∞ “This is a Low: Old Futures in the Age of Brexit” – Alexis Lothian, 2019
Punk, heritage, capitalism, fascism, violence
Audiovisual speculation invites viewers to experience familiar sounds and images in new ways, calling forth inchoate and visceral feelings and connections that cannot be fully accounted for in textual argument alone.
Derek Jarman’s dystopian 1978 film Jubilee is best known for its cinematic representation of London’s punk scene, starring Chelsea Road icon Jordan alongside pop-stars-to-be Toyah Wilcox and Adam Ant. Jubilee portrays London as a waste land in which a gang of punks emerges from a flat bestooned in national memorabilia into a lawless space where violence rules. Over the course of the film, they shift from rebellious troublemakers into capitalist media stars, finally joining the mogul Borgia Ginz in a stately home in Dorset from which “Blacks, Jews, and homosexuals” are formally excluded. Amyl Nitrate (Jordan) sets the scene for the story in her self-authored history, in which she writes of an England that has folded itself into isolation, refusing contact with the rest of the world until it realized that “the real enemy was at home, and they should fight themselves.”
Three years in to the isolationism and infighting in UK politics that followed 2016’s Brexit referendum, Jarman’s vision seems prescient; both of the consequences of Britain’s refusal of European interdependence and of the denial of empire that allows English nationalists to imagine their country as a pure and white one. Showing a future in which England has eaten itself, Jarman suggests violence and fascism as the end point of such imaginaries––making it all the more ironic that the film’s imagery has itself become a nexus for British heritage marketing.
“This is a Low” remixes imagery from Jubilee to an excerpt from the penultimate song on Blur’s 1995 album Parklife, whose release at the height of so-called Britpop offered an ironic take on English heritage nostalgia. The song weaves in locations from the Shipping Forecast, a daily BBC broadcast whose gentle cadences have made it a beloved icon of British media. The song’s soothing melancholy combines with the litany of violence in the Jubilee footage, creating an affective juxtaposition that draws attention to the brutal underside of the heritage nostalgia industry Brexit campaigns have evoked.
My book Old Futures: Speculative Fiction and Queer Possibility (NYU Press, 2018) includes extended analysis both of Jubilee and of the remix music video form and context––fanvidding or vidding––in which this video operates.
For Alienocene: Journal of the First Outernational – Stratum 5 – June 15, 2019
Alexis Lothian is Associate Professor of Women’s Studies and Core Faculty in Design Cultures & Creativity at University of Maryland College Park. She is the author of Old Futures: Speculative Fiction and Queer Possibility (NYU Press, 2018) and has published in American Quarterly, Feminist Studies, International Journal of Cultural Studies, Cinema Journal, and Camera Obscura, among other venues. She was a founding member of the editorial team of the open access fan studies journal Transformative Works and Cultures, co-edits Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology, chairs the James Tiptree, Jr Literary Award Motherboard, and is a member of the organizing committee for the feminist science fiction convention WisCon. Under the name Lila Futuransky, Lothian has been an occasional creator of fan videos since 2008.