Filmhounds Magazine

All things film – In print and online

Ten Years On, Pride Remains As Relevant As Ever

5 min read
Pride 2014

Image: © StudioCanal

As the French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr once said, “the more things change, the more they stay the same” (although he admittedly said it in French). It's a phrase that has never been more true. Looking at the news over the past few months, it's really been a lazy waiter of three or four news stories: an increase in poverty for those in the UK, people whining about transgender and non-binary people, rail workers going on strike, and unjust conflicts. The unions striking, the causes of poverty, the + minority and the conflicts have changed, but the basic fundamentals haven't since 1984. 

It's also little shock, given the French love a strike, that the 2014 fact-based comedy-drama would win the Queer Palm; their annual award for the best LGBT-focussed film. Directed by Matthew Warchus, Pride follows the story of Mark Ashton (Ben Schnetzer), a gay political activist who began LGSM — Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners. His reasoning is a simple one — the LGBT+ community and the striking Miners have a common enemy; the collective forces of an apathetic public, a corrupt media system, a hard-nosed Prime Minister, and a systematically oppressive police force. 

Despite its comedic touches, Pride doesn't shy away from showing the dark edges of this period of time. The Miners who were on strike, their families and their communities, faced harassment from the police under orders from the Government. Without work, they suffered from a lack of money. The scarcity of food is shown in tough but simple ways; a group meeting held for the Miners is catered by buttered bread with no filling, the luxury of which the Welsh town Onllwyn simply cannot afford. In one moment, outspoken thespian Jonathan (Dominic West) educates the Miners on their civil rights in the face of police, showing that the police are counting on the working-class miners not to know the legal procedure they are constantly flouting.

Moreover, the film deals with the harsh realities of being gay in 1985. The ever-present threat of A.I.D.S., most easily shown by the famous advert with John Hurt and a large tombstone. The scene in which young (fictional) character Joe (George MacKay) watches it over Christmas only for a relative to call it “Arse Injected Death Sentence” shows the hatred and ignorance that was rife. West's Jonathan Blake, a real person, was one of the first men in the UK to be diagnosed with HIV, and at 75, is still alive, proving that when time is put in, treatment can be cured and the deaths from HIV and AIDS was allowed by callous governments.

But, what makes Pride so important ten years on, isn't just that it sheds light on a time and place where people were oppressed by their governments, it's a reminder that governments divide to conquer. Thatcher's retorts that the Miners are unreasonable is the same rhetoric people like Sunak or his ilk use for the striking nurses or train workers. The ever-present “what if a gay person gives you AIDS” is a stone's throw away from this mythical threat that every trans-woman is secretly a sexual pervert looking to assault people.

The cast of Pride walking on a countryside path.
Image: ©

Pride makes one thing very clear: more unites us than divides us. Even when faced with confusion and concern from the small mining town, Ashton and his crew see something very important — kindred souls, something local union and committee member Dai Donovan (Paddy Considine) understands. His speech in a gay bar stating “to find out you had a friend, you didn't know existed, that's the best feeling in the world” encapsulates a basic point for people. Together, there is little the bigger powers can do to stop us.

The film also makes the point that people we don't know often open our eyes. It's thanks to LGSM entering the town that union leader Cliff (Bill Nighy) has the strength to come to terms with his sexuality and in turn help Joe come to terms with his. It's in the struggle that housewife Siân James (Jessica Gunning) finds a voice she never knew she had, which would lead her to become the first woman to represent Swansea East as a Labour MP.

Even beyond the serious intentions of its history, the film shows that there is levity to be had in dark times. Older Welsh women discovering the joys of gay bars, gays discovering the joys of community, and most importantly the sight of Dominic West dancing on a table bemoaning how he misses disco. The film is a reminder that the working classes are not grey-scaled stories of strife and booze but are actually a rich culture of people who often surprise people.

It's in the film's climax that this is made even more clear when the Miners unions of the UK, in a massive show of solidarity, and as thanks, show up to a Pride March in London boosting numbers so much that LGSM have to lead the march and ultimately force the Government to reconsider its outdated views of homosexuality. The film's true joy is showing that when times are tough, people can come together despite their differences. That is what scares the powers that be. 

Ten years on from the film, and forty years on from the events, Pride remains as pertinent now as it did when it came out. As the government even now attempt to sow seeds of distrust between people who need financial help and people who just want to be accepted for who they are, we have to ask ourselves: do we accept this? Do we really buy into Rishi and co and their lies about a so-called “sick-note culture,” this idea that people on benefits are draining the system out of greed when most, if not all, need help. Do we buy into the lie that trans people are grooming our children into a cult or, just like in 1984, are people with agendas perhaps trying to cover up their own shortcomings by blaming someone else, by sowing seeds of division so that we destroy ourselves instead?

Pride, with its Cannes award and BAFTA nomination for Outstanding British Film, suggests that's not the case, and it will continue to not be the case. Or, as lyricist Ralph Chaplin said circa 1915, “solidarity forever, for the union makes us strong.”

Pride is available on Disney+.