What are blue jeans doing lately in the royal courts and casinos of Europe…? Glad you asked!
Films like Sense and Sensibility, Pride & Prejudice, Emma, and all their elegant-speaking Victorian tales are attended today by droves of blue-jeaned popcorn-munchers who probably can’t tell the difference between a split infinitive and a dangling participle. What’s more they don’t care. For many, watching this sophisticated form and formality on the screen is like visiting an art museum. Nice to look at….not to look like.
And yet, there once was form and formality right here in 20th C America. Dad always dressed in three-piece suits; gave his seat to a lady; and in age of properly starched white shirts, his idea of casual was the white shirt without the tie. But not many after the 1960s. In that raucous re-energized decade, America started to become something different. Youth challenged Age. Change challenged Continuity. The chant was: “You can’t trust anyone over 30.”
Nothing wrong with relaxing the rules. The question now 50 years later is, what are the rules? Or are there many rules left?
The reply that roars back from today’s rock-concerts and buddy-films are echoes of the blue-jeaned Marlon Brando who helped start it all in The Wild One. He was he first rebel-without-a-cause anti-hero. When someone asked the motorcycle gang leader: “Whaddaya rebelling against…?” Brando’s answer is: “Whaddaya got…!”
Grungy anti-heroes have grown into a Hollywood staple in this century. So why, you wonder, does monosyllabic grungy America remain so fascinated with Victorian form and formality.
Maybe when it looks back, America can’t help noticing something about those staid, sterner times. Even with all their airs and faults, those times and those Victorians helped make possible our own amazing and aspirational world. Could that mean….? No, no, that’s a silly thought…! But still…??
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