On The (not so) Full Monty: taking the pcs out of Plenitude or the Impotence of Being Earnest

Bernard McGuirk (Nottingham University, UK)

What has the claim that "American students, through no fault of their own, would not recognize class-struggle if it were perched on the tip of their skateboards" got to do with post-colonialism? Spurred on by Terry Eagleton's further assertion that p-c's "birth followed in the wake of the defeat, at least for the present, of both class struggle in western societies and revolutionary nationalism in the previously colonised world" -- and ever mindful of Gayatri Spivak's scorn for "white boys talking about post-coloniality" -- I nonetheless venture to revisit the distinction she makes between ethnic minority (within) and colonised nation (without). The slippery surface of signification across which I wish to skate and not without some prior instruction from Jacques Derrida's "Choreographies" -- is the rink of a post-(and still) colonising UK. For what if Empire functions, indeed, sans dehors (è la Hardt and Negri)? Centralisation and fragmentation might be shown to operate, inseparably, intra- as well as post-colonially.

The ostensibly dominant politics (Thatcherite), economics ("loadsamoney") and metaphysics ("there is no such thing as society") of the UK during the 1980s and early 1990s have been widely represented in British cinema, and some of the most commercially successful and popular films of the late- and post-Iron Lady-age have screened the multi-layered conflicts at work, and at play, in a far from homogeneous (dis-)United Kingdom. But how have the sometimes complex modes of contestation within a nation been explored not to the exclusion of, but alongside, those strong interventions between states (contra Argentina, the Soviet bloc, Libya, the European Union, for example) so characteristic of the HM governments of the autumn of the Matriarch? In such box-office hits as My Beautiful Laundrette and The Full Monty, cinematic signs of political erasure may be shown to be variously but stubbornly inscribed on even the most realistic representations of Thatcherism. Thus the post-structural insistently resists being superseded by fashionably other posts. For Stuart Hall, "Laundrette is important particularly in terms of its control, of knowing what it is doing, as the text crosses those frontiers between gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality and class". But what of The Full Monty? Is it, to borrow a Hanif Kureishi term, but a "cheering fiction" -- a nostalgic, post-industrial, (dancing-)class struggle? Or do the tentative steps in the un-waged war of its dole-queue protagonists make it "dance otherwise" - taking the pcs out of (grand narrative) plenitude? . . . And do "I believe in miracles, you sexy thing(s)"?


Postcolonial OV discourseov Casablanca Conference

Last modified: 7 May 2001