Churchill immortalised the phrase the ‘special relationship’ in his 1946 ‘Sinews of Peace’ address. He was talking about the UK and the US. And when we think of America and Britain’s relationship, we think of the wars we’ve fought together and the diplomatic camaraderie we’ve shared over the past hundred years. We think of Iraq and Afghanistan. We think of Reagan and Thatcher waxing lyrical over the phone. But there’s something else that’s special about our relationship, and that’s Britain’s fascination with American culture.
I’ve spent my whole life watching America. We all have. Our social media accounts are full of American news, of American celebrities immodestly accepting awards, of American problems and American ideals. Why do we care so much? What is it about the place that we can’t get enough of? I’ve never been to America, but I know more about it than any other country besides my own.
American culture is administered via media-led gavage from birth. Like many children, I was indoctrinated into American culture from an early age in the form of television. Most of the shows that helped shape my squishy little brain came from across the pond: Bear in the Big Blue House, Ben 10, Hannah Montana, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, Rolie Polie Olie (Michael Cera’s best role). America does TV better. CBBC could scarcely compete with a show like The Simpsons. I learnt more about the ethics of modern life from Homer Simpson than I did from Basil Brush. I’m not alone; The Simpsons is still the fifth most popular contemporary TV show in the UK as of 2023 – it’s also the 14th most popular TV show of all time in the UK.
And American movies were even more influential.