Ray & Liz: Framing poverty, matriarchy and hypo-masculinity

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Richard Billingham’s Ray & Liz is an autobiographical insight into his tormented 1980s working-class upbringing in the West Midlands, United Kingdom. The on-screen representations and relationships between the family are crucial to a dialogue surrounding how the silver screen continues to frame UK working-class life. The autobiographical narrative reinforces many of the brutal truths regarding poverty amongst the working classes during Thatcher’s Britain, but Ray & Liz also offers much more. This article will examine the ways in which the film de-centralizes a patriarchal perspective positioning Liz as the looming matriarchal figure, whilst also looking at how Ray & Liz questions the ability of any one in this world to change their own destiny within the landscape they find themselves. Key readings of the film offered in this article consider its relationship with not only motherhood on-screen but also how complex understandings of masculinity underpin the debates that Ray & Liz offers its audience. Secondly, the article will look critically at the poetry that Billingham brings to the cinematic language and how the lens, sound and overall space echoes his talents as a master photographer. Through his images of family life, he brings us a punishing yet beautiful on-screen commentary that is full of complexity and important observations regarding working-class issues, matriarchy, motherhood and masculinity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167-174
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Class & Culture
Issue numberPart 1
Early online date18 Jan 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Jan 2024


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