesfaced very real problems of poverty, poor quality housing and littlegovernment support. Here are some examples of opposition in the 1980’s:• Inner-city riots such as those at St. Paul’s in Bristol, Toxteth inLiverpool, Moss Side in Manchester, Handsworth in Birmingham andBrixton in London during the early 1980’s.• The miners’ strike of 1984-1985• The tightening of immigration controls (British Nationality Act 1981 &the Immigration Act 1988)• Opposition to the placing of Cruise missiles as Greenham Common onMolesworth• Clause 28 of the Local Government Act which prohibited local councilsfrom ‘promoting’ homosexuality• The Falklands war of 1982Watch the extracts from Billy Elliot, (Stephen Daldry, 2000, Working TitleFilms, UK). What issues discussed so far are evident in this film? Whatideologies are evident? Who does it side with? How is this achieved?Who is being represented? How are they represented?7
  • 8. Statistical data for Thatcher’s Britain1. What were the causes of high unemployment in 1980’s Britain? Whowas on strike and why?8
  • 9. 2. House prices rose significantly during the 1980’s, as did council housesales. What do you think the benefits of this were? Who would stand togain? Who would lose?3. Identify a demographic for each of the three strands includingoccupation, social class/status, geographic location etc. Provide anexample from a key text we have studied for each.9
  • 10. 1987 Sep 23Margaret ThatcherInterview for Womans Own ("no such thing as society")Venue: No.10 Downing StreetSource: Thatcher Archive: COI transcriptJournalist: Douglas Keay, Womans OwnThemes: Family, Voluntary sector and charity, Society, Famous statements by MT,Social security and welfareExtractMT...I think we have gone through a period when too many children and people have beengiven to understand "I have a problem, it is the Governments job to cope with it!" or"Ihave a problem, I will go and get a grant to cope with it!" "I am homeless, theGovernment must house me!" and so they are casting their problems on society and whois society? There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and there arefamilies and no government can do anything except through people and people look tothemselves first. It is our duty to look after ourselves and then also to help look after ourneighbour and life is a reciprocal business and people have got the entitlements too muchin mind without the obligations, because there is no such thing as an entitlement unlesssomeone has first met an obligation and it is, I think, one of the tragedies in which manyof the benefits we give, which were meant to reassure people that if they were sick or illthere was a safety net and there was help, that many of the benefits which were meant tohelp people who were unfortunate—" It is all right. We joined together and we have theseinsurance schemes to look after it". That was the objective, but somehow there are somepeople who have been manipulating the system and so some of those help and benefitsthat were meant to say to people: "All right, if you cannot get a job, you shall have a basicstandard of living!" but when people come and say: "But what is the point of working? Ican get as much on the dole!" You say: "Look. It is not from the dole. It is your neighbourwho is supplying it and if you can earn your own living then really you have a duty to do itand you will feel very much better!"There is also something else I should say to them: "If that does not give you a basicstandard, you know, there are ways in which we top up the standard. You can get yourhousing benefit."But it went too far. If children have a problem, it is society that is at fault. There is nosuch thing as society. There is living tapestry of men and women and people and thebeauty of that tapestry and the quality of our lives will depend upon how much each of us10
  • 11. is prepared to take responsibility for ourselves and each of us prepared to turn round andhelp by our own efforts those who are unfortunate. And the worst things we have in life,in my view, are where children who are a great privilege and a trust—they are thefundamental great trust, but they do not ask to come into the world, we bring them intothe world, they are a miracle, there is nothing like the miracle of life—we have these littleinnocents and the worst crime in life is when those children, who would naturally havethe right to look to their parents for help, for comfort, not only just for the food andshelter but for the time, for the understanding, turn round and not only is that help notforthcoming, but they get either neglect or worse than that, cruelty.1. What does Thatcher mean when she says ’[benefit claimants] arecasting their problems on society and who is society? There is no suchthing!’? How does she view ‘the dole’ (job seekers allowance)?(paragraph one)2. Read through paragraph 3 (‘But it went too far…’). What does this tellus about Thatcher’s view of family?3. Can we be critical of these ideas? Think about the texts we have seenin this module. Also consider the changing wider contexts that wereaffecting families in working class areas. Try to identify changing socialand economic contexts.11