“It has been my privilege to see the very best of England over the years, sir, within these very walls.” ––Stevens
We all know The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro as a poignant narrative about a butler’s grief and identity crisis in post-WWII Britain. But for what it’s worth, the theme of talking about your late employer in the gayest way possible is as prominent as any.
You see, Lord Darlington has been dead for three years, and Stevens (bless him) seems to talk of nothing but how proud he is to have served him. Even as he’s highkey vilified in death for his questionable-to-bad wartime choices, Stevens hails him as a professional gentlemanly icon. And he’s rather gay about it. Let’s see:
“Lord Darlington called me into his study, and I could see at once that he was in a state of some agitation. He seated himself at his desk and, as usual, resorted to holding open a book … turning a page to and fro.
‘Oh, Stevens,’ he began with a false air of nonchalance, but then seemed at a loss how to continue. I remained standing there ready to relieve his discomfort at the first opportunity.”
Okay, what the hell? Darlington, too strained to make eye contact, fingering pages in a book, pretending not to care, starting a sentence and then trailing off into the middle distance. He’s your butler, for Christ’s sake. Were this a purely professional interaction, it would probably leave out the tension and flitting eyelashes and “false nonchalance.” God. Next.
“I myself moved quite rapidly from employer to employer during my early career– being aware that these situations were incapable of bringing me lasting satisfaction– before being rewarded at last with the opportunity to serve Lord Darlington.”
Talk about lasting satisfaction, am I right, Stevens? What must it be like to think nothing of your various employers until you finally have the opportunity to serve someone of such a caliber as Lord Darlington. It seems you’ve really found something special there.
“A great deal of nonsense has been spoken and written in recent years concerning his lordship … and some utterly ignorant reports have had it that he was motivated by egotism or else arrogance. Let me say here that nothing could be further from the truth. It was completely contrary to Lord Darlington’s natural tendencies to take such public stances as he came to do … I can declare that he was truly a good man at heart, a gentleman through and through, and one I am today proud to have given my best years of service to.”
Posthumously defending a public figure with whom you had a unique and close relationship? Check. A good man at heart, he was. Oh, and were you proud to give him your best years of service? You hadn’t mentioned it in a while.
Up next is a big one, so allow me to set the scene: Stevens has just left an encounter with Miss Kenton, who worked under Darlington with him and from whom he was long estranged. She’d gotten married, divorced… did her thing, lived her life. He sits desolate on a park bench, and when approached by a stranger, tells him about Darlington Hall:
“‘The fact is, of course,’ I said after a while, ‘I gave my best to Lord Darlington. I gave him the very best I had to give, and now – well – I find I do not have a great deal more left to give. … Goodness knows, I’ve tried and tried, but it’s no use. I’ve given what I had to give. I gave it all to Lord Darlington.'”
This is where said stranger offers him a hankie. It appears he’s become quite emotional over the whole ordeal. (The stranger offers comfort: “You must have been very attached to this Lord whatever. … I can see you were very attached to him, mate.”)
I’m not saying Darlington was a good person. I’m not even saying Stevens was a good person. My main point here is that given how homoerotic the entire story is, Emma Thompson did not need to be implied straight in the movie. She just didn’t.