Repulsive Caine Makeover Leaves me Cold

Repulsive Caine Makeover Leaves me Cold

A nation's culture shift is not necessarily an easy thing to spot. Ask any ordinary citizen how Britain has changed over the years and they would more than likely appear perplexed, responding 'not very much I suppose'. If they did respond, their observations would be weakened by a severe lack of substantiation and evidence. This scenario left me pondering: how can you visually demonstrate the alteration of a country's culture? My solution: turn to one of Britain's most admired thespians and witness the agonising shift in British values and customs. I give you, Sir Michael Caine.

Born Maurice Micklewhite, Michael Caine was one of the quintessential icons of the Swinging Sixties, up there alongside treasured idols such as the Beatles, Julie Christie and Twiggy. His cool demeanour and charming gesticulations won him countless admirers across the globe. Starring roles in classic films like Alfie, The Ipcress File and The Italian Job allowed Caine to stand out from the crowd and leave an overwhelming mark on the world of British cinema. Yet now, entering his fifth decade in film, Caine has embarked on what can only be described as a nauseating variation in stance. This disturbing adjustment is best emphasised by viewing the contrast between two of Caine's best-loved characters; Harry Palmer from the sixties and Harry Brown from the noughties.

Harry Palmer, a suave bespectacled secret agent, represented all that was good about the progressive sixties. He was a revolutionary meterosexual, not afraid to cook, clean and shop. He cared about his appearance and, unlike his movie spy rival James Bond, had no time for appearing cold, chauvinistic and thuggish. Harry Brown on the other hand represents all that is bad about modern Britain. He is an archaic vigilante, a throwback to the John Wayne western protagonists of the forties and fifties. Brown is an ex-Royal Marine and clearly endorses the menacing bully-boy approach taken by such institutions. He has no time for diplomacy or rehabilitation and would sooner stab a drug addict than sit down and get to understand their predicament.

Caine has somehow managed to swing from radical idealist leftie to old-school conservative dogmatist. Having previously been an honorary member of the Hollywood Left brigade - along with fellow liberals Robert Redford and Warren Beatty to name a few - Caine now finds himself in the same league as John Wayne and Charlton Heston; both anti-Communist, pro-gun, pro-war Republicans. This alarming turn around accurately reflects the feeling felt by many members of the British electorate today. They are both disenfranchised with the Labour Party following the warmongering days of Tony Blair and enchanted by the propagandist ways of David Cameron's Tory Party. It is this exact combination that enabled the Conservatives to make such headway at the 2010 general election.

Caine's leftie days are long gone now, but it is important to look back and remember what the sixties Caine symbolised. He often played astute felons (The Italian Job and Silver Bears) for whom the audience would root for until the bitter end, or lovable rogues (Alfie and Sleuth) whom, played by any other actor, would be considered irritating or malevolent. Instead, the audience wilfully applauded the immoral acts played out on screen in front of them. Ordinarily, the behaviour of Alfie Elkins would be reviled; but such was the popularity of Michael Caine that audiences championed his debauched antics. In Get Carter, Caine portrays the ruthless gangster Jack Carter; a working-class Geordie on the hunt for the killers of his brother. Despite bumping off half the cast, audiences still left their cinemas appreciating the actions of this loathsome villain. Why? Surely his callous retaliation made him every bit as bad as the films antagonists - but try telling that to Caine's hardcore liberal fanatics.

Now, compare those fundamentally left-wing characters to the shamefully right-wing ones he portrays today. Aside from the unapologetically conservative Harry Brown, Caine has opted to play the role of a well-off butler in the regenerated Batman franchise, an appalling oil baron in Steven Seagal's disastrous On Deadly Ground and switched roles in the 2007 remake of Sleuth, opting instead to depict the wealthy character previously played by Lord Laurence Olivier. The one time Caine has attempted to portray what would traditionally be considered a left-wing role was in 2000's Miss Congeniality. However, rather than create depth to his gay character Victor Melling, Caine chose to play it stereotypically. Victor minced, he carried an overly wimp wrist and even possessed a camp tone of voice - God forbid a gay man might actually sound butch in this day and age!

Running parallel to Caine's recently unforgivable choice of film roles are his disconcerting political views. During the seventies, Caine became a tax exile, opting to move to America to avoid Britain's 82% tax on high-earners, only returning once taxes were lowered. He has incessantly bashed the working-class, describing them as "layabouts laying about on benefits". He openly supported Margaret Thatcher during her tenure at Downing Street, stating that he voted for her because Britain, under Labour, was effectively "a communist country without a dictator". He even got behind the Tories at the last election despite admitting, "I don't know what Cameron's going to do". Is that really the best method of selecting your Prime Minister; sticking a pin on the ballot sheet and hoping for the best? No, but Caine still saw fit to publicly endorse the Conservative Party.

Living in a climate whereby it is becoming harder to visually see your culture changing, Caine's journey is a blunt reminder to us all that our radical, idealist ways can soon drain away, allowing bigoted, backward views to seep in. He should be viewed upon as a discordant cattle-prod; providing a short, sharp shock warning of the dangers that can materialise if you forget where you come from and begin looking selfishly at life. Alfie Elkins - for all his faults - would never have stabbed a man in the hand and shot them between the eyes for simply being a drug addict. Michael Caine is a privileged individual who has blatantly lost touch with his working-class roots. His continual refusal to accept the basic concept of rich members of society helping to pay for poorer ones helps highlight the sheer egotistic, self-centred ways of Britain's wealthy upper-classes.

The old Harry Palmer charm and sophistication has been abated; slowly kicked into touch never to return. Regrettably, a moronic conservatism has landed; intent on ruining the progress of the sixties and seventies; a progress undoubtedly helped on its way by some of Caine's best-loved characters. The vigilantism of Harry Brown provides a perfect juxtaposition to Palmer's modern ways; helping to identify what has gone horribly in, not only Caine's career, but in Britain itself. A nasty air of violence, racism and suppression has blown our way and does not appear to be eroding. Instead, corporate power and the super-rich seemingly run our great nation, leaving the little people - the progressives - behind in the murky cloud known as collateral damage. Caine's career swing leaves me cold, but not as cold as watching Britain succumb to the rapacious ways of David Cameron's Conservative Party.


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