Friday, 29 December 2006

Pussycat, pussycat, where have you been?

I've been to the flicks to visit The Queen. With Bernhilde. I've always been a fan of Her Maj's eyebrows and was shocked this afternoon, when I googled "Queen Elizabeth's eyebrows", to learn that the internet has been (until now, my fellow subjects) entirely devoid of the phrase. What, prithee, is the point of having access to four billion websites if none of them explicitly refers to the majesterial eyebrows of one of the world's most un-topiaried living monarchs? I exhort you all to go forth and publish prolifically on this most pressing of topics.

Needless to say, my enthusiasm for a royal eyebrow doesn't extend to an enthusiasm for the institution of monarchy. Quite enough hereditary privilege going around these days without needing to set up a symbol of hereditary privilege and bow down 'n' worship. Just who are these monarchists, anyway? Where do they buy their vegetables? What do they read? Do they turn into corgies when there's a full moon? I do know one, actually. He's a charming young whippersnapper, patrician from his breakfast kippers to his bowtie, with an Anglophilia that seems just another posture in a perfectly sustained and vaguely camp performance piece. But the rest of you, all you willing Commonwealth subjects, where are you? You're a majority (so our constitution would suggest), but with the exception of my kipper-eating friend, I don't believe we've met.

Anyway, this film: well cast; not enough eyebrow action for my liking; most of the audience tittered their way through heavy-handed allusions to royal foibles in a way that implied their personal acquaintance with Club Windsor. Not having perused the appropriate numbers of the Woman's Weekly, I couldn't join in.

15 comments:

TimT said...

Good Lord, this royalist isn't Nottlesby, is it?

I was toying with the idea of writing a review of the film from a slightly different perspective. When I saw the previews, I found myself being quite moved ... I almost leaped out of my seat at the end singing 'God Save Our ...' I had no idea why, but it would be interesting to see what perspective the movie offers on that. I'm not a royalist - rather ambivalent about the whole thing, really; I'm suspicious of strong emotions either for or against the royal family.

alexis said...

Heaven forfend, not Nottlesby! No, a philosophy student at Cambridge. Name withheld, just in case he ever wants to resign his membership of Australians for Constitutional Monarchy and join the Socialist Alliance. Suffice to say, he's always good for a glass of port and a punt down the Cam if you happen to knock on his door.

If you have "God Save Our Queen" singing tendencies (or even "God Save Tony Blair" singing tendencies) you'll probably enjoy this film. It portrays 'em pretty sympathetically.

I don't have strong emotions on the royal family front -- not an issue that intrudes much on my day to day life -- but to suggest that birth's a silly criterion for head-of-state-hood is hardly radical. Any old capitalist who believes consistently in the self-made-man principle would agree.

TimT said...

Well, you know, there are arguments ... *mumbles* ... balance of powers and ... *mutters* ... necessary to be conservative about some things ... *bumbles* ... must be progressive, but not too progressive ... *waffles* ... mmm, waffles ...

Saw the film today; liked it. As I recall, there's an interesting sub-theme in the movie about that topic ('institutional privilege'). I'd imagine a capitalist might feel a little ambivalent about it, given the importance of inherited property and amassing of wealth to capitalism. Good ol' Captain Frederick Marryat, something of a self-made man himself, made this a theme in most of his books...

TimT said...

To clarify: There's not a necessary connection between inheriting of property and being born into head-of-statehood, obviously, but one of the privileges the royals do enjoy is considerable inherited wealth!

alexis said...

Sounds like the stuff bourgeois revolutions are made of, a head-of-state appointed because daddy did the job before her ... but come to think of it, that's more or less the mechanism by which George W. Bush done got himself the presidency in 2000, and the effect in his case, where the powers are considerably more than just ceremonial, is rather more troubling. If the choice is between an innoxious ceremonial head of state, transparently appointed because of her parentage, and a head of state with his finger on the button, who everyone pretends is democratically elected but who really gets the job because of family connections and a chummy relationship with Fox News, then I guess I'd go with the former. But there are other options.

Of course you're right, that there are zillions of capitalists who very comfortably reconcile their reliance on enfranchisement through wealth with constitutional monarchy. Nothing like a good royal wedding to keep a magazine empire afloat. And nothing like your local real estate agent hitching up with a Danish prince in a Sydney pub to satisfy proletarian fantasies of class mobility.

TimT said...

It's a case of pick the protest chant:

What do we want?
Moderate progress in the bounds of law!
When do we want it?
In due course!


Or:

Less bread! More taxes! Less bread! More taxes!

These sound quite fun, actually. I might have to try to write a few of my own.

alexis said...

Y'know (I suspect we'll differ on this one), but more taxes and less bread (at least for the likes of me) is exactly my protest chant. If I were taxed any less, I'd take to buying things I need even less than the things I buy at the moment (to wit, one mobile phone).

TimT said...

But what's wrong with bread?

TimT said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
alexis said...

Nothing wrong with bread, the grainy stuff (unless you talk to those Atkins people, which I don't); but I took the liberty of reading your "bread" as a metaphor for consumables in general, and I think "fewer consumption of consumables in general" (not one of my catchier slogans) is worth proposing. Consumption exceeding what we need to consume is what grows an economy. It's good for GDP. It creates businesses, and jobs, and tax. But it also depletes natural resources, which are finite, makes waste, which we have nowhere magical to stow, is addictive (for individuals and societies), and - after a certain point - makes little serious difference to our happiness. Here's the bit you're going to love: I think that the money that gets spent on this excess bread should instead be used to ensure that everyone has sufficent. Haven't quite worked out yet what to do with the jobless once I shut down 80% of western industry. Band camp? Meditation retreats? Also, of course, one chap's excess is another's essential. I, for instance, would be loath to give up my collection of musical instruments, my laptop, my books, my ridiculously protracted education (all of which have been positively necessary to my happiness), but feel quite safe in condemning Johanna's fleet of vintage cars, and Ferdinand's collection of Italian leather headbands. Eek. I'm trying to construct an eco-friendly libertarian socialism. Loose ends a-plenty.

TimT said...

I prefer anarchic libertarianism, since socialist libertarianism seems to assume on the one hand that we should decrease state power, and on the other hand, it gives the state more power. It's the big-small-big-small-big government theory. And I wouldn't ever really want to look to politicians for happiness, anyway. (Who would expect Bob Brown, John Howard, or Kevin Rudd to seriously make us happy?)

alexis said...

But what sort of liberty does a person have if they're illiterate, with rotting teeth, and all their potential employers refuse to pay them a living wage? There needs to be some regulation of how the most powerful conduct themselves with regard to the least powerful. I've heard supposedly humane arguments for laissez-faire economics: if you don't prop 'em up with welfare and soup, the poor will just die out, and then there'll be no poor and everyone will be much happier -- a sort of class euthanasia. But how ever many poor die, if an economy is dependent on cheap labour, and the employers "unionise" (or conspire) and the employees don't, then there will always be poor. In my misspent youth, I fancied myself an anarchist, but the more I thought about how best to ensure individual liberty, the more legislation I started to dream up. I'd like to have a clearer idea of how to solve the big-small government problem. Until when, I'll keep my manifesto to myself.

TimT said...

A fair question. I guess if someone knew the answer to that, the world would be a better place.

I remember reading another sort-of manifesto this year called 'How To Be Idle' by Tom Hodgkinson (editor of 'The Idler' magazine) which was a sort of libertarianism for slackers. His argument was somewhat marred by terrible historical examples and a fairly lazy debating style, and a fondness for paradoxes (not necessarily a good thing if you're trying to make rational arguments).

Maria said...

I enjoyed "The Queen" and didn't make the leap from a sympathetically told story to one feeding Women's Weekly readers and monarchists.

Bit suspicious myself when certain films are made, there seem to be people who assume there has to be a political agenda behind them, and what's more, if they philosophically disagree with that agenda, no matter what the story is or how well it is told, they decide not to enjoy them from the outset - and won't. My guess is that movies live "The Queen", "Brokeback Mountain", "The
Passion of The Christ" and "An Inconvenient Truth" etc were like this - certain people went to watch them determined to like or not like them, praise or find fault with them, rather than react to them.

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