Blinded By The Light
Annie McIntosh | 25/10/2019
Let's say I'm you for a second. You're looking at a movie poster of a kid jumping, it mentions Springsteen and incites overcoming the odds. Gee, this looks nice, right? I mean life is a politcal/environmental bin fire right now - we could use a bit of light entertainment.
But fuck me if I'm not here to tell you it is not nice. My condolences, really. Cos I could use a pick me up too. But, fucking alas, if you passively enjoy this even on the most superficial of levels, you're either your mum or there is something wrong with you.
So, there's this kid. His thing is writing crap poetry. He's a bit uncool, but obviously this is far preferable to actually being cool in this film cos that means you'll have to wear a leather jacket and put mousse in your hair. Anyway the kid's parents are from Pakistan and in Thatcher's Britain this can be real cause of conflict in their London neighbourhood. His family works hard - mum sews from home and dad is at a manufacturing plant.
When dad loses his job, things look bleak and pressure is put on the kid to help provide for the family. Woe is the bummed out dork. But when a classmate puts him on to Springsteen, his spirits are stratospherically stimulated - and for the rest of the film we never hear the flipping end of how he feels about it. Blinded By The Light talks downs to the audience and to the issues it painfully covers. And fuck me again if on top of that it doesn't talk down to anyone who is not a rabid Springsteen fan. Yeah smart move, cos Springsteen was such an Nietzschean elitist right? Like, if you can't quote Springsteen earnestly and at length at ill opportune moments, you just don't get him. I mean there are song length punching the air lip syncing to the Boss in the film - like Brett's angry dance in Flight of the Conchords, but not funny.
While the kid's attention starts to occupy a La La Land type delirium, it's all Nil By Mouth social realism for the women in his family. Mum is forced to take on more work for less money, being rorted by the privileged boomer types who are her neighbours and clientele, while the kid's sisters aren't so much characters as props.
At the kid's school we're treated to a darling of the white saviour tropes - the Teacher Who Can See Your Genius Potential. However this one does acknowledge that the kid's poetry is God awful - and her 'production over perfection' motivational speech boils down to pretty solid advice.
London's 80s wasn't just side pony tails and acid washed jeans. The film tries to hard with costuming, making every outfit a parody of a parody and it's over the top scenes played for 'look at his hair!' type laughs. Which is fine, cos it's not like the story is about having society judging people harshly for the way they happen to look or anything.
Functioning rascism is insidiously woven into institutions and society and left unquestioned. Dickhead fascists might spit at you or in your family's mailbox, as happens in the film, but more commonly you'll be overlooked, unheard and passively rejected by those around you. Yeah, nah - racism is only for actual skinheads in this film, cos yay no white guilt for the past!
Named dropped on the poster is Bend It Like Beckham. These people knew what they're doing yeah? Cos that was some feel good authentic storytelling right?
Again - yeah nah. Blinded By the Light's jarring storyline has none of the believable charm, humour or reflection.
For example, when that bit comes where the uncool kid in the movie gets a smart girlfriend, he wastes his lovely fortune talking at her about how to understand fucking Springsteen! Arrr, don't make me punch myself in the ear.
If you've no real sense of critical reasoning to speak of, you may enjoy this film. Go see it and find out.