Watching Blur: No Distance Left To Run the other week, I had this unexpected moment at the very start of the movie that threw me off far more than I would have even imagined: a split-second shot of the Union Jack, flying in slow motion.
It’s something that only makes sense for the movie; Blur was, after all, one of the two leading lights of Britpop back in the day, so of course you have the British flag right there at the start, to set the scene. And yet: I had this really surprising reaction to it, almost viscerally.
I’m far from patriotic at the best of times, and when I even think of the idea of “patriotism,” British isn’t even something that I consider immediately; I think of being Scottish, and American, before I think of the idea of being British. (I suspect the “Scottish/British” thing is a whole subject in and of itself; I suspect there’s an entire contingent of Scots who don’t necessarily think of themselves as British, for whatever reason. Oh, the class and social systems and all their complications…)
The Union Jack was omnipresent in my twenties, because of Britpop. It was in posters, on single covers, on television, on clothes, on Noel Gallagher’s fucking guitar; it was the graphic that defined the age, somehow, at a time when the British Empire was the very opposite of a fond memory.
Is that why I had this instant revulsion to the flag when I saw it on the screen when I saw it? Was it some delayed rejection of the image of the age from my youth? Or some rejection of the very idea of patriotism for a county I don’t even necessarily believe in? I’ve thought about it a lot, and I still don’t have an answer. All I know is that, somehow, I’ve come to instinctively reject the idea of “Britishness” and look for something else, something more real. Modern life, perhaps, is still rubbish.