The “Swinging London” video presents something of several worlds colliding, one of which is the world of the modern viewer taking it in. This aspect, in fact, is dominant, mainly because this examination of even a recent cultural shift seems virtually antiquated. Part of this impression lies in the film’s mode of presentation, which seems to be deliberately geared to shock and stun. The film has the quality of an “expose,” revealing the lurid and seamy reality of youthful corruption and aimlessness. Pop music of the 1960s plays in the background, and the narration dramatically draws attention to the colorful and bizarre fashions, the seeming carelessness of the London young people, and suggestions of lifestyles focused on pleasure. True to the style, sexual gratification is strongly hinted at, a factor all the more emphasized by the sensationalist approach.
Beneath all of these elements or presentation, however, the viewer attains a real sense of a culture undergoing something of a traumatic shift. This was certainly true of the hippie movement of the 1960s in the United States, but it seems that, for the English, the changes were more disturbing. This was, after all, a society rooted in many centuries of tradition and class systems; the sudden abandoning of these values by the young people, then, appears to have utterly confused the British culture. What is most interesting, however, is how the young people of the time expressed their dismissal of conformity through the adoption of antique British styles. It is as though the youth, unhappy with the present, delved into the past to make ironic commentary in Edwardian fashions and baroque styles of hair. This gives a sense of a culture turning itself inside out, and youth making statements of discontent in external forms. Equally important is that, at least in the video’s content, nothing overtly political or social is seen. “Swinging London,” it seems, was all about upsetting the social order in fun and topical ways, with a hint that the youth of that time was focused on pleasing itself.