Olympic opening ceremony
July 28, 2012 at 10:03 am #25730
Watched the London 2012 opening ceremony last night, and I think it could use some overthinking. I watched it in German, so I don’t know what the U.S. and British commentators were saying during the broadcast to explain stuff, so this is just based on the event itself.
More than any other Olympics I can remember, this ceremony really focused on celebrating British pop culture and media, as opposed to more general “culture” and heritage stuff. After the tributes to the industrial revolution and the NHS, they had tributes to British literature (specifically children’s literature), British film and television, music, social media and the web. They had “James Bond” escorting the Queen and Mr. Bean playing with the orchestra, so even the famous British people they highlighted are fictional pop culture icons. And almost entirely recent stuff, too (in the last 50-60 years or so). Only one Shakespeare reference that I noticed, but several references each to the Beatles, Harry Potter, etc.
So what’s the reasoning behind this? Are they saying that pop culture is Britain’s primary interaction with the rest of the world over the last 50-60 years (I guess you could say, in the modern Elizabethan era)? So we could say the sun never sets on the British media and pop culture empire. Or is it a statement about the Olympics themselves, that it’s become a media/cultural event (especially from an advertising/revenue point of view) more than a sports/world relations event? Other thoughts? Did they comment on this during the broadcast in the U.S.?
PS- This is a question for the British overthinkers. Why does the UK compete under the name Great Britain? I thought GB referred specifically to the island, while the actual sovereign nation is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, even though they often get used interchangeably. Are there no Northern Irish on the British team? It’s a bad analogy, but I’d get pissed off if I was from Hawaii and the U.S. competed as “the Continental United States” or something like that.
PPS- I’m having the same frames issue as everyone else, in Firefox. I had to open up (gasp!) IE to write and submit this.July 28, 2012 at 3:14 pm #25732
I came here to start a thread like this myself- AWESOME.
To touch at your questions, I’m in the U.S., and the explanation was thus:
The industrial revolution is, according to Danny Boyle (the man that designed the whole thing), is the most important… thing… in all of history, and Britain was the leader in it. Then, the two most important achievements of modern British society are the public healthcare system and children’s literature. As for the social media stuff, we were supposed to be watching a modern romance blossom- girl loses phone, boy finds phone, they meet, la la love.
As to why there was such an emphasis on British pop culture, I too was rather perplexed. The nature of Britain’s reach, perhaps, could have something to do with that, as well as the stereotypes, so to speak. By that, I mean there was a somewhat obligatory nod to Shakespeare, sure, but that gave way to modern British pop culture. Perhaps Boyle was trying to say Britain is tired of people of thinking of nothing but Shakespeare when people hear “England” or “Britain.” This begs the question, then, as to why some other very popular things from television and media didn’t even get a nod or cameo- why not have a Doctor or Sherlock make some sort of appearance? (Maybe this is more a testimony to the kind of people I hang out with, but I know for a fact that more of my friends and acquaintances would have recognized either of them over Mr. Bean.) My first guess would be for the same reason there was only a little Shakespeare, because there was an effort to get beyond that- but that gets shot down with all the Beatles stuff and the fact that McCartney friggin’ played. Unless Boyle wants to set music in its own category of popular culture.
Although a small thing: The depictions of Cruela DeVil and Mary Poppins were totally images from the Disney films, and Disney is an American company. And during the clips of “Bohemian Rhapsody, a clip from the famous headbanging scene from <i>Wayne’s World</i>, another American movie, was on the screen.July 29, 2012 at 10:20 pm #25743
“PS- This is a question for the British overthinkers. Why does the UK compete under the name Great Britain? I thought GB referred specifically to the island, while the actual sovereign nation is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, even though they often get used interchangeably. Are there no Northern Irish on the British team? It’s a bad analogy, but I’d get pissed off if I was from Hawaii and the U.S. competed as “the Continental United States” or something like that.”
Yeah, you’re right that the nation is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and GB is just the “mainland”. Team GB is a brand name, officially the team is “Great Britain and Northern Ireland”. However, thats one hell of a mouthful and even Team UK would miss the Crown Dependancies and cause complaints. My own personal feeling (English) is that its no big deal but then its alright for me – I’m included. Anyway, long story short – brand name not official team name.
Sadly I haven’t seen the full ceremony yet (been travelling all weekend and only made it home a few hours ago) but I’ve got it recorded so will chime in once I’ve seen it.July 30, 2012 at 12:02 pm #25767
I’ve read that people of Northern Ireland are allowed to choose to either represent team GB or Team Eire.
I’m still puzzled as to why for some tournaments like the Soccer World Cup the UK decides to split into four countries, but not for the Olympics. Same for the individual sports: Wiggo is a Brit, Andy Murray as well, but badminton players come out as English, Scottish, Welsh or (N-)Irish for their World tournaments.
During the Olympics it’s all GB.
I guess it depends on the sports and its regulating federation on how a British athelete is regarded internationally.July 31, 2012 at 9:40 pm #25790
“The industrial revolution is, according to Danny Boyle (the man that designed the whole thing), is the most important… thing… in all of history, and Britain was the leader in it.”
It’s interesting that they didn’t heavily emphasize the machinery or technological innovations or the “great men” though I’ve been told that Branagh was supposed to represent some historical figure. Instead, they focused on the workers and although in that confusing mishmash there was a little bit about strife and protest and you know, they obviously weren’t that well put together and appropriately smeared with grime (my parents thought they looked like cast members of Les Miz), they were all still going along with forging the rings and raising the towers. With all the militant garbage can drumming, they were still contributing to the national goal. Hrm…
“As for the social media stuff, we were supposed to be watching a modern romance blossom- girl loses phone, boy finds phone, they meet, la la love.”
OK. This part was terrible. What I found interesting was that at least to some degree a lot of the songs they chose to include in this section were somewhat subversive youth culture songs in their time. And yet here we have these two superficial kids with their peppy, social media sensibilities. A lot of criticism of their clothes revolved around it looking like it came from that sort of Topshop, H&M, Forever21 kind of store. So is this what modern romance is? Or is it an adult vision of what the social media generation’s concept of romance is?
As for the pop culture they chose to depict, it’s hard to argue that the films of the Disney Renaissance, a giant blockbuster franchise like Harry Potter, and the Beatles aren’t going to be some of the easiest things to communicate to an international audience.July 31, 2012 at 11:03 pm #25791
I absolutely loved how when they were getting ready to move the grass, the rich guys inspected it, said it was good, then stood by and watched as the workers did all the lifting. I was actually really surprised they were showing the aristocracy like that, and I imagine it would have been hilarious to see them doing all those stupid arm gesticulations the whole time. In a sense, though, it was rather ballsy, sort of a way of saying, “Yeah, we’re totally capitalist, what are you gonna do about it?” Reinforcing the necessity of class divisions in the name of progress in a classically Marxist way.
In fact, the whole thing was screaming Marxist classism at me. And in the end, classes were obliterated and everybody participated in forging the rings- or was supposed to, at least; the way they all converged around the fire pit things and the lighting disguised the class divisions of the extras quite a bit.August 6, 2012 at 4:43 am #25880
Re: the Doctor, he made a (very small) cameo, in that the Tardis Vworp noises were in the mix somewhere. I really thought we’d see it or him at that point, but they just used the sound effects.August 6, 2012 at 4:44 am #25881
Certainly, people have talked about the romance being subversive as the ‘scene’ or sequence featured a same-sex kiss and an interracial couple. The latter, at least, got slammed by the Daily Mail, saying nowhere in the land could a happy and stable interracial family be found.
Mo Farah and his wife made them look more the fool than usual.August 6, 2012 at 9:11 am #25884
As a rabid fan of the Doctor, I’m surprised I didn’t notice the sound… Whenabouts did that occur?
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