The Pale Men discuss Simon Rumley’s gruesome tale, BRITISH AND PROUD on its release to the TALES FROM BEYOND THE PALE podcast.
Larry Fessenden: Well, Glenn, we’ve come full circle with today’s Tale: BRITISH AND PROUD by Simon Rumley. This is the last tale we have archived, the last of the old tales we’ll be presenting on the podcast (we still have some new tales coming up so stay tuned). And so we end where we began, because Simon’s recording was the vey first Tale we ever listened to! For season one, we had some of our collaborators produce and submit finished pieces. That’s how we got Graham Reznick’s THE GRANDFATHER and Paul Solet’s THE CONFORMATION and Jeff Buhler’s THIS ORACLE MOON, and that’s how Simon’s tale came to us. I recall we both listened to it separately and we were both aghast! The end of the tale is truly horrifying in the way of the most extreme pulp comics I read when I was young, but with a cultural overtone that makes one feel unwashed. I remember we discussed putting a warning label on it and in fact we did.
Glenn McQuaid: Yes, we added a warning to this as well as Paul Solet’s THE CONFORMATION. I was indeed quite shocked by BRITISH AND PROUD but essentially saw it as a satirical look at modern day British xenophobia that taps into a history of pulpy comic-book stories about colonial fears of Africa. It’s still a tough one for me to listen to, it’s well made and Simon is very talented but the story bothers me, I felt it was too much when I heard it first but Simon does go for the jugular with his work, so…
LF: This was ten years ago and we knew that Simon was going to push some buttons with his work, that is what he has always done, with films like RED, WHITE AND BLUE, and the short BITCH, which is very potent. Now 10 years later, in the midst of Me Too and BLM awareness, we are again challenged by this tale. Still, I think self-censhorship is a troubling response to difficult work; art is meant to be confrontational and horror as a genre is supposed to shock. BRITISH AND PROUD demands we react and invites us to examine our reaction.
GM: These are interesting times. In the face of such great threats to democracy and with the rise of neo-facsistic racist bone-heads embracing the most embarrassing conspiracies of all time, and, more importantly, with minority people losing their lives because of biogoted policies, profiling and governing, I think it’s understandable for anyone with a soul to draw a line in the sand and implement a zero-tolerance attitude towards anything that is not clearly anti-racist, or anti-bigotry in genreal. I am a great believer in being anti-racist and that includes reflecting on one’s own institutionalised racism and, at every turn, questioning the privilege that comes with being a white dude. Of course, art that tackles these subjects in any kind of way can be misconstrued.
LF: It brings to mind the role of horror, as there are legions of films with women being tormented by serial killers, chainsaw-weilding maniacs, perverts and monsters. Is this exploitation or is this a glimpse into the perils of being a woman? BRITISH AND PROUD can be seen as a portrait of the smug, clueless colonialist getting his own comeuppance, almost a revenge fantasy of sorts. Or it can be seen as a paranoid reactionary shocker about threats from the Dark Continent. It seems to me to be in the interpretation of the listener.
GM: And I think it’s important to consider what the artist is trying to do. Was Simon just pushing buttons with this piece? If so, is it enough for him to do that without giving a concrete explanation as to why? Would the piece be any less powerful if the writer exercised a moral authority over the material? I’m not sure, it would be a different piece if he did though. If only he were still alive to answer these questions, oh wait… Simon is alive!
LF: Art should challenge, not conform, which is why we’ve put this out. And now we leave it to audiences … if they dare.