Sunday, July 29, 2012

Just Who Do You Think We Are?


I thoroughly enjoyed the Olympics opening ceremony, but based on the incredibly bewildered response I've been getting from Californians, I think I need to explain why. I think it did a brilliant job of defining what Britain is today, and what made it the modern country we now see. It spoke more to the Britain that I know, than the image that is often portrayed of bowler hats and tea shops. This was my country, every inch of it.

I love that it felt so inclusive, which is after all an Olympic idea. It felt like an opening ceremony for the people of Britain, and perhaps that's why it has been described as left wing propaganda - although what opening ceremony is not propaganda? A rosy retelling of Statehood? This at least was warts and all and based in reality. Giant baby and sick children trampolining on hospital beds reality.

I was joking with LK the morning of the ceremony that it would be funny if the Queen jetpacked in like they did with the LA Olympics - how hilarious then that she and Daniel Craig recorded that spoof of her parachuting in to the ceremony. That, and the Mr. Bean part lampooning Chariots of Fire was brilliant - we are a nation that likes to make fun of itself. Although - Mitt Romney learned that only the British can list our shortfalls, heaven forbid the foreigner that echoes our concerns. It reminded me of when someone comes to your house and you say 'oh heck, please excuse the mess' to which they're supposed to say 'oh it looks great' and absolutely never 'yes, it is a bit of shambles'. Perhaps you have to be British to understand that bizarre concept.

 I can really understand why a lot of people thought it was mishmashed and confusing though - not at all helped by the NBC commentators who blundered their way through scenes, failing to narrate or explain. Or perhaps a good show doesn't need an explanation - but then you run the risk of dumbing it down and Disneyfying things with  'this is what you should be feeling now' etc. It was so rich, constantly so much going on, that it was hard to take it all in. A visual feast or pandemonium, I suppose it could be interpreted as both. Over here it also went to commercial every five minutes which didn't help things, and apparently an entire section of dancing and honouring the victims of 7/7 was also cut.

I think the NHS scene has caused the greatest mystification amongst American audiences. Even Meredith Vierra was scoffing 'they feel so strongly about socialized medicine over here that they're choosing to use it to represent themselves.' I have to admit, the use of Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells as background music did not help things, adding an Exorcist theme to the hundreds of children lying in their hospital beds, and the giant baby part was a bit weird. I loved what they were trying to achieve though - tying in Britain's rich history of children's literature with JM Barrie and JK Rowling with our history of free healthcare - literally no child left behind. Whether that was explained properly, that JM Barrie left all the proceeds from Peter Pan to support Great Ormond Street Hospital - the London hospital for critically sick children, was not clear. Or the fact that it was actual doctors and nurses doing the dancing, not paid dancers or State peons. There were more genuine smiles down there than I've seen in an opening ceremony before - although not from the Queen. Could she not have cracked a smile? I think she was hoping Danny Boyle would cut things short so she could go home and put her slippers on.

I loved the music montage - although quite frankly having Paul McCartney sing Hey Jude was probably a much better idea on paper than in reality, his voice being not what it was. They could have wallowed in the 'British Invasion' of the swinging 60s, but it was brilliant that they made it up to date - British music is still hugely relevant in the clubs of today. Not that I would know. Lucy was completely absorbed by the 'kissing scene' as she called it when the boy and girl kiss in front of Hugh Grant in Four Weddings and a Funeral (and perhaps the first lesbian kiss broadcast in an opening ceremony? Did anyone else notice that clip from Brookside - or the fact that they juxtaposed Will and Kate's kiss with the dogs kissing from Lady and The Tramp?). Perhaps a little too inclusive for some people, but Lucy loved it. It's definitely something I could watch again, and not just because it included both David Beckham and Daniel Craig....

What did you think?

7 comments:

Jocelyn Nelson said...

I thought the ceremony was absolutely fantastic. I wasn't originally too excited to watch it, but it was so far from what I expected that it was hugely entertaining- down to the music at the end corresponding to the team's country (Beegees playing when Fiji walked out, Erasure for Malaysia etc). Hilarious.
The fact the doctors, patients, etc were 'real' during the NHS scene was explained to UK audience, as was the connection between GOSH and Peter Pan.

Nimble said...

Very watchable. A little mystifying but mostly in a good way. I thought the Men in Hats looked Dickensian so I was confused to hear KB spouting Shakespeare instead of something from Charles D. Although of course "the isle is full of noises" text was perfect. Plenty of spectacle and wonder. I shooed the kids upstairs to bed after the torch lighting. Paul McCartney was not exciting enough to stay up any later.

nappy valley girl said...

I loved it all. Even Macca's dodgy singing. It was just so British, so no wonder the Americans didn't get it. We've had some mystified comments here, too.

Fidi said...

I really liked it, too. But I am German, so growing up closer to your country maybe I can relate better? I was also irritated by the commentary. Actually I loved it. I had a smile on my face all the time.

jill said...

I didn't understand the boy finding the girl's cell phone and then calling her to tell her he had found it... but I thought most of it was grand. I loved the lighting of the torch with multiple torches and the one big torch being made of many. I think our US snobbishness may be coming into play in the reviews I've read.

Happy Homemaker UK said...

It was a wonderful performance! You may enjoy my post today - a guest post of one of the nurses in the Opening Ceremony :) http://happyhomemakeruk.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/behind-scenes-olympic-opening-ceremony.html

Expat mum said...

I enjoyed it although I don't think it televised well - a bit like a three-ring circus, where you can't quite see everything, and there's a lot going on at once.
I have to admit though, that by the time NBC actually showed us anything, I was fit to be tied having spent a good 6 hours reading Tweets about the live event and generally winding myself up into a tizz!