Peaky Blinders has been accused of glorifying violence, nationalist ideologies and toxic masculinity, in a new paper by an academic.
Telling the tale of the Shelby family, the series focusses on Tommy Shelby and his brothers who build an empire of crime after returning from World War One. However, the Journal of Popular Television have just published a paper called “The King’s shilling”: How Peaky Blinders uses the experience of war to justify and celebrate toxic masculinity.
The work argues that many viewers may be overlooking how the series glamorises male brutality and excuses their cruelty by presenting them as victims of war.
“It utilises nostalgia for nationalism, enacted within displays of extreme aggression as well as promoting regressive masculine ideals, specifically British ‘lad culture’,” said George S Larke-Walsh, of the University of North Texas. “In the current sociopolitical environment, and associated concerns about the prevalence of toxic masculinity, such presentations no longer feel safely confined to fantasy.”
While confessing to be a fan of the show, Larke-Walsh also told The Times that the show used “a mask of ethnicity” with the family’s Gypsy origins to disguise their behaviour, and that images of attractive men at work are used adversely because it is “a feature of regressive masculinity that homosexuality must be denied.”
However, Peaky Blinders’ creators defended the show – arguing that the ideas are presented to be challenging, provocative and create a dialogue.
“The story of Peaky Blinders invites viewers to consider the effect of violence on men, and the terrible and long-lasting consequences — on both men and women — of gang violence, poverty, and most of all armed conflict,” a spokesperson said.
“The series also discusses the role played by the Establishment in relation to the above.”
Post-production work is currently being completed on Peaky Blinders series 5 – which is due to hit screens later this year.
The next season finds the family in the midst of the 1929 financial crash, as Tommy Shelby wanders the corridors of power in Parliament amid the rise of fascism.