Stereotypes are human nature and can never be avoided completely. However, stereotypes about Northern England and Northerners seem to be particularly deep-rooted and long-lasting. There is general agreement that they date from the 18th and 19th century when Northern England was the starting point of the Industrial Revolution (Jewell 2). “When we speak of stereotyped characters we are dealing, in particular, with […] traditions deriving from the effects of the Industrial Revolution” (Morris 9). The stereotypical “Northerners” are working-class people, not well educated, and their lives are full of struggle and conflict. According to many preconceptions a male Northerner is unhealthy, badly dressed and frank about sex. Further cliché attributes are pragmatic, direct and even rude, but also down-to-earth, passionate and heartily. Northerners feel alienated from the government in the “centre” London and distinguish between “us” and “them” which creates to a strong sense of community.
In today’s pop culture these stereotypes are predominantly media-transmitted. By using a certain mode of presenting Northern English reality and its inhabitants stereotypes are rather reinforced than replaced in the media. Hence, there is a specific pattern used to reinforce stereotypes about Northern England and Northerners in films such as in the film “Brassed off”. The most striking features that intensify these clichés in “Brassed off” are setting, language, protagonists and topics. All these characteristics can be found in the scene when the Grimley Colliery Band practices Rodrigo’s “Concierto de Aranjuez”; thus this scene reinforces stereotypes about Northern England to a large extent.
2.Setting in the Scene “Concierto de Aranjuez” in the Film “Brassed-off”
The named sequence is set in the rehearsal room of a brass band in a coal mining village called Grimley. Grimley is a typical Yorkshire village with green and hilly landscapes as well as grey skies and rainy and stormy weather. The village is marked by the mining industry that employs all the (male) characters in the film. The village’s industrial atmosphere is accompanied with a rather bleak, dirty and dark depiction of the streets, the houses and its interiors. Moreover, Grimley is stamped from unemployment, relative poverty and a poor infrastructure. Hence, this village is exactly what people from the South of England would describe as “northern”: an industrial, proletarian, and grim social problem area. To sum it up, Grimley is a stereotypical Yorkshire village that fits perfectly into the cliché that has arisen of the industrial revolution. In other words, “any southern prejudice against the north […] is as old as the Industrial Revolution” (Jewell 4).
In the scene Rodrigo’s “Concierto de Aranjuez” Northerners are portrayed corresponding to their reputation. First, the miners are attending their brass band’s rehearsal. Thus, the scene’s setting is an everyday situation describing the daily life of the protagonists. Furthermore, playing brass music is a stereotypical working class activity. Therefore, the way the village and the brass band members are pictured matches the prevalent concepts of Northern England and its inhabitants.
3.Language in the Scene “Concierto de Aranjuez” in the Film “Brassed-off”
One of the striking facts about the character’s use of language is that they speak in northern dialect. Of course, it is alleviated so that a broad audience can understand them. But still there are both phonetic and lexical features of Northern English to observe. First, Danny, the band conductor, calls Gloria “pet” when she joins the rehearsal for the first time. Another typical northern expression in this scene is “oh aye”, which one of the band members uses when he learns what they are going to rehearse next. Then Danny calls the band “lot” and refers to Andy as “lad”; both are colloquial expressions which correspond to the Northerners’ image of being down-home, simple, and pragmatic.
But language evokes another typical association. When Gloria’s presence distracts Andy, Danny addresses Andy’s interest in her stating: “Poor lad. Still got your mind on that pet.” This comment includes an overtone and seems appropriate for allegedly direct and sexually open Northerners. Besides Danny’s utterance “wobbly is too good for this lot” shows two supposedly northern qualities. First, it demonstrates their directness that merges with almost being rude. Second, this comment makes fun of the band’s musical sense and their performance. By mocking people northerners express sympathy; this is a common feature in northern comedy and “it’s a term of affection to call somebody a bastard” (Jarski xxii).
Language is related to education; thus northerners are of bad repute because their dialect is associated with working class and lower education. This becomes obvious when one band member does not understand which composition is meant by the Spanish title “Concierto de Aranjuez”. It makes him appear untaught and ignorant just like a miner is commonly perceived as. Then when Danny repeats the title he also “translates” it into “orange juice to you” referring to the uncomprehending musician. Brass musicians are apparently more familiar with that expression which demonstrates their pragmatic, simple and unsophisticated attitude. Moreover, Danny even announces Rodrigo’s piece of music “Concierto de Orange Juice” as a matter of course and the band starts to play devotedly. Their behaviour can be interpreted as making fun of themselves. And again, they use northern humour by mocking their own ignorance. Additionally, they “don’t try to be cleverer and smarter” (Jarski xvi) and prove that their ordinary people everyone can identify with. “Northern humour is, above all, the humour of recognition (Jarski xvi).