Thatcher’s Sons?

1980s Boyhood in British Cinema, 2005–2010

in Boyhood Studies
Andy Pope Andy Pope

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The 1980s have been mediated constantly since their end, with British cinema in particular engaging with the decade’s political, social, and cultural landscape through a masculine perspective. Seventeen British films set in the 1980s were produced from 2005 to 2010, with many presenting a personal response to the boyhood of their screenwriters during the Thatcher decade. This article considers the determinants of this phenomenon, the meaning for contemporary men of 1980s cultural nostalgia, and the role of the father in these films. Two films in particular, Son of Rambow and This is England, center boyhood and patriarchal absence within their personal narratives. Although these films indicate that the 1980s are a difficult period for the male characters in these narratives, I argue that for a number of their screenwriters and directors, revisiting their boyhood through these cultural texts indicates a nostalgic reluctance to move on from the 1980s. How this contradiction defines contemporary masculinity in Britain will be a key consideration in this article.

Contributor Notes

Andy Pope is an independent scholar who received his doctorate from the University of Portsmouth. His thesis, The History Boys? Memory, Masculinity and the 1980s in British Cinema 2005–2010, examines the phenomenon of contemporary British cinema’s fascination with the 1980s and argues that these films focus on a personal, masculine youth. With an autobiographical provenance and predominantly male authorship, the films suggest a specifically masculine anxiety in attempts to resolve the 1980s. His research interests include contemporary British cinema, the politics and sociology of 1980s Britain, and the role of memory in mediated versions of the past. Email:

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