Thursday, November 23, 2006

Movie Review: Hooligans and Thugs

Movie Review: Hooligans and Thugs - Soccer's most Violent Fan Fights, Umbrella Entertainment

I watched this DVD on the weekend. It was hard to get to the end because it is actually nauseating. Far from being a documentary, it is 58 minutes of non-stop violence, some of it very graphic and horrible, and with no special effects whatsoever. How this manages to be graced with an MA15+ rating is beyond me, as there is no way I would allow a child to watch this in any circumstances, and I am a very liberal parent in that regard.

In the opening minutes of the movie there is a very unconvincing qualifier from narrator Steve Jones (never heard of this tosser but he is described as "the original punk rocker") that 'this is not meant to condone violence but just to document what really happens' or some such. Then it goes on to splice together the violence to hip music and comments like, 'that would have hurt' and 'some people's hooliganism is another's fun'. There is no reports of any game which does not have any violence, and a viewer new to the sport would be more than forgiven for believing that every soccer game ever is coupled with brutal violence.

Meanwhile there are criticisms of the police for being just as thug-like as the thugs. Some of the footage certainly makes this case, but there are no interviews with police or authorities charged with controlling the hooligans and no suggestion of what they are supposed to do about it. So the criticism just comes across as youthful anx.

The video is from an English point of view and is frankly racist, especially toward Turks and South Americans. No interviews with hooligans from these places, just caracatures.

"Banned in the UK" is proudly displayed on the front of the case. Well you could certainly get a hearty freedom of speech debate going over this one. My own view is that banning this movie just gives it credibility. And it's possible - I doubt it but it's possible - that the ugly, one-sided point of view is even intentional, as it punches the audience in the face with the stupidity of the point of view as well as the reality of violence. Put another way, the implicit question, "Do you really want to be this mindless and stupid?" is louder than the explicit glorification of violence.

But the violence is certainly real, and for me the movie did expose Les Murray's 'there's violence in every sport and soccer is just played a lot' argument as just a little naive. The 'conclusion' of the movie is that violence is not going away but is here to stay and will most likely get worse. Mind you this is a conclusion the movie seemed to celebrate rather than mourn, alongside a petulant, 'get used to it' message for the rest of us. But it should raise real questions about the nature of fandom and team-support and provoke us to watch for directions as well as realities.

The A-League is still pretty small, and the worst we get is some thug-like groups shouting abuse at each other. Harmless enough. At the same time Australia does not escape the attention of this movie as some pretty horrible rioting is shown from a youth world cup (Melbourne? Someone help me out here?) in the 80s. There's no meaningful analysis of course so there's no way to know whether this rioting was local chaps or English and European fans. But the point is crowd violence is so ugly, and so bad for our beautiful sport, that there's no harm in being aware of the possibilities as we form our own fan culture.

My own conclusion might sound a bit namby-pamby self-righteous grandma fluffy, but nevertheless here it is. I'm all for a bit of fun, I'm all for the grand larrikin traditions of irony and taking the piss. But at the same time we should be aware of the logical conclusions of abusing teams just because they are the other team, in a very similar vein as we as a society should be aware of the logical conclusion of abusing people just because they are from another country. I daresay the same tribal instincts, evolved hundreds of thousands of years ago (probably in that context for very good reasons of survival), are at work.

Good sportsmanship, on and off the field, is the sign of maturity and true moral strength. Like all good things it is not something we can just switch on, but something that is a journey for each one of us. But it is a journey with high rewards. The biggest reward is our beautiful game's ability to grow and thrive. If we take to the joys of the dark side of our humanity, we can destroy our game. This movie is compelling evidence of that.

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8 Comments:

Anonymous wayne said...

hi hamish, steve jones was the guitarist for the Sex Pistols, but he was a lager lad back then too.

Thils is a timely subject in the context of our fledgling league, and one that needs to be vigilantly stared down if we are not to descend to the level of other leagues around the world. One would hope these events are the product of factors not related to the game itself (poverty, disenfranchisement, alienation) that, while not uncommon here, are not the norm. Well worth an ongoing blog in itself, though living in a dark place inevidably brings depression.... I amnot always comfortable with your use of "journey", but I appreciate where you are going with it...

November 23, 2006 4:47 pm  
Blogger Hamish said...

Thanks for the comment Wayne. Fan culture around the A-League is something I intend to keep an eye on and write about from time to time.

No worries about your discomfort about my use of the word 'journey'. At that level our meanings get subtle, along with very important to us. I think we're basically on the same page however, and can't see any real need to debate it.

On the other hand, feel free to elaborate what you mean if you wish - might be interesting.

Cheers.

November 24, 2006 5:56 am  
Anonymous wayne said...

No debate there Hamish, was but a little pun of mine, I thoroughly enjoy your "angle" on the game - a certain humanistic philosophy that is a breath of fresh air in a sea of experts and, well, tribal passions. I too find this subject very interesting and well worth keeping an eye on. I must admit, i am thinking of starting my own blog and I agree with you that maybe focusing (in part) on some aspect of the game will be a better contribution to this community of writers than just "expressing one's opinions" on forums. All the best.

November 24, 2006 10:44 am  
Blogger john said...

Well Hamish now I know you weren't a 'pistols fan as a teenager you're going to have to explain what a Atavist is.

November 26, 2006 5:05 pm  
Blogger Hamish said...

Ok John. Firstly, I didn't mind a bit of Sex Pistols in my younger days, but obviously not enough to know their names! Later on I came to resent the Pistols and Sid Vicious for de-meaning, in popular culture, anarchist philosophy. But I don't really mind any more as most modern anarchists need no help de-meaning philosophy in general, and I have long abandoned the term.

Meanwhile I always preferred the Dead Kennedys.

Atavist, according to Dictionary.com has a few meanings, but the one I prefer is "an organism that has the characteristics of a more primitive type of that organism." Over the years I have enjoyed meaning various things by this. Like, "should have been a young adult in the 60's," or "should have been born in the 19th Century," or for that matter, "should have been born in 5th C BC Athens."

Using the label for an answer to "Occupation?" is of course a joke, and it's not even mine. A close friend of mine used to write 'atavist' on his dole form in the mid-80s, when he was living on coconuts and fish in tropical North Queensland. I loved the joke and adopted it - clearly the implication is very flexible, even though my friend Andrew used essentially the same meaning as I still do.

Um... thanks for asking I guess. It forced me to have an answer.

November 26, 2006 7:43 pm  
Anonymous wayne said...

you crack me up Hamish..we clearly have a few things in common. If you are to answer this way everytime someone asks you to "please explain", I am afraid I will have to keep asking my stupid questions. Commiserations for Friday, by the way.

November 27, 2006 12:56 pm  
Blogger Hamish said...

Thankyou for the empathetic thoughts Wayne, but there's really no need. Farina and the Roar have it (cough) all under control.

And please do ask all the silly questions you wish. I am most pleased to entertain.

As to your earlier comment, I'm only embarassed that I didn't get your pun and took your jibe seriously. Moreso embarassed because word puns are the base standard of my own sense of humour. Perhaps as I get to know you I won't be so slow.

I'm looking forward to you starting your own blog. My guess is that if you write what you want to write about in the way you want to write about it, your blog will find its uniqueness and niche.

A principle for me is that a blogger cannot compete with or even meaningfully supplement the mainstream, but a growing community of bloggers, with different styles and concerns, tightly networked as is already the case amongst the A-League bloggers, can. We are not in competition any more than the variety of journalists and commentators in a newspaper are in competition. Each new voice actually adds to the usefulness and attractiveness of the overall networked 'product'.

Sorry for rambling. I think you asked for it.

November 27, 2006 7:30 pm  
Anonymous wayne said...

That i did Hamish, that I did.

November 29, 2006 12:00 pm  

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