Colin Firth just proved what I’ve always known: that there’s nothing more pointless and arbitrary than ‘nationality’

The country is outraged that Colin Firth has abandoned us to become Italian, but we could all take a lesson from his pragmatic attitude and realise that nationality is meaningless except when it comes to travelling without a visa

Rae Bathgate
Sunday 24 September 2017 19:32
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Through his onscreen personas, Colin Firth has taught us a lot about Christmas, and love, and the appreciation of debilitating social anxiety
Through his onscreen personas, Colin Firth has taught us a lot about Christmas, and love, and the appreciation of debilitating social anxiety

Saying that nationality means nothing is a bit like declaring oneself not racist by virtue of being colourblind. People are of course affected in very real ways by where they can – and can’t – live, and citizenship being given, revoked, obtained or renounced can exemplify both bravery and injustice.

This is, however, not the case when talking about Colin Firth. Instead, the actor’s newly acquired Italian passport serves as a reminder that sometimes, dual citizenship doesn’t – and indeed shouldn’t – mean anything at all.

The subject of sweeping, breathless media coverage, Firth’s newly obtained Italian citizenship is a direct result of Brexit. Indeed, thanks to its perfect timing following Theresa May’s speech in Florence, it serves as a poignant reminder of European connectedness.

Through his onscreen personas, Colin Firth has taught us a lot about Christmas, and love, and the appreciation of debilitating social anxiety. To be fair, the actor made sure to clarify that Britain is his home, that he and his family still love it, and that he himself will remain “extremely British”. All one has to do to believe this, he added, is look at and listen to him, presumably because Colin Firth will never not look like Mr Darcy.

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Still, he speaks Italian, and quite well at that. He married his Italian wife in Italy 20 years ago, whose name, Livia Giuggioli, recalls one of the most untranslatable expressions the Italian language has to offer. Their two children have Italian names, too, as well as dual citizenship. It’s also fairly safe to assume they’re bilingual (if not more). Italy itself promotes a flexible type of nationality, as a tiny, diverse, young country that has been the jumping-off point for wave after wave of emigration.

It’s not easy to write an article about the unimportance of something and not discount one’s own work. Yet, it seems to be necessary, due to the myriad articles all quoting Colin Firth and his wife previously not caring about their different passports at all. If you have the luxury to move abroad without a visa, you’ll see this attitude isn’t at all uncommon.

Every year, I take a plane from my home in Spain to Italy, using my American passport. There, I spend Christmas with my French boyfriend, my Scottish father, my Scottish-Italian sister, and her Spanish-Basque boyfriend.

Coincidentally, a sibling-holiday tradition always involves watching either Bridget Jones’ Diary or Love, Actually. Yet, this is the first I’ve heard of Mr Darcy’s professed love for Italy.

While this obviously shows a glaring lack of pop culture knowledge, it also means that Colin Firth is in no danger of becoming an Italian nationalist either.

In fact, in an interview with film critic Giovanni Bogani, Firth said that he knows Italy “too well to romanticise it”. As Firth foregoes romanticising nationality in favour of pragmatism, it might be the most British thing he’s ever done.

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