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Elegan Bangsawan: Why Malaysians Should Watch Netflix's "The Gentlemen"

From "Keturunan Mulia" to London Underworld: "The Gentlemen" Channels Malaysian Aristocratic Lineage.

By Raja Izz

(Credit: Netflix)

Looking for a show that blends refinement with ruthlessness, a touch of "keturunan Raja / bangsawan" (royal / noble lineage) with the thrill of the underground? Look no further than Netflix's "The Gentlemen". While the series isn't set in Malaysia, it offers a captivating exploration of themes that resonate with Malaysian culture – the importance of family, respect for elders, and a certain well-mannered swagger.

Theo James starred as the Duke of Halstead (Photo courtesy of Netflix)

Netflix‘s new Guy Ritchie series The Gentlemen may sound like a remake, but it’s set in the same universe as the director’s 2019 film of the same name. The Gentlemen sees Eddie Horniman (Theo James) unexpectedly inherit his father’s sizable country estate – only to discover it’s part of a clandestine cannabis empire. Moreover, many unsavory characters from Britain’s criminal underworld want a piece of the operation. Determined to extricate his family from their clutches, Eddie tries to play the gangsters at their own game. However, as he gets sucked into the world of criminality, he begins to find a taste for it.

Malaysian audiences, particularly those with an appreciation for sophistication, will find themselves drawn to the show's portrayal of class. The series delves into the world of the British aristocracy, a world that resonates with Malaysia's own history of nine royal families and a deep respect for tradition. We see this in the character of Eddie (played by Theo James), the Duke of Halstead, who inherits a vast estate – but with a hidden and rather lucrative cannabis operation running beneath the surface. This clash between old-world nobility and the gritty realities of the criminal underworld is both entertaining and thought-provoking.

But "The Gentlemen" isn't just about fancy titles and sprawling estates. Just like in Malaysian culture, where hereditary nobility titles and a sense of "hormat" (respect) are deeply ingrained, the show's gangsters operate with a surprising code of conduct. This concept might resonate with the Malaysian idea of "jaga tepi" (looking after one another), even amidst competition. The show explores the consequences of breaking these codes, highlighting the importance of keeping one's word and respecting boundaries, even in a world without legal constraints. On top of that, loyalty, respect for elders, and a certain level of civility are all surprisingly present, even amidst the violence and double-crossing. This creates a fascinating tension, where viewers are drawn into the world of these criminals, even as they disapprove of their actions.

Giancarlo Esposito ever suave as Esquire Stanley Johnston in "The Gentlemen"(Photo courtesy of Netflix)

And then there is a World of "Old Money". The series takes viewers on a whirlwind tour of London's elite circles, contrasting them with the gritty underbelly of the criminal world. This juxtaposition is a familiar theme in Malaysian life, where the royals and nobles palaces exist side-by-side with traditional kampongs and bustling street markets, such as in Seri Menanti, Negeri Sembilan or in Kuala Kangsar, Perak.

Last but not least, The Gentlemen showcassed the "Old Money" Core Values: Family and Legacy. Family is central to Malaysian society, and "The Gentlemen" portrays the importance of family lineage and legacy. The characters fiercely protect their families and fight to preserve their standing, mirroring the emphasis on family name and heritage in Malay culture.

So, if you're looking for a show that offers a unique blend of elegance, wit, and thrilling underworld action, then "The Gentlemen" is a must-watch for Malaysians. It's a show that will have you questioning your notions of class, appreciating the burden of a family lineage, and all the while, thoroughly entertained. Just remember, while the characters may operate with a certain sense of style, their world is far from the refined setting of a traditional Malaysian tea ceremony – but it's no less captivating for that.

THE GENTLEMEN launches on 7th March 2024 with 8 x episodes.

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