The Royle Family and Brexit: A Study

Donal Corrigan

The Royle Family is a true television masterpiece. On the surface it’s a sitcom about a family that just watches t.v, the inspiration for the hit t.v show Gogglebox. But, look closer at these couch potatoes and there is a lot more that meets the eye. Over the last two decades, The Royle family has dissected the many elements of family life and put it on display in their beautifully subtle way. Interestingly though this show can also help us understand the phenomenon that is Brexit.

There is an uncanny resemblance between The Leave campaign and Jim Royle, the father of the Royle family. Specifically they both are experts at misplacing blame and enjoy the benefits of ignorance.

The Leave campaign powered their narrative with the ‘Take Back Control’ slogan. And their means of taking back control? Controlling their borders of course! Blaming foreign nationals for their loss of control was a classic example of misplaced blame. The harder pill to swallow is that Thatcher’s neo-liberal policies did the most damage to their factory jobs rather than ‘bloody foreigners’.

Similarly, Jim Royle uses the same tactics on a micro scale.  He crucifies his wife when supper is late and blames his mother in-law for over working his wife. What both the brexiters and Jim fail to realise is that they are apart of the problem.

The Royle Family and Brexit both share the mentality of blaming others for their situation. Jim cries when the batteries from his remote are stolen but refuses to get up and change the channels himself. As a result, in a hilarious climax, he is stuck watching location, location, location by his own stubbornness.

This self-inflicted demise echoes the faith of Brexiters as they leave The E.U. Only, getting stuck daytime t.v will be the least of their worries after March 29th.

Yet despite all this, The Royle Family also shows us where the real pain of Brexit lies. Inequality has been growing sharply in Britain since the 1970’s and it hasn’t come back down. Jim Royle watched his parents get richer and far more comfortable than their parents.

His generation have seen The National Health Service be brought to its knees. They witnessed coal and steel industries walking out of Britain, with computers filling this hole in the jobs market.  So while there might be much misplaced blame, there is a pain in Britain that can’t be ignored.

This pain was screaming out at us 20 years ago in the Christmas special all the way back in 1999. In a powerful scene Jim runs upstairs in a fit of anger and vents a built up frustration to his grandson Baby David. He has spent Christmas day listening to his son’s father in law brag about big cars, boats, luxury coats and holidays. The top 1% comes into Jim’s humble house and flaunts what his generation expected to have but never could get.

He pours his angst into Baby David’s cot saying “ I’ve got absolutely bloody nothing. I never had. I haven’t got two ha’pennies to rub together. I’m always bloody skint and I always will be.” Of course baby David doesn’t understand his grandad’s troubles, not many people do.

Donal Corrigan

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