The traitor as patriot: Guy Burgess, Englishness and camp in Another Country and An Englishman Abroad

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Abstract

This article focuses on the representation of the spy Guy Burgess, one of the famous Cambridge ring, in two very successful British heritage films, An Englishman Abroad (John Schlesinger, UK, 1983) and Another Country (Marek Kanievska, UK, 1984). The article argues that the films rely on popular notions of Englishness as politically safe and non-extremist, thus fabricating a view of the past that misrepresents Burgess in the effort to normalize him. Similarly, stereotypical views of gay men as frivolous and non-ideological are amply exploited in the films' portrayal of their protagonist. Burgess's upper-class English roots are used to package him as part of the heritage experience, while his homosexuality is not only presented as the reason for spying, but it is also constructed as a camp performance, effectively defusing the threat of ideological commitment and political betrayal. The radical, lethal and devoutly Marxist Burgess is thus stripped of his ideology and turned into a safe national icon.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)129-141
JournalJournal of European Popular Culture
Volume2
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jul 2012

Keywords

  • Guy Burgess
  • Englishness
  • Spies
  • Homosexuality
  • Camp
  • Heritage

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