The Last (Resort) of England. Melancholy, Delusion and Disillusion in the Mid-Eighties

Silvia Albertazzi

Abstract


In 1986, the photographer Martin Parr published The Last Resort, a controversial collection of shots taken at the popular beach of New Brighton. At the time, the book caused a great upheaval: Parr’s view of the working-class holidaymakers was considered too grotesque, sarcastic, and patronising. Only much later did critics realize that those photos were the expression of Parr’s anger about Thatcher’s social politics and her neglect of the proletarians’ needs. Starting from Parr’s images, I will analyse some British cultural products of the same period that reflect a similar sense of melancholy, desolation, and disillusion, often under an ostensible use of irony, parody and/or black humour. First, I will retrace this mid-Eighties Zeitgeist in works that appeared the year before Parr’s collection (the films My Beautiful Laundrette and Brazil, respectively by Stephen Frears and Terry Gilliam, and the album This Is the Sea, by the Waterboys). Then, I will refer to the Smiths’ album significantly called The Queen Is Dead, which appeared the same year as Parr’s photos.


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