Most discussions of Billy Elliot have either taken for granted an understanding of the historical event that it treats or failed to engage with that context completely. Written during the twenty-fifth anniversary of the 1984–85 miners' strike, this article considers the film in relation to this decisive moment in the transition to neoliberalism in Britain, recognizing its sympathy for the miners as well as the ideological limitations to that sympathy generated by the focus on Billy's trajectory out of his class and toward the metropolis. That trajectory is symbolically freighted with challenges to gender and sexual normativity, specifically, to the masculinity of the working-class miners. But this is made possible through the film's problematic and schematic treatment of history, since it suppresses any consciousness of the solidarities with the miners that were formed, or attempted, by working-class women, feminists, and lesbian and gay activists. Eschewing recognition of such complexities, the narrative drive of the film relies on a temporal and spatial transition that places familial reconciliation in a postconflictual present and in a location far removed from the communal devastation the miners' defeat brought about. The miners' strike is not the only relevant context for considering the film's ideological focus on Billy, however, and the article considers those neoliberal transformations of the British television and film industries that resulted in an emphasis on individual talent.
Research Article|December 01 2011
David Alderson; Making Electricity: Narrating Gender, Sexuality, and the Neoliberal Transition in Billy Elliot. Camera Obscura 1 December 2011; 25 (3 (75)): 1–27. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/02705346-2010-008
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