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Chariots of Fire: bigotry, manhood and moral certitude in an age of individualism

CASHMORE, Ellis (2008) Chariots of Fire: bigotry, manhood and moral certitude in an age of individualism. Sport in Society, 11 (2/3). pp. 159-173. ISSN 1743-0437

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Abstract or description

Chariots of Fire is examined both as a chronicle of the 1920s, in which it is set, and an allegory for the period in which it was released, the early 1980s. The film unfolds amid a culture of individualism in which British patriotism, while strong, is both conditional and instrumental. Class inequalities are deep, unemployment is growing steeply and industrial conflict is widespread. Victorian values are changing and the end of British Empire is approaching. The film records the intersecting paths of two athletes, Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell, as they prepare for the Paris Olympic Games of 1924. Both are, in different ways, marginal: Abrahams, a Jew, is challenged by anti-Semitism; Liddell, the son of a missionary, is a steadfast Christian and runs because he believes he is fulfilling God’s purpose. The two dominant themes of the film – masculinity and anti-Semitism – are addressed. Abrahams, with his singular mentality and professional coach, is seen to prefigure later developments in sport. The context of the film’s release is also considered: the enterprise culture encouraged by the British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher rewarded the kind of dogged, individualistic enterprise exhibited by Abrahams and Liddell and supported the film’s patriotic motifs, especially during the Falklands War of 1982. While based on actual historical characters and events, the film is most productively accepted as a figurative reconstruction that has resonance in the late rather than early twentieth century.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: "Chariots of Fire" film individualism nationalism
Faculty: Previous Faculty of Health Sciences > Psychology, Sport and Exercise
Depositing User: Ellis CASHMORE
Date Deposited: 21 Apr 2013 08:03
Last Modified: 24 Feb 2023 13:37

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