Today’s theme: entertainment. I’m including little snippets on film, television, music, and literature all in one. (Get a comfy sofa and a cup of tea and a package of biscuits.)
When I was a kid, my favorite TV programs were British exports (Danger Mouse, The Clangers, Bagpuss), as I’ve written about before (here: https://daleydowning.wordpress.com/2016/02/19/all-roads-of-inspiration-lead-back-to-britain/). Oh, I watched American stuff, too, but my preferred viewing was always English — period dramas (think Downton Abbey), Masterpiece Mystery!, adaptations of Jane Austen novels and Shakespeare. My heart definitely lies with the likes of Harry Potter, Doctor Who, the scenery from Highlander, The Secret Garden, Pride and Prejudice, and pretty much anything featuring Benedict Cumberbatch (because, hey, the eye candy doesn’t really get better than that).
Many of the American authors I read in my youth let me down; I was just bored by cliched plots and stereotyped characters and plots that I had figured out by page 50. Once I discovered Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, and Neil Gaiman, there was no going back (and I’m very happy to be a regular visitor to their fictional worlds). Even before I hit England’s shores and was introduced to such bands as All About Eve and Clannad, the greats of the past were always high on my radio-station-choosing-criteria — David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd.
Probably it comes as no surprise to most of us that British entertainers, performers, and writers are known around the world. After all, if you search the internet for many of the names found in blockbuster movie credits, or look up who’s responsible for most of the music hits in the past 50 years, or who’s on the bestseller list in fiction, you’ll see that Brits from all areas of England, Scotland, Wales — and the lovely Irish, too — are world famous. And the British Empire’s former colonies in Australia and New Zealand have now produced rich centers of culture and talent with their own flair and fame.
As someone with a lot of Anglo-Saxon heritage, I take great pride in coming from one of the most influential places on the planet. Yes, it was several generations ago (my ancestors came to “the colonies” even before the Revolution), but the lineage is still there, and for my oldest son, who is genuinely half-American, half-English, it’s very strong.
It’s very interesting that both my kids (although the youngest has never set foot in the UK, and, really, has no idea what a country even is) are more into British/British-inspired entertainment than American. The toddler is not at all excited by Disney or Nickelodeon. But Thomas and Friends, he just eats up. And the original Bob the Builder — we can still get the DVDs (made and produced in England and exported with American voices dubbed in) from our local library — he loves that. And The Clangers are back (yay!) — programs that thrilled White Fang when he was a little guy, now Muffin enjoys them, too.
It turns out that even Warriors, which is one of White Fang’s favorites, is authored by the British, set in England, and the cats are, for all intents and purposes, Brits.
What is it about the Brits that creates such a prolific resume of creativity and leadership? For centuries, they’ve been enormously influential not just in the arts, but world cuisine, politics, scientific discoveries, architecture…
That’s right, I’m supposed to be discussing books and movies and plays…
And yet, I think I’ve just said it all.
So much of the entire world has been reached by the pens of Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie. By traditional Celtic ballads and hymns that are most at home on the Scottish Highlands and the sweeping Irish countryside. By performances of the Royal Ballet, at the Globe Theatre, or the Royal Albert Hall.
Fascination with legendary figures like King Arthur and Robin Hood lives on to this day. There’s something about bagpipes and haggis that many foreigners find so endearing. (For the record, I love haggis, and make no apologies for it.)
At home, and abroad, British culture has provided inspiration to millions and millions of people.
And we should be proud of it.