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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Misread by Redhead

In younger, slimmer days I was frequently mistaken for an undercover cop. Too ‘smart casual’ to be a 1980s leftie, I guess – and yet still badly dressed. Almost two decades later, I was mistaken for a moral entrepreneur. (Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.) Oddly, something similar happens to me in a new book by Prof. Steve Redhead (admittedly, the chapter in question first appeared as a journal article in 2007, which I missed at the time).

In case you missed it, Redhead argues:

The Football Factory film was released to a highly contrived media moral panic in May 2004, shortly before the Euro 2004 football championship in Portugal. One newspaper critic (9) noted that the film had been ‘slammed in some circles as a fetid miasma of immorality. An academic commentator (10) saw the original novel as ‘centring on low life and lowlifes…social realism without the socialism’. The film was widely criticised, though enthusiastically received at the DVD stores, precisely because commentators claimed it used ‘real’ football hooligans as actors and advisers and evoked a ‘realistic’ atmosphere alongside an attitude that glorified the stylised football casual violence. The question of the ‘real’ in The Football Factory, however, is a much more complicated issue and relates directly to previous attempts at promoting social realism in British cinema and literature in the late 1950s and early 1960s and the reworking of such representations in the era of postmodernism in the 1980s and 1990s.

As for me, I am that academic commentator, dear reader, a footnote in his story (footnote 10 to be precise). I was also a bit surprised to see that, within a sentence of Redhead identifying ‘a highly contrived media moral panic’ in 2004, he cites me as part of the scare story. It takes a wilfully perverse reading of my second article on The Football Factory (excluding pseudonymous stuff) to see me as an early adopter of that panic (read it for yourself).

My review of the film was framed by my attack on both the panic – articulated by Richard Williams at the Guardian – and on the incorporation of media effects theory into the sports pages. In one paragraph I revisit my short, admittedly grumpy review of the novel in 1996. How this leads to my implied advocacy of a minor moral panic in 2004 is a mystery to me. But as Prof. Redhead says:

The media moral panic surrounding The Football Factory has been shown to be incorporated into the advertising and marketing of the film in a postmodern loop, especially on DVD, making the notion of the ‘real’ much more blurred. (p.27)

So blurred, it seems, that my lukewarm review of a movie has made me into Mary Whitehouse.

Note: There is, for now at least, a online version of this essay in PDF here. Page numbering in this blog posting is taken from this version.

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