The King’s Shilling: Post WWI Masculinity in Peaky Blinders

Larke-Walsh, George S. (2016) The King’s Shilling: Post WWI Masculinity in Peaky Blinders. In: Film and History Annual Conference, Oct 26-30, Milkwaukee, WI, USA.

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The successful British TV series, Peaky Blinders (2013-Present) is a gangster narrative focused on class and ethnic identity. This paper will discuss the convergence of criminal and state sanctioned violence and its effect on individual identities – specifically Thomas (Cillian Murphy) and Arthur Shelby (Paul Anderson).  Not only are these criminal brothers used as pawns by government agents in each season, but Thomas Shelby frequently references their 'taking the King's shilling' in the first world war as indicative, not only of national loyalty, but also the genesis for their postwar criminal activities and violent behavior.

Drawing on the connections between manhood, violence and loyalties this paper supports J.A. Mangan’s (2012) assertion of “manliness [as] a cultural construct with the important concomitant of martial expendability” (295). Therefore, the postwar world of Peaky Blinders, that involves near-death experiences in every season, is a fascinating study of masculine identity honed and continually tested within both state-sanctioned and criminal violence. The series’ portrayal of masculine, class and ethnic identities combine to reveal the hypocrisy involved in violence enacted to protect both national and local concerns in the early twentieth century. Thus, it continually challenges the concept of, as well as the motivation for, individual heroism.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: Media > Cinema and Film
Media > Film
Divisions: Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries > School of Media and Communications
Depositing User: George Larke-Walsh
Date Deposited: 28 Jan 2021 09:50
Last Modified: 28 Jan 2021 09:50

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