This is England’: The Frailty of Fatherhood Introduction The 2006 British film, This is England, directed by Shane Meadows, is a story about a young boy named Shaun Fields that looses his father through war. In the film, Shaun journey through dealing with the grief of his father’s death and being a victim of bullying leads him to befriending a group of skinheads. The leader of the group, Woody, becomes a “big brother” to Shaun and finds belonging amongst them. Later, Combo, an older member of their group rejoins their gang after being in prison for the past three years and their group divides.
Shaun nds up being drawn to Combo’s character and they enter in a “father-son” type of relationship, however, this relationship ends after Shaun witnesses the violence of Combo’s character. Shaun is left to work through his trauma along side the support of his mother reassuring him that everything will be all right. Shaun’s vulnerability results from the loss of his father. The film’s narrative demonstrates the psychic, social, and emotional impacts of fathers not only on Shaun’s development, but also on multiple male characters (i. . Milky and Combo).
In this response, I will work towards deconstructing three key scenes hat demonstrate the importance of the figure of the father. Through the examination of Shaun, Combo and Milky, I will explore themes of family, trauma, and resilience. For each scene I discuss I will relate it to the figure of the father while critically analysing their characters in relation to their fathers in attempt to understand how their lived experiences influence who they have become.
“He Looks Like You! – Aesthetics as belonging In the film we see Shaun aesthetically transform this is in relation to his physical and emotional self to fit in with his new group of friends. Aesthetics is very important amidst the kinhead culture as it is interwoven with their self-identity and political stance. Their choice of clothing projects their ideologies and lifestyles to the world. As Shaun begins his transformation through the restyling of his hair this can be interpreted as Shaun shedding his old identity and creating a new identity between Woody and the rest of the gang.
Shaun’s new friends extend their friendship through gifts of clothing to represent his official belonging to their group. Shaun’s transformation is a symbolic sense of belonging after the death of his father and his loss causes him to feel vulnerable. This scene demonstrates Shaun’s vulnerability due to the loss of his father. Before meeting Woody, Shaun was disconnected from others (people at school, his mother, etc. ). However, after their paths cross, Woody gives Shaun a sense of belonging that initially would’ve been done by a father.
Shaun uses Woody as a tool to fill the void and Woody takes on the role of a father. Shaun’s new clothing allows him to identify with Woody to further strengthen his relationship. After Shaun undergoes his makeover, Milky says, “What a transformation”, with that Smell replies, “He looks like you [Woody]! (Meadows, 2006, 0:26:24). Families are often identified by their aesthetics appearance creating mutuality, thus exhibits kinship to the people around them. This moment demonstrates the significance of Shaun reinventing himself in a world in which he has a “father”.
He physically looks like Woody because of the change of clothing and haircut, but he also adopts his mannerisms thus demonstrates the strength of their kinship. After Smells’ words, Shaun is seen smiling brightly, implying that he is very satisfied with his transformation. “I’ll be there for you.. ” – Recreating broken childhoods through children The figure of the father plays a critical role in this film through the development of each character. Shaun finds an identity and security through his father but is left hurting when he hears of his father’s passing.
He then uses the figure of a father as a tool to find an identity amidst his suffering by recreating himself through Woody. Similarly, Shaun is a tool for Combo to recreate and repair a broken boyhood by being a father he never had himself. In the scene where Combo and Shaun are reflecting upon the events that happened earlier that day Combo says, “I know what its like lad. I saw people walk out on me. People just fucking leave you. If you ever what to talk to, cry to, want to hug, I’ll be there for you. I won’t turn my back on you.
I promise you. promise you I won’t let you down” (0:52:57 – 0:53:26). Combo is projecting an over identification of his own broken childhood onto Shaun. His words are an expression of his own empty childhood and his own experiences of a failed relationship with his father. Combo’s words reveal the realities of his childhood being one that lacked support, love, and loyalty. He makes promises to Shaun, which is symbolic because Combo is remaking his childhood through the Shaun’s childhood in hopes f repairing what he never had.
It’s an expression of his empty childhood. Judith Herman states that trauma experienced through childhood “forms and deforms the personality” during adulthood (1997, 97). Thus, Combo’s aggression and brokenness is, perhaps, a result of strife in his own family and childhood. Although he does not speak about his father directly, I suggest that his emotional difficulties might be better by doing so. Combo has trauma and he hasn’t worked through it so he brings his trauma onto others (i. e. Milky and Shaun).
When we don’t work through our trauma we express it through ymptoms. Trauma disrupts our sense of security and threatens the hope for our future. In this scene, Combo is able to identify with Shaun’s childhood trauma because he is haunted by past traumas. Herman explains often that adults who live through traumatic childhood events are constantly “driven by the hunger for protection and care” and “the fear of abandonment” (1997, 111), thus I suggest that Combo’s words were driven from a similar place.
His fear of abandonment and his hunger for protection and care from an unfortunate childhood is projected onto Shaun allowing Combo to use Shaun to recreate a hildhood through becoming a father figure to Shaun and being the father he never had. “You’ve got it all haven’t you? ” – Bitterness and Strong Bonds The film’s plot escalates during a final scene where Combo and Milky are conversing about politics, music and family while sharing a joint.
During their conversation Milky enlightens Combo about his own family dynamics during Christmas and the holidays (1:22:21). He explains the joys of having a large family (consisting of his parents, three uncles, two aunts and twenty-two cousins) during Christmas and other holidays. As Milky continues sharing about his relationships with his family, pecifically his father, Combo’s demeanour shifts from one of friendship to hatred. Combo’s anger and bitterness arises from the pain from his broken boyhood and Milky is hurt because of it.
Combo’s violent reaction to Milky’s strong family bond reveals the damaging repercussions of trauma on ones development. Combo’s trauma has influenced the way in which he relates to others. I suggest that Combo resorts to violence due his inability to effectively work through his trauma, thus influencing his ability to communicate his opinions through other means. Both Milky and Shaun are witnesses and victims to trauma through his experience and the psychic, social, and emotional of this trauma is closely tied to the figure of the father.
Are you OK? ” – Concluding Thoughts These three scenes have demonstrated not only the frailty of fatherhood, but also the very power impact it has on the development of ones psychic, social and emotional self alongside trauma. Shaun, Combo and Milky are all shaped by their relationships with their fathers and work through their trauma through the identification or dis-identification of the figure of the father. However, with support to work through the trauma, there is always hope for a better future.