Flippant Remarks about “Brideshead Revisited”

Buy this DVD at!When Brideshead Revisited first appeared, on KCET Public Television, in my life, I was a young, frightfully intelligent, impressionable teenager. And when you read the words ‘frightfully intelligent’ you have to say it in a posh English accent from the 1920s. In the stereotypical Black Power conversation, I am not supposed to admit my extreme familiarity with such work as Brideshead Revisited—especially work with such homosexual overtones. Ah, yes, yet another Blog post that wins friends and gains potential customers…

As it turns out, it is not the Black-Power homophobes that threw me scraps of criticism for my curious, child-like investigations. No. It has consistently been the punk-ass Negroes who would worship and perform pretentious tea dances around work like Brideshead Revisited—and, based on superficial appearances, would never guess to this day that I am quite familiar with the foundational thinking that produces such work. These Negroes would like to console themselves that what they would call “my politics” is nourished on animal-like ignorance—quite the contrary little girls…

It is very important to understand that when I sat through the entire Brideshead Revisited series (~13 hours) as a teenager*,* I did so in complete isolation. There was not another human being in my life to share this experience. So, years later, when on a whim this series came to me in DVD format—with its audio commentary tracks—in my rental, it moved me to expectorate the following:

  • Since, to my knowledge, I was the first person in my family to go to college as a teenager in the traditional, European manner, I used any possible resource to understand how collegiate life would be. Brideshead Revisited begins with college life at Oxford. Now drink in the sad humor of an 18 year-old Black boy from Inglewood, California appearing at UCSB in a three-piece pinstripe suit and oxford, thousand-eye shoes! I was greeted at UCSB by barefoot administrators wearing t-shirts! I was so shocked and unimpressed. I quickly left my expensive costume behind and checked into Hotel California…
  • I saw no racial barriers separating the booze-addiction of Sebastian in a single-mother family with the crack addiction of my neighborhood children in their single-mother families. To relate my life to life at the fictional/symbolic Brideshead seems quite the natural thing to do. Such is the nature of “universal” appeal. But racial barriers are artificial structures that should not be underestimated. There were many surprises awaiting me out there in this “real world” of colored folks. So looking back on my ability to do this as a teenager unfortunately impresses me.
  • Brideshead Revisited was and still is a heavy influence on my view of upper-class or “rich” people as being those who hang on to meaningless rituals and vacant symbols in quiet desperation in concealed sadness and narcosis. These vacuous people in fact depend on the blind admiration of the lower classes to bring any life into their cold, bland world. My thoughts immediately go out to Tupac Shakur’s relationship with one of Quincy Jones’ daughters. I would rather know what Tupac is doing today than what Quincy Jones III is doing today. Unfortunately, young Tupac is literally dead—killed in his expensive clown costume. These days, the “rich” are still supposed to be viewed as morally superior—those who gain an advantage in one, very narrow, imperial way are “blessed,” according to famous Negroes like Reverend Price of the Crenshaw Christian Center.
  • Buy this book at!Author Evelyn Waugh wrote the book Brideshead Revisited from his “real world” experience as a young bounder: a boy from the lower classes trying to make a name, kissing upper crust ass and making fun of them simultaneously. Such a love-hate relationship must have been quite weird. The extra features of the DVD exposed Waugh to me, revealing a “human side” to this English author that I am certain colonial American professors would rather obscure from their colored students.
  • Sebastian’s controlling mother is an imperial archetype that would follow me for the rest of my life. Inside of some elementary feminist theory, one would never guess that women take frequent opportunities to control the lives of males. These imperial women are usually mothers trying to control their sons—or an elder woman dominating younger males. The consequences of this domination are often more damaging than what males do to males because these women have intimate access to the child’s formative years. Author Evelyn Waugh suggests ever so humorously that an “escape” from such smothering female love is what is gingerly called here “Greek love.” Sorry, Evey baby, there is no “love” or no “Greek” for me. My “tragic fate” lies with what is left of the body of African womanhood—she is the keeper of the throne that is the only seat of true dominion.
  • I remember using the dictionary while I watched the series. It is so sad to immediately feel that I have to defend myself from accusations of lying when I say this but… when I was a kid I used to read the dictionary for fun. So when Evelyn Waugh brought words to the Jeremy-Irons monologue like jejune*, obdurate* and censorious they stuck out like new and interesting musical notes.
  • Brideshead Revisited set my standard—the stereotype—of what it means to be “rich.” This fictional standard makes it hard to impress me with a few million dollars and a California home on a smaller plot of land than the one I grew up in my working-class digs. No novel will be written or no research statistics drawn for you to corroborate this assertion but my lack of being impressed with self-described “rich” people—especially rich Negroes—has cost me dearly from a devout materialist point of view. Someday, a young Black novelist will write her biting expose of the American Negro “rich” of the new millennium. Some might hail her with some crap like “the new black Truman Capote.” (I’m almost certain that there is a pedestrian, Negro remake of The Great Gatsby already out there.) Her work will be hailed as groundbreaking… and it will be quite heroic because, to me, insulting self-described “rich white liberals” seems easier to get away with than insulting “rich” Negroes with one foot in an Ivy League school and one foot in the house of their crazy-ass cousin with gang ties that are alive and well…
  • While I watched this television series in isolation, in the UK it was a social phenomenon. It was a great bourgeois panacea for the masses during a time of social unrest. According to the DVD commentary, the whole “New Romantic” pop music movement was heavily influenced by Brideshead Revisited. So groups like Spandau Ballet, Tears for Fears, Culture Club and arguably Duran Duran all owe a part of their creative lives to Evelyn Waugh. It seems I had a lot of company while I watched this series, feeling sympathy for the “rich” instead of facing Mount Kenya.
  • I am almost certain that episode 7 of Brideshead Revisited, “The Unseen Hook,” was censored in United States—or at least on KCET. The Monty Python joke would be to call it “the continental version.” I can’t remember seeing an episode with so many people with strong African features in it. This episode, by the way, staged the return of Anthony Blanche after a noticeable absence.
  • Anthony BlancheThe comical character Anthony Blanche in Brideshead Revisited represents the archetype of the talented, flaming, colored gay dude. This type is the most elite of the “colored” outsiders and represents (to me) the highest heights of the destination Negro integration promises. To me, every Negro integrationist family ultimately produces some form—male or female—of Anthony Blanche. To me, there is more Evelyn Waugh humor in his naming this dusky “ethnic” character Blanche. Were it somehow possible for James Baldwin to have had a son, he would well be on the way to the heights of Anthony Blanche, soaring through the editor spot at VIBE magazine. This Anthony Blanche stands in my way when he cock-blocks me from financial and business opportunities by using racism and the fear of sexism to his advantage. In view of all of his suffering from discrimination and harassment, Anthony Blanche still fits well within the political comfort zone of the imperial authority figures. You see, Anthony needs them—he still needs someone to sleep with—while me here in the rasx() context, me needs to get over them or around them—like a tree planted by the rivers of water leaning toward the light and scattering little seeds. This Anthony Blanche consoles himself with the delicious possibility that he is envied or hated by Black, country rubes like me when he is simply a design flaw in what he would surely call “the machine” that produces new generations of humans. Imperial people don’t have to “worry” about procreation—they live with the explicit/implicit assumption that they can steal children from other “less fortunate” women and “save” them in some missionary position. There is good money in savages.