Malcom Turvey – Tati and Mocking the Bourgeoisie – The Windsor’s (Channel 4)

Clip: https://youtu.be/HmCH1Ab2wk4The Windsor’s (2016- Channel 4) – Princess Beatrice Experiences Her First Music Festival

In Malcolm Turvey’s chapter “Satirizing Modernity – Tati and Modernization,” Turvey establishes a common theme throughout the films of French filmmaker Jacques Tati: criticism of what modernization can bring to French society.[1] This criticism is presented through comedic methods, and Tati’s goal of “democratizing comedy” means that secondary characters from all walks of life are included in his gags.[2] Although, as Turvey notes, “his humour is by no means confined to important people,” ultimately Tati’s satirical comedy films “do tend to ridicule the bourgeoisie.”[3] Tati’s films “perpetuate the satirical strain of comedic modernism[…] which draws upon the conventions of the comedian comedy to mock the upper classes,” a theme which had been  prevalent in French post-war cinema.

The mockery of the bourgeoisie is also a common theme in British television comedies and is perhaps no better show than in the Channel 4 show, The Windsor’s (2016–) which follows eccentric fictionalized versions of the British Royal family. The attached clip follows Princess Beatrice at Glastonbury, who has lost her family and taken on the new identity of shop girl Trish, to experience a ‘common’ life. Beatrice falls for the man queuing behind her to use the porta-loo and is wowed by the flavour sensation of the humble festival kebab (the low price of only £28). The comedic satire comes from Beatrice, who is earnestly naive about the non-royal world, whilst a harsher dig is made at the British Monarchy when ‘Trish’ reveals her true identity and is asked if she is “the one who’s dad’s a paedo?” Although the audience can warm to the ditsy character of Beatrice, the reference to Prince Andrew’s alleged involvement in sexually assaulting young women highlights that economic modernization and the power of the bourgeoisie presents a danger to wider society. Satire is thus used in the clip to mock the Royal Family, whilst also hinting at a darker reason for the criticism of modernization.

[1] Malcolm Turvey, ‘Satirizing Modernity – Tati and Modernization’ in Playtime: Jacques Tati and Comedic Modernism (2019) p.175

[2] Turvey, ‘Satirizing Modernity,’ p.188

[3] Ibid., p.188

3 comments

  1. This clip is a really good one to compare with Turvey’s chapter and Playtime – I particularly liked the highlighting of the idea that comedy is not confined to certain groups. I think there could be interesting comparison made between the festival in The Windsor’s and the chaotic restaurant in Playtime (with anyone from anywhere ending up in it by the end) – both are areas where the joke becomes on anyone within that area rather than specific groups.

  2. Love this example of comedy not being ‘confined’ or mutually exclusive to one group and through the mixing of social milieus, class difference becomes a place for satire in a situation which is not entirely common. I think when discussing satire and modernisation, this is a great example of something which is not entwined with modernisation merely as a technological, industrial advancement but one of conflicting values and ideologies, in opposition to the monarchy.

  3. It’s definitely an interesting point that Tati does in fact involve people from various backgrounds throughout his gags. The comedy element comes from witnessing people in out of place situations or feeling unaccustomed to new environments as this is a relatable experience. The satirical mockery of the bourgeoisie however is effective in this case, presenting a family who we can not relate to but can laugh at whilst they get to grips with common experiences.

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