‘It’s Spiritual Man’: Eddie the Eagle (2016) and English Amateurism.
The theme of amateurism has been persistent throughout the history of the British biopic, evidenced in films including Scott of the Antarctic (1948), The Magic Box (1951) and The Flying Scotsman (2006). Eddie the Eagle (2016), a film about ski-jumper Eddie ‘the Eagle’ Edwards and his preparation for the 1988 Winter Olympics where he finished 73rd out of 73 competitors, exemplifies how fascination with the amateur continues in contemporary biopic production. However, Eddie the Eagle represents the amateur ethos within a particularly unstable period for organised sports. The integrity of the Olympics and organised sports in general has been undermined by persistent corruption which centres on hosting rights, bribery, and the use of performance-enhancing drugs by competitors. This article traces the genealogy of the amateur in British biopics, before considering the wider context in which Eddie the Eagle was produced. It then employs textual analysis of key sequences to illuminate the film’s representation of amateurism and how it is constructed through oppositions: the value of amateurism against professionalism and the struggle of the outsider against the sporting Establishment. It suggests that Eddie the Eagle continues a theme at the heart of various British biopics, namely, the integrity of the amateur, the value of taking part and ‘doing one’s best’, at a time when the integrity of organised sport is increasingly under threat.
|Keywords||biopic; amateur; sport; Olympics; nostalgia; Eddie Edwards; Eddie the Eagle|
|Journal||Journal of British Cinema and Television|
|Journal citation||16 (2), p. 170–190.|
|Publisher||Edinburgh University Press|
|Digital Object Identifier (DOI)||https://doi.org/10.3366/jbctv.2019.0467|
|Web address (URL)||https://www.euppublishing.com/doi/10.3366/jbctv.2019.0467|
|Accepted author manuscript|
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|Publication process dates|
|Deposited||04 Aug 2022|
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