Unravelling some myths behind the popular images of Scottish identity
FROM the skirling bagpipes of Brigadoon to the drugaddled noir of Trainspotting, Scottish identity is one that has long been intertwined with conflicting stereotypes, myth and legend.
A new BBC programme entails a wry and often humorous investigation of the stereotypes.
It runs the gamut from the romanticised, mist-swirling and heather-strewn Scotland in the likes of Whisky Galore and I Know Where I’m Going to the gritty urban realism of Neds, Small Faces and Ratcatcher.
The dark comedy of Orphans and Shallow Grave is juxtaposed with cliched caricatures such as Mike Myers playing a McEwan’s Export-swigging father singing slurred odes to his Scottish homeland in So I Married An Axe Murderer.
Other highlights include a tongue-in-cheek celebration of crimes against Scottish accents – including chief offender Christopher Lambert as immortal hero Connor MacLeod in 1986 fantasy epic Highlander – and an emotional montage to an unexpected staple of cinema: tough men crying.
“It is a look at how the Scottish soul has been projected to the world, the good, the bad and the glorious of Scottish stereotypes,” says the presenter, Still Game and River City actor Sanjeev Kohli. “As the old toast kind of goes: ‘Wha’s like us? Damn few and they’re all fictional’. Which is probably just as well …”
Wha’s Like Us? brings together clips from the Hollywood golden era alongside cult classics.
The one-hour special features contributions from academics, film critics, authors and actors including Kate Dickie, Clare Grogan, Gary Lewis, Denis Lawson and Alex Norton.
The programme addresses what Kohli describes as “a harmony of opposites” when it comes to the starkly contrasting ways that Scottish characters are depicted on screen.
“There seems to be all these different stereotypes fighting each other,” he says.
“You have the mean tightness of Scots, whereas that is not really true because they are incredibly generous as well. We are meant to be dour and monosyllabic but also lyrical and raconteurs.
“It was quite nice to pull the strands out and examine that in what is hopefully an entertaining way.”
The show also looks enduring image of the Glaswegian hard man and the working class energy found throughout Scottish film and television. Wha’s Like Us? is on BBC1 at Hogmanay, 10pm