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British National Identity Through The Lens Of British Media

3099 words - 12 pages

Within a few minutes after the ambulance had pulled up to the scene, the paparazzi photographers descended and began to shoot pictures for so-called exclusives to be published in the following day's edition of their respective tabloids. One way or another, other journalists and their cameramen found their ways to the tunnel underpass in Paris on August 31, 1997, and the UK as well as the rest of the world received the breaking news that Diana, Princess of Wales, had died that night in a car crash.

What was astonishing was not the rapidity of the news- that is, after all, the beauty of modern broadcasting technology- but the effect that the news had on the public. In the following weeks and months, story after story demonstrated the extent of the late Princess' popularity as the pictures and video clips showed the gates in front of Buckingham Palace disappearing under the oceans of flowers and memorials devoted to Princess Diana. While some Britons were skeptical of such an outpouring of grief, the majority of Britons shared their collective mourning as well as anger when it was reported that the flag had not been lowered to half-mast at Diana's funeral as the Queen was not in residence at Buckingham Palace at the time. Thanks to the news media, people all over Britain could keep abreast of all these small details regarding the news event of the late Diana and share their feelings together, creating a sense of national identity in the wake of a tragedy.

But what exactly is national identity? The British don't seem to know anymore than anyone else does; they are currently wondering where they fit into the grand picture of a global community. As Roberto Foa from Europa Magazine puts it, "On the one hand, she [Britain] has her 'special relationship' with America; while on the other, there is a Europe cooing for 'ever closer union'." (Foa, par.2) Never mind the complexities of separating the Irish from the Scots from the Welsh from the English in the supposedly United Kingdom. And how does the issue of increasing immigration fit in, now that "the sun has set on the British Empire" (Foa, par.2)?

Nowadays, when we think of what is relevantly British, we think of such icons such as the Queen and the royal family, bangers and mash, Blackadder, the Union Jack, the BBC, beer, double-decker buses, the class system, football/soccer- the list goes on. The reason why these symbols are chosen above other is that they are recognizable all over the United Kingdom as part of some national identity. Every item on that list has a particularity to British culture and therefore to a uniting sense of identity. The media has been instrumental in spreading the popularity of said products, exporting them internationally (the BBC, for instance, and its link into American television with BBC America) as well as promoting them domestically.

The British media has contributed to spreading elements of national identity but how has national identity influenced the...

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