But unlike politics, culture is immersive for everyone. In politics there are more or less two separate teams. But where culture is concerned, like it or not, we are all peeing into the same bathwater. So I think there is a lot to be learned by looking at your culture from the outside if you can. The problem there is that you kind of have to leave it, to see it.
As a virtual approximation toward that end, I’ve been watching the made for Netflix series Paranoid. It’s a British detective drama that I was first attracted to because the star is Indira Vandi, the actress who played Niobe, the wife of Lucius Vorenus in the HBO series Rome. There are a few other cast rollovers as well - the kind of actors who I think do well in the UK, but don’t bother much with the American market so they aren’t immediately recognizable here.
A UK based cop-drama provides a more interesting window into some of the cultural differences between the US and the UK than you would expect. But since we’re only divided by a common language, it’s all things you have to absorb between the lines. As a simplistic example, Police procedure is very different there than here. The UK police are mostly disarmed, and only special squads carry any weapons at all, so it tends to fall into the shootem-up formula a little less reliably than the US equivalent. But there is a multitude of other differences illuminated if you know how to pay attention.
For instance, they seem to me to have great writing in the UK right now compared to the US. I suppose it’s possible that their entertainment is as formulaic as our is, and it’s just a different formula. But to American eyes it’s precisely the kind of ‘outside in’ look at things that I described above.
They seem to utterly lack the American compulsion to underline our collective guilt as the “white heterosexual male oppressor of all that is good and just”. There are no obligatory female experts in hand to hand combat or black PHD/concert cellists. I think they give their audience a bit more credit than we. And although I believe the UK is even more enraptured to political correctness than we are, it manifests in their formula in comparatively interesting ways.
Without putting to fine a point on it, in America we live in a society where all the street crime looks the same, both in real life, and in most cases on TV. It’s always drug addicted descendants of West African slaves, with semi-illiterate 1968-ish 'black power' names grafted onto the front to protest against “the man”.
When you meet angry 30 something Jamal Washington on the urban basketball court or his erratic brother Dazhawn sitting homeless next to a dumpster on a US TV series, you know exactly who he’s supposed to be. The archetype has more recently been given a ‘heart of gold’ to soften him up for the American viewing audience and to raise his status in 'victim culture', but the expectation is already hard wired for the TV viewer.
But the brits live in a country where the street crime is more of a mix between eastern European whites, blacks, and middle easterners. The effect of this is that to American eyes, the victims and heroes are somewhat less cartoon like and visibly predictable than ours.
It’s interesting to see the british white heroine addict commiserating with his mostly white criminal friends. That isn’t close enough to reality in America for anyone to believe it, and social justice Hollywood generally doesn’t have the cojones to try it. If they did, then I’m certain all the homeless will be poorly dressed but healthy looking down on their luck fashion models. Even our TV hookers are all emotionally well adjusted, with perfect skin and hair. In the UK they apparently don’t need everyone to have quite so much sex appeal, and the effect is that the heroes and victims both take on a slightly more realistic patina.
Their villains are all the same rich white businessmen and corrupt politicians that ours are, but they don’t universally look quite the way an American has been trained by Hollywood to expect. We immediately know, for instance, that anyone with a British accent is automatically a super-villain with countless gun toting minions. Meanwhile their formulaic villainous equivalents in Britain are either in the House of Lords, American, or German - in some cases all three. Such is the power of “ingroup-outgroup “ preferences I guess.
That further British immersion in political correctness provides some other interesting plot issues as well. I think because it’s already so utterly emasculated the typical British man that the women no longer see the need to incessantly make the argument for their equality, and are therefore unafraid to be more realistic with it.
For instance, the Heroine in this particular series is a mildly emotionally unstable 38 year old woman whose primary source of distress is the fact that she’s single and childless, and her reproductive window is slamming shut fast. In real life this woman is a staple of the coastal cities, there are about a million of them in Manhattan alone, and they are all unprepared to cope with it in the same sorts of ways. But as a culture, we don’t have the guts to put them on TV in America yet. We prefer the ridiculously attractive 22 year old bikini model turned FBI pathologist with a superpower like mindreading or the ability to time travel.
My thinking is that American Feminists are afraid to put a woman like that on TV because they are afraid it will weaken their position. If women young enough to do something about it start realizing that the path of the “strong independent woman” more often than not leads to the “lonely middle aged cat lady”, then what use will they have for Feminism? A small minority of American men are still pushing back on Feminism, so the feminists still leave the cultural ramparts under constant and heavy guard. But because Britain sees this as a battle that’s already been won as a matter of law (there are people in jail there for ‘hate speech’), there is no need for them to be so diligent about it.
British Netflix has tried its hand with the “strong independent woman” cop drama before with a series called “The Fall”, but to American eyes it’s an unwatchable amalgam of misandry, both overt and sublimated. The only emotionally stable person in that entire series was the mildly sex addicted, single 40 something woman, and the men in the series are either psychotic rapists and killers, or are so weak they can’t get through their morning coffee without bursting into tears. It comes off as a blue haired Feminist’s delusion put to film, where you basically take the way things work in real life and reverse all the genders of all the roles. But in Paranoid, they seem to get it closer to correct. It strikes me as tragically funny that a more devastated culture actually leads to better and less defensive entertainment, but that’s the way the civilization crumbles I guess.
In Paranoid, the female lead spends her time equally divided between bursting into tears, and getting furiously angry. Her job is something she does in the moments in between worrying about her real priority, which is herself. Her loser boyfriend just dumped her (which is his only recognizable alpha trait) and she’s screwing around with the handsome 20 something co-worker. She’s all “me, me, me, me, me, me me, but enough about me… what do you think of me…. Oh look, a bad guy!” Replace "Oh look a bad guy" with any other job related task, and that description reads as a chillingly accurate example of life as a coastal, urbane, thirty something feminist.
With that said, I’ve long thought that criminal interrogator would be a job that women would really excel in, if they could quit thinking about themselves long enough. They are at their core consummate liars compared to all but the best of lying men, and are therefore more likely to detect lies in others. They are exceptionally well tuned to read the emotional state of others as well, and both these traits would be important career boosts to the woman who could simply detach her own emotions long enough to get through a criminal interview.
And sure enough, the heroine in Paranoid has exactly those skills and exactly that problem with them. She blows up at a perfectly innocent witness for flirtatiously flashing her perky tits at her boy-toy coworker, is too empathetic to the suffering father to properly interrogate him, and is too self-absorbed to ever bother to explain why to her boss and coworkers. But put her in the room with someone who is actually guilty of something, and she notices all the tiny body language and details of dress and environment that inevitably give them away.
Her male coworkers spend the series sweeping up around the edges for her, while coping with their own overly dramatic backstories. It’s still TV after all, so I suppose you have to expect that. But the overall result is something that any red pill man would recognize as being much close to the way real life works than anything done in America. That makes me think well of the people who wrote it.
The Directors in Britain are very different as well. Important plot points are exposed in silent visual images that you really need to be paying close attention to see, and then they’re never revisited. Multitasking is not an option if you expect to keep up with the byzantine plot lines. I can’t say if this is better or worse exactly, but it’s more subtle. Hollywood is happy to hammer you over the head, particularly on TV, and I guess I’m a bit conditioned to that. Maybe the Brits have fewer immediate distractions.
Still, I find the whole thing very gratifying viewing. It’s complex, well acted, and the characters are drawn in a way to make them all likeable in spite of their flaws. Shakespeare it ain’t, but it’s a lot close to that tradition than “Batman meets Ironman”, or “Southbeach CSI” or whatever. It’s comparatively realistic people thrown into admittedly unlikely scenarios for drama’s sake. I can live with that.
And it’s actually a little heartening, especially in light of an oncoming Trump presidency. Trump has no apologies for Feminists. If his cabinet ends up all male his only response to the media onslaught will be, I picked the best people for the job”. Blue haired heads will certainly explode and white knights are already puffing themselves up in anger at the whole thing. In my mind I'm already enjoying the insultingly dismissive way I brush them off at the bar or water cooler.
And I read something the other day that said that 2/3 of young American women have no interest in Feminism or it’s dogmas, and would rather be wives and mothers. In light of the gender collapse of Britain this is REAL cause for joy. If that means another decade or so of plucky female tibetan-buddhist journalist/bikini models who kick the hell out of special forces soldiers in between medical school classes and yoga lessons, I think that’s something I can live with. At least the new iteration of Top Gear is finally on the air.