Although the stiff upper lip was a response to adversity, it has been confused with the strait-laced sexual attitudes of. In itself, the stiff upper lip has also been a subject of rich satire. Sexual repression British society inspired John Cleese’s Monty Python and Fawlty Towers, and to some extent, Hanif Kureish’s Buddha of Suburbia.
P.G.Wodehouse, the master of prose so admired by writers as far apart as Kipling, Waugh and Rushdie, devastatingly satirised the British upper classes; one of his novels was even titled Stiff Upper Lip.
All the same, as social mobility in Britain made headway, the model for social comportment remained the aristocracy, and the stiff upper lip confused with sexual repression is a derivative of the original trait.
As such, the British are commonly described as reserved and conservative, an opinion belied by overcrowded pubs bursting with conversation. As another indication of touching and feeling, even television programmes such as Strictly Come Dancing have been analysed by The Guardian as a national obsession with a people not known for “visual and physical literacy”.
It is significant that in the eighties and nineties Punch magazine, a British institution in restrained, understated humour and satire had to remain closed due to insufficient circulation. It was ironically revived by Mr Fayed, an Egyptian deemed unfit to buy Harrod’s and whose son Dodi, Lady Diana’s companion, died with her. The years in which Punch lay dormant, its rival, Private Eye, known for Benny Hill style humour, flourished!
The decline of Punch and the rise of Private Eye mirrors the weakening influence of upper class standards and a celebration of working class tastes.