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Glasgow’s Miles Batter?

After Watching ‘Sweet Sixteen’ By Ken Loach.  

Nearly every film made that is set in Edinburgh or Glasgow and which features working class people, also  features criminal gangs, drug dealing and violence as primary ingredients of the plot. It was when U-J lent me the recent Ken Loach film Sweet Sixteen that I finally realised it was time for a working class Scot to yell “aw, haud oan, pal, whit’s ‘a score here?” Once again it is time for the voice of reason to be heard – just when I thought Trainspotting had finally killed off the risk of any further insults to ordinary working class people in Scotland, along comes this pile of pish. It would be both fair and accurate to say that I am sick and tired of middle class film directors (most of whom aren’t even Scottish) portraying us as drug dealing members of violent criminal gangs. Make another film like that and I’ll chib ye, so ah wull. But seriously, compared to the thoroughly unmitigated tripe that comprises Trainspotting (surely one of the most dreadful and insulting films ever made), Sweet Sixteen is a masterpiece.

Trainspotting was destined to be complete sensationalist rubbish because it was based on a distinctly risible book by an author who reveals himself to be total arse-hole. I refuse to waste my intelligence thinking up a witty riposte to express my contempt for this miserable little urchin – he’s not worth the effort so ‘total arse-hole’ is sufficient. To set such tedious drivel as that book to a full length film was a cynical exercise in marketing working class Scottish people as drug dealers and wasters and, of course, it was a highly successful commercial venture. That a bunch of white middle class media merchants with their bottles of Perrier, copies of Spotlight and The Face have managed to make a profit out of insulting the working class is a savage indictment of the film industry in Britain.

Now, unlike the banal treacly mouthed creeps responsible for Trainspotting, I don’t believe Ken Loach would ever deliberately, intentionally set out to insult the working class of any country. It is generally an integral aspect of his films to ensure that ordinary working class people are given the opportunity to express their ideas, ideals and grievances. It’s unfortunate then that most of his films are so incessantly grim, depressing and miserable – believe me, Ken, we do know how to have a laugh and enjoy ourselves – no, really, we do.

U-J has never been to Glasgow. If he hadn’t met me, that film by Mr Loach would be his first introduction to working class life in that beleaguered city. Thanks, Mr Loach, what do you do for an encore? Let’s be brutally honest here: there are small criminal gangs in Glasgow and Edinburgh; there is drug dealing, drug taking; there are also acts of violence. However, these antisocial attributes apply with equal veracity to Manchester, Birmingham, London or Telford, for that matter. The point is really very simple but I am obliged to reiterate it time and again until people finally wake up and take notice: in all these films that purport to portray the lives of ordinary working class people in Scottish cities, the fact remains that they simply bear no relation to reality whatsoever. The majority of us are not like that, pal.

Do we need English middle class intellectuals to tell us about the lives of working class Scottish people? Well, since all of them have so far managed to be spectacularly wrong, evidently not. The trouble is, Ken Loach shares with the Redgraves and Tariq Ali the unfortunate distinction of being a typical Trot – they’ll moan about injustice but they won’t advocate (and far less participate in) any action which may lead to a genuine working class revolt. Well, I think we can do without people like that speaking on our behalf, don’t you?

Andy Martin – September 2007.



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