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Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Plucky Island Parochialism Fights Bush, er, Boche

Scott of the Daily Ablution regularly throws himself onto live grenades, reading the Guardian and the Independent so we don't have to. He has noticed an annoying trend in the Arts and Entertainment sections of the British media: no article is complete without a gratuitous swipe at America, Americans, American culture, or (this is the jackpot) George Bush. As examples, he offers this sighting of a story by Rupert Smith, about a giant hog:

But that's not to say that "Hogzilla" didn't have a point. It just wasn't the one producers intended. In its own little way, "Hogzilla" was a satire on America's culture of violence, dishonesty, stupidity and greed. The bad man no sooner saw Hogzilla than he longed to kill him. This he did with a bloody great gun, which would have brought down a dinosaur, let alone a big 'peeyug', as he put it. The farmers and ranchers were all, apparently, terrified of being invaded by organised groups of super-intelligent peeyugs, who may or may not have been linked to radical terrorist groups. 'Ah'd lahk to drop a nooclear bomb on 'em,' said one gentleman, unsurprisingly from Texas. The media-guzzling public were wilfully gulled by a photograph of a good ol' boy and his degraded victim.

In the comments to Scott's post, arlye rightly notes that should be "nucular", not "nooclear", for pity's sake.

Today Scott has another example, from a Mark Lawson article on Harold Pinter's Nobel Prize, which touches on English -- yes, English -- national pride as divined from the new Wallace and Gromit movie, The Curse of the Were-Rabbit:

The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, while it has the defence of being a Plasticine fantasy, is also guilty of sentimentalising and simplifying England; but unexpectedly this vision no longer feels like the concoction of a 'heritage' country for export but as a heroic refusal to bend to American expectation. In a culture enraged by US arrogance and expansionism, parochialism becomes a form of radicalism and resistance.

This new fashionability - indeed even political correctness - of militant Englishness is a consequence of the Iraq war...

Would that it were! Then we might see some ass kicked (see below).

With all modesty, I must point out that I've noticed this trend before, writing about it (in passing) here. In that post I report on "Oscar-winning animator" Bob "Who?" Godfrey's pronouncement about Aardman Animation (makers of Wallace and Gromit):

[Godfrey] is equally blunt about Aardman's five-film deal (or "Faustian pact" as he calls it) with DreamWorks. "In this country, we have a Rolls-Royce mentality. In America, they have a Model T Ford mentality...

(That's a quote from a Guardian article.)

Well, looky here! The movie whose defiant parochialism gives Mark Lawson such a warm spurt of English pride is part of that Faustian pact with DreamWorks, imperialist churners-out of mass-produced dreck for the lumpenproletariat. Huh.

This sort of thing was very common in the pages of the Sydney Morning Herald. The cheeky "What's on TV Today?" section typically would have an entry something like this fake-but-accurate offering:
"The Agony of Africa (It's All Your Fault)" (SBS, 7 pm) tells the story of a fish dying on a Gambian beach, almost within reach of a starving child. The film cuts rapidly between the fish and the child as they eye each other in their last moments, filling the spaces in between with newsreel footage of the Vietnam War, the Watts Riots, Hiroshima, the Battle of the Little Big Horn, etc. In the end, seagulls swoop down to pluck out their eyes. While the production is grim and uncompromising, difficult to watch, it is infinitely more rewarding than the kind of mass-produced American rubbish available on the commercial channels."

After years of this nonsense, I've decided that I can't beat 'em, so I'm joining 'em. I shall take a single episode of a British television show and extract a world of unflattering meaning from it, while smugly congratulating my culture for its superiority, preening at my perspicacity, and balancing a red rubber ball on my nose. You'll have to take my word for the last, of course.

The other day I saw an episode of the BBC/WGBH series Foyle's War, about an English police detective during WWII. The series is several years old now, but this was the first episode ("The French Drop", by the way) I'd seen.

Foyle must investigate a dodgy-seeming suicide which leads him to a school for "dirty tricks" and a turf war between competing intelligence agencies. In the end, Foyle delivers an impassioned (well, for an Englishman), inappropriate tirade against the saboteur-school. They teach people hand-to-hand combat! And psychology! And blowing stuff up!

Now, his wrath might've been understandable if they'd assassinated a recalcitrant Cabinet minister (even a German one) during the show. Then he could wax eloquent on the subject of whether resorting to dirty tricks, even in desperation, knocks your cause from its moral high ground, and puts you on the same plane as your enemy.

But the episode (obliquely) makes this argument even though the greatest crimes committed by the organization were 1) defiling a corpse, and 2) lying to police. And the latter wouldn't have occurred if someone in authority had quashed the investigation in the beginning, as should have been done.

In short, the British can no longer abide the thought of even the most minor crimes in the pursuit of victory, even in the "Good War", even against the Nazis. Emptying a single grave puts you on the level of those who fill mass graves. I turned to Niles. "The British have become pussies," I said, resorting to unusually crude language in my indignation. "They're doomed. You're not going back."

Maybe the feisty parochialism of the Were-Rabbit will save them.