Saturday, March 24, 2012
God Save the Queen
Sorry, America, but your British cousin is much better at sexual innuendo and puns than we are. The first clip below is from the show, 'Loose Women' a UK equivalent of 'The Talk' or 'The View' that has been running since 1999; but it is MUCH better in my opinion. I haven't ever seen a full episode, but I have to say that the Brits are way more raunchy and overtly sexual (even in seemingly conservative shows). I even have a feeling that Whoppi Goldberg would fly on over to be on that show rather than 'The View' so she could share her uncensored opinion and get away from Elisabeth Hasselbeck.
The British are masters at being raucous and vulgar (but in a classy way..I think it's the accents). It is just way funnier to hear sexual jokes coming out of the mouth of someone British. It's like watching the Fred Armisen skit, where he is a foul-mouthed cockney improper Queen Elizabeth (the clip is embedded below for your viewing pleasure). Hilarious! Is it the fact that we can see the Queen's knickers or that she rocks out on the drums? The accent, the uppity mannerisms, and tongue in cheeky attitude makes the humor work. That and the raunch works antithesis of the image of Brits drinking tea, wearing tweed, and generally being foppish. Underneath all those powdered wigs, Earl Grey, and Buckingham royalty lies a thick layer of immature schoolboy perversion, trickery, crudeness, mayhem, and lasciviousness! and Though none of this innuendo is surprising when you think of England's history.
William Shakespeare basically invented the sexual pun. Think of his sonnets, specifically 130:
"My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red, than her lips red:
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound:
I grant I never saw a goddess go,
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet by heaven, I think my love as rare,
As any she belied with false compare"
William Shakespeare, Sonnet 130
The first time I read this, I cracked up. First of all, Shakespeare makes fun of lovey dovey sonnets. He says his love's eyes are NOT the sun, her lips are NOT red like coral, her breasts are grayish-brown, and her breath stinks; this girl is nasty. At first, you think, he is dissing his true love. Music sounds better than her grating voice and she walks like any mere mortal, not a heavenly Greek goddess. Yet, at the end, he tries to redeem his point by saying that his love is much more real than a cheesy sonnet. He could say lines that have been said before; he wrote that famous scene between Romeo and Juliet. Yet, Shakespeare knows that emotion is far more real than a dumbass poem, than language itself. This sonnet is funny and overtly sexual, as Shakespeare doesn't pretend that the person he talks about is some image from a painting by Botticelli, Rubens, or Michelangelo. That shit ain't real!
RSC: Shakespeare's sexual innuendo
Analysis of Sonnet 130
My love of things British stems from the fact that the humor and writing is so much more crass. It is real! They don't pussyfoot around, as the saying goes. Take many of the British television shows. There are tamer classics like: 'Keeping Up Appearances', 'Are You Being Served?', 'As Time Goes By' 'Mr. Bean', or 'Fawlty Towers'. Then there's my all time favorite 'The Vicar of Dibley' with Dawn French playing the vicar. Now, this is a show supposedly about a little quaint village in Northern England. No but's about it, this is not for church going folk. The humor is just as bawdy as late night television in the states.
Here is a mix of clips of bawdy jokes played at the end of each episode where the Vicar Geraldine Granger, aka Dawn French tells dirty jokes to Alice Tinker, aka Emma Chambers:
This goes onto my next point; the Brits are better writers and actors. Yes, I'm a traitor. The British acting method makes so much more sense. I spent my college abroad experience doing a program at the Globe Theater in London. I just love the British acting method so much more thoroughly than what we have here. If you're a British actor, first of all, you give monologues pretending that other people are there. You paint a scene, even if you're the only one on stage. There is none of this horseshit standing on stage looking around blankly as if you're constipated. Every moment of stage time is real and authentic. When I saw plays at Shakespeare's Globe, they perform them as Shakespeare would have, as moving breathing entities. The lines, blocking, and movement can change; it's fluid. There is none of this, once we block everything and finish dress rehearsal, you have to commit to what you've done with your character like a damn robot with a yardstick up it's ass. With British acting, you can change shit up all the time (well, within reason). That keeps it bloody alive!
Maybe it has to do with the food, as you have clever things like bubble n' squeak, spotted dick, haggis, peas n' mash, and Shepard's pie. Believe me, they sound better than they are (except the spotted dick). Oh, and don't forget fish n' chips (especially with vinegar and salt). Then there's the junk food: Lilt, Flake, Yorkie, Maltesers, Twirl, Aero, Walkers, McCoys. Even the Pringles taste better; there's a curry flavor. CURRY! The last time I went to England, I went into a corner convenience store and convinced my friends to buy a boat load of British chocolate/candy bars. That shit will send you straight to Cockfosters and back (that's the name of an actual place). I love Britishisms (yes, it's English, but it sometimes sounds like another language altogether).
Another thing too. The language is so much more nuanced. Yes, we both speak English, but I'm sorry, the Brits sound so much smarter and smarmier. With words/phrases like: 'bloody hell', 'knickers', 'bollocks', 'fanny', 'tart', 'oinker', 'trollop', 'arse', 'dodgy', 'wanker', 'twat', 'nancy boy', 'twee', 'snog', 'bloke', 'smoking fags', and 'crisps'. The slang/vocabulary is wicked cool! So, in television shows, with the slight differences in vocab, things sound a lot smarter than 'getter done', 'retard', and 'whore'. I mean, leave something to the imagination, huh?
I also have to say I'm a big fan of UK Skins. I LOVE THAT SHOW! I started watching it because of the hype when Skins US started and I would see ads all over the subway. I still haven't watched the US version, by the way. It would taint my love for UK Skins. And, based on what I said above about British writing/acting, the show is brilliant. You cannot avert your eyes. From episode one, you realize that the show is art; it is real and imitates life. I feel like I'm watching real people sort out their problems. None of this reality tv scripted reality made to look like real life bullshit. Plus, as you watch each season of Skins, the characters and writing get even more brilliant. I want to meet these characters(yes, the actors too); I watch and believe these characters are real. That takes acting/writing genius.
A clip predicting what will happen in UK Skins Series 6:
Here is a clip of Freya Mavor (Mini McGuinness) discussing Skins UK:
Here is a clip of Dakota Blue Richards (Franky Fitzgerald) discussing Skins:
I mean where else do you have a show that deals with: pregnancy, death, drugs/alcohol, absentee parents, divorce, gay/lesbian issues, gender and sexuality, addiction, perfection, body image, psychological trauma/issues, adultery, teenage angst, and SEX! Plus, it's not preachy or out of touch with reality. You get into the story lines of the characters and the writing tears at your emotional heart strings. I hand it to all of the cast and crew of UK Skins for making a show that speaks to teens and adults while also having a show that applies to a global society! It is diverse without being so; it is clever without taking itself too seriously.
Another show I love is 'Misfits'. Honestly, when I first saw previews for this show, I thought it was bonkers. I mean, who would watch a show about a bunch of juvenile delinquents who get super powers. Stupid, right? Well, I love this show almost as much or even more than 'Skins'. Again, the acting and writing are brilliant. I have watched every episode and walked away going 'f-in brilliant'. What's more is that both shows use Aristotelian technique of using objective, discovery, and reversal. Maybe that's why these shows work so well. They are raunchy, funny, real, and stick to the rules of writing good plot lines. Good tv/film HAS to use Aristotle.
Aristotle may be Greek, but the Brits are shy of using him as a muse. Though Aristotelian theory is much more structural (if you have no clue what I'm talking about, read a damn book..Aristotle 'Poetics' to be exact). However, using Aristotle at the base of every screenplay and piece of theater makes it much more authentic because actors understand their characters as well as everyone else's. It makes the actor become the playwright, in a sense (since the key in Aristotelian theory is to understand the entire play in context to your character).
I will leave you on a less academic note, here. Two clips from the Sex Pistols, 'God Save the Queen' and 'Anarchy in the UK', two great songs from one of my favorite bands. They are totally British in that they are raw and in your face:
The bloody show must well go on,