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My Beautiful Laundrette

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Introduction

How and to what extent can My Beautiful Laundrette be seen as a critique of Thatcherism? My Beautiful Laundrette (1985) was released during Margaret Thatcher's fifth year in power as the British Prime Minister. The "Iron Lady", as she became known, labelled England as "sick, morally, socially and economically". Andrew Gamble suggests that Thatcherism is a word that is sometimes aimed at three different things. Firstly in relation to Margaret Thatcher's political style, to the ideological doctrines of the New Right and finally to the policies of the Thatcher government. The film represents these times with unemployment at a high. The characters in My Beautiful Laundrette represent unemployment and the minorities throughout Britain in the 1980's; Omar (Gordon Warnecke) the lead character is from an Asian background along with his family. Daniel Day Lewis' character Johnny is a white male who is unemployed and homeless. After a few subtle hints, the film also reveals that Omar and Johnny are homosexual. The relationship between the two is actually the only part of the film that does not try to score political points, although their relationship does suffer cruel tests with the ethnic divide testing them when Salim sadistically runs over Moose and the brutal assault on Salim from the hands of Moose and Genghis. ...read more.

Middle

Between the employed and un-employed, between the rich and the poor, between the people who have got and who have not." Stephen Frears views in the above quote are summed up in My Beautiful Laundrette. The film references most of this in the characters, rich and the poor. Nasser, Omar's uncle, is rich while Johnny is the poor. This is highlighted when Salim, the more villainous character in the film, patronises Johnny and, for example, shuts the door in his face in the laundrette when speaking to Omar. Thatcher praised the Indian and Asian shopkeepers in the 1980's calling them the new meritocrats. The film constructs itself on a family of Asians who thrive in this downtrodden South London. Using their wealth to buy up shops and properties and easily make profit (helped on by Thatcher's tax cuts for businesses) although this subtly offers a dig at Thatcher as Nassar and mainly Salim use most of these 'profit-less' businesses as a front of their crime dealings with drugs. As demonstrated in the film, the native British and Pakistani communities switch roles in the 1980s. As Omar angrily shouts to Johnny during the film "I'm not going to be beaten down by this country. When we were at school, you and your lot kicked me all round the place. ...read more.

Conclusion

In Kureishi's autobiography, he states that My Beautiful Laundrette was based on his experiences through his childhood (before Thatcher's rule) how he socialised with a group of friends throwing bricks at shop windows but withdrew when he learned of their true nature, when the lads congregated to hunt down Pakistanis and beat them. This is represented in Omar's childhood when he mentions to Johnny about their childhood at school, although this is pre-Thatcher rule. When the iron-lady took charge of the country she homed in on her skills to racist and navistic segments of the country to her political advantage. Overall, My Beautiful Laundrette was written to display Kureishi's understandings of the political scene in 1980's London. Referring often in the film to "dirty money" earned from drug dealings and other black-market activitiesm Kureishi critiques Thatcherism by illustrating the corruption highlighted in private industry. The same sector Thatcher had praised as the solution to Britain's diminishing international reputation and high unemployment throughout the country. The Tory leadership was particularly disastrous for the British film industry as a whole. "The quota ensuring that all cinemas showed a percentage of British films was abandoned in 1982; the films act of 1985 abolished the Eady Levy and pulled the plug on the National Film Finance Corporation, British films continued to be made but the infrastructure that ensured they reached an audience was kicked away." (Murphy R, pg262. ...read more.

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