Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Lonely Londoners

"It’s also a love letter to London itself. Of course, there’s the usual ticking-off of picture postcard locations, from the London Eye to the Buckingham Palace, and a stream of gags about cabbies, the tube and the mundanity of modern life. But there’s also a genuine affection for the city, or at least the idea of what it could be. It’s a place, Paddington muses, where anyone can fit in because everyone’s different; a great big melting pot of cultures and creeds. And while the film is more concerned with making you laugh and cry than scoring political points, it’s hard not to see how a film in which a lovable immigrant comes to the UK and blends right in might go down in certain quarters; not least because the villain of the piece, Nicole Kidman’s ice-cool Hitchcock Blonde of a taxidermist, essentially comes on like Nigel Farage in fuck-me boots."

-Chris Hewitt, Empire

Paddington presented as a lonely londoner is an interesting one, is it sentimental in such terrible times? Perhaps. But I hope it might bring a little kindness. We will see?? I do not know!

I may not be regarded as white British but equally I am not keen to have a CGI bear as a stranger's only reference point for my humanity...A worrying proposition.

The author himself has raised this question of Paddington and migration in his 2008 book, 'Paddington Here and Now':

"Paddington's back - and this time it's his status as a refugee that's getting him into trouble.
Michael Bond, the 81-year-old writer who created Britain's favourite asylum seeker back in 1958, returns with his first novel-length collection of Paddington stories for 30 years, and the bear in the duffel coat is confronted with what his creator calls a "very different world".
The opening story of Paddington Here and Now, to be published next June to mark his 50th anniversary, begins when Paddington finds that the shopping trolley he's left outside the supermarket has vanished and he goes to the police to report it missing. The junior constable he meets soon discovers that Paddington is from darkest Peru, a straightforward admission from another era which takes on a different resonance in the current feverish climate surrounding issues of immigration.
While Paddington is never "actually arrested", said Bond, there is "a bit of a kerfuffle", enough for the Browns to "get worried [about his refugee status] after his visit to the police station. Is he going to get in trouble?" Everything turns out all right in the end, but it's not before readers have seen something new in the diminutive bear, he explained. "There is this side of Paddington the Browns don't really understand at all," he continued, "what it's like to be a refugee, not to be in your own country."
Dr Kyle Grayson develops on this theme, considering the Paddington books as "political texts", though all children's books can be read as such in my opinion:
"Paddington, as an outsider, by challenging those attitudes and outcomes that appear to be unfair, revitalises the moral standards that guide everyday life around his home in Windsor Gardens. Yet, in contrast, muscular liberalism demands similar levels of consideration and deference from migrants but provides no legitimate avenue for them to articulate political demands or desires. Moreover, there is no recognition that the presence of migrants can make society a more just place.
When you look at the stories as political texts about migration, Paddington Bear provides an opportunity to think about the expectations we place on migrants and the problems that the presence of migrants is able to solve in the UK.
Simultaneously, Paddington also illustrates how solutions to these problems can be distorted by reactionary forces that tap into our most base forms of cultural chauvinism. Thus when discussing migration policy, we might be well served by keeping Paddington Bear in mind."

-Dr Kyle Grayson, What Can Paddington Bear Tell Us About Migration?

We will tell ourselves stories in order to live after all. But how do these stories translate into the coordinates of the every day? I do not know. I do not know. I do not know. 

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