Image courtesy Flickr user shimelle
In the category of “debates I never thought I’d be having” comes a rager about whether or not the Danny Boyle–directed opening ceremonies of the 2012 London Olympics constituted some sort of left-wing creative masterpiece: Fantasia as directed by Ken Loach.
It’s understandable why some are so enthralled. As opposed to China’s 2008 ceremonies, which were a bombastic tribute to their own military might, Boyle went with a decidedly different tack. His spectacle included nods to suffragettes, strikes and an extended tribute to the National Health Service with actual nurses dancing joyously in front of a global audience. Boyle also chose to make it a multiracial affair, showcasing mixed families and presenting the reality of the diverse London of 2012. Many were thrilled by it all, most notably Alex Wolff of Sports Illustrated, who praised Boyle’s vision as “a celebration of protest and dissent.” Meanwhile, this musical tribute to the social safety net upset all the right people. Aidan Burley, a Tory Member of Parliament, tweeted that it was “leftie multicultural crap” worthy of “Beijing, the capital of a Communist state.”
The conservative tabloid the Daily Mail put their racism to paper, writing (and then editing after an uproar): “This was supposed to be a representation of modern life in England but it is likely to be a challenge for the organisers to find an educated white middle-aged mother and black father living together with a happy family in such a set-up. Almost, if not every, shot in the next sequence included an ethnic minority performer…. This multicultural equality agenda was so staged it was painful to watch.”
It’s understandable why the ceremonies upset supporters of neoliberalism and the growing movement of Britain’s white nationalists. It’s even more understandable why many left-of-center people in the United States took to twitter in praise of what was on display. After all, any acknowledgement in mass culture that there is such a thing as a working class or a history of protest would be radical in this country. The mere concept that there is such a thing as a “National Health Service” and its existence is something to celebrate must also be seen as further evidence that we were getting a glimpse into an alternative universe. Just imagine if the economic elite of the USA had underwritten the opening festivities. We would have had “The Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders Salute Our Nation’s Wealth and Job Creators.” They would have then engaged in full stage-combat with an army of evil teachers unions. Then the healthcare tribute would be headlined by “The Dance of the Pharmaceutical and Insurance Company Lobbyists” and end with a touching scene of people dying in a church hospice while Jennifer Hudson sings “The Circle of Life.”