"most Americans have a profound need to be spanked by someone with a British accent"

In this week's Philadelphia Weekly, I stumbled onto a review of a pair of little plastic unicorns:

Cold War Unicorns

Admit it: The Cold War years were great. Bowie made his best records in West Berlin. Rocky kicked Dolph Lundgren's ass. And Osama bin Laden was still our plucky friend, ripping the Soviets a new one in Afghanistan. Best of all, the toys were unbelievable: spy gadgets, stealth bombers, silent submarines, galactic shit-tons of deadly accurate nuclear hellfire rocketry and the greatest toy of all: the Star Wars missile defense system. So what better way to reminisce about superpower conflict and the sphincter-tightening terror of mutually assured atomic geno-suicide than with the Cold War Unicorns Play Set? "Commie" and "Freedom" are two cute little feudin' horni-corns, decaled with Soviet and U.S. emblems. Sold by McPhee.com for a Cold War-tastic $9.95 a pair, these dolls are great for withdrawing from our terrifying post-9/11 world and battling over simpler questions, like: Which country has the best ice hockey team? Or the coolest fighter jets? Like My Little Ponies for people who read the National Review, Cold War Unicorns take American culture back to what it does best: cartoonish metaphors for why we rule and everyone else sucks. You heard it here first. Celebrating American exceptionalism through mythical beast dolls is the next big thing. One day when all this Al Qaeda nonsense blows over, your grandchildren will be begging for War on Terror Griffins. (Tom Cowell)

The unicorns are available for sale here, and they look like this:


As to the "Al Qaeda nonsense," I guess the writer thinks that in time it will also become a "cartoonish metaphor for why we rule and everyone else sucks," because it's all about American exceptionalism. Maybe someone can sell little plastic models of the Twin Towers being rammed by Al Qaeda unicorns with "CIA" emblazoned on the side. Yuk yuk!

The reference to Osama bin Laden as "our plucky friend" also intrigued me, as the idea that he was working for the US or trained by the CIA has been exposed as an urban legend by Peter Bergen of CNN:

The story about bin Laden and the CIA -- that the CIA funded bin Laden or trained bin Laden -- is simply a folk myth. There's no evidence of this. In fact, there are very few things that bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and the U.S. government agree on. They all agree that they didn't have a relationship in the 1980s. And they wouldn't have needed to. Bin Laden had his own money, he was anti-American and he was operating secretly and independently.

The real story here is the CIA didn't really have a clue about who this guy was until 1996 when they set up a unit to really start tracking him.

Yeah, but Philadelphia Weekly says he was our plucky friend!

(So much for the right wing CNN, I guess.)

Well, even if I don't agree with his political philosophy, this PW writer at least has a sense of humor. And if Americans in general are into exceptionalism, in Philadelphia, this exceptionalism manifests itself as a desire to be zombies:

At the very top of Chestnut Hill we find government administration graduate student Tom Cowell hunkered over a pile of books in the Borders cafe.

"Philadelphia is without a doubt the zombie-est town I've ever lived in. Oh god, yes," says Cowell. "Why are there so many zombie movies? Well, Shakespeare said we must hold up a mirror up to ourselves, so obviously we like seeing ourselves as slack-jawed, inoculated-against-logic morons. We're revolting against the happy ending. All anybody ever does in the end is die and get eaten. That's it. That's the essential truth told by zombie movies. Everything else is just your mother stroking your hair and telling you everything's going to be all right."

I guess it must really suck to have to go to school surrounded by a bunch of "slack-jawed, inoculated-against-logic morons," but I'm wondering... Does Cowell thinks the whole country is that way too, or just Philadelphia?

He seems to be fond of using the word "we" in a sort of self-deprecatory manner, as if he's scolding himself along with the rest of his fellow morons, and I can only conclude that he must truly hate Philadelphia. It must have been like slumming to have to go to graduate school here, and although he seems to have attended a pretty nice program at UPenn's Fels Institute of Government:

Tom Cowell, from London (UK), graduated from St Peter's College, Oxford in 2002 with a degree in English Language and Literature. After his undergraduate studies, Tom spent a year teaching English in Japan's Toyama Prefecture as a member of the JET (Japanese Exchange and Teaching) Program. He taught at an Agricultural High School in Nyuzen-machi. Returning to England, Tom worked in the offices of two British members of Parliament: Geraint Davies MP and Harry Cohen MP. His duties all involved meeting the needs of inner-city London constituents, the most pressing of which were assistance with immigration and housing concerns. Tom is a Thouron Scholar and a member of the British Labour Party.
What I want to know is why does he use the "we" word in such a way as to imply he's an American? Osama is "our plucky friend." "We rule and everyone else sucks." If I went to England to go to school, no mattter how much I hated it I don't think I'd use the first person plural like that when describing the country. People might get confused.

On the other hand, Cowell worked on the policy team of mayoral candidate Chaka Fattah's campaign, so I guess he takes American politics seriously. Who knows? He might be planning to take up citizenship here, and maybe he already has. If so, then that would give him the right to be as free with the "we" word as any other American political activist.

Still, there's this gem reprinted from the Guardian which refers to him as "an Englishman exiled in Philadelphia" who conflates our "founding myth" with a need to be spanked:

Cultural commentator Tom Cowell [no relation], an Englishman exiled in Philadelphia, says, " I don't know how many times a listener has glazed over, daydreaming about Olde English castles and fairies. It's like a drug."

But Cowell reckons that the rise of US reality TV's English mafia has a more primal cause than simple anglo-philia. He points to the success of Supernanny in which Jo Frost and her Thames estuary accent inflicts brutal zero-tolerance discipline on middle-class American children. "It's Mary Poppins revisited. All these characters are judging and punishing Americans, and Americans love it. They're desperate for approval from an imagined cultural parent figure."

As evidence, he refers to a review of So You Think You Can Dance in Entertainment Weekly where the writer called the judges "Redcoats" and imagined a contestant wailing: "Ruin me, Nigel! Govern me! Tax my stamps!"

"It's beyond Freudian, it's the American founding myth - the rebellious child who needs to be punished. Deep down - actually, maybe not that deep - most Americans have a profound need to be spanked by someone with a British accent".

I'm just guessing, but I'll just betcha he considers himself precisely the man to minister to our profound need!

Well, I shouldn't have said "our," because it's not mine, even if an Englishman exiled in my city thinks it is. However, even though I'm not into that kind of stuff, I do think it's really cool that Americans with a fetish for being spanked by traditional British nannies can have their profound needs met. Anything you can think of, someone's into it.

But not everyone.

Some impudent colonists over here think the British nanny state has gotten so out of control lately that they're even talking about a "return to tar and feathers."

I'm sure there's a nice cartoonish metaphor in there somewhere.

Maybe even little plastic toys for the grandkids.

posted by Eric on 06.09.07 at 04:57 PM


I'm Shocked the ACLU didn't get in the act with a charge of unicorn bias! Cartoon?
British nanny has an American boy on her lap and does some solid spanking while boy dials Dr. Phil on cellphone. Boy say, "Nanny is harming my self-assteem!"

Ted Wallace   ·  June 9, 2007 6:48 PM

Now this is one of those rare instances when Democrat racism will come in handy.
When the Fed finally gets it's arm twisted into border enforcement, the first people to get picked on by ICE, will be white illegal aliens (this will be trumpeted by the dinosaur media as the inevitable result of the public not thinking "right" about immigration).
Then this pom will get an American spanking all the way back to Limeyville, with a foot in his ass.

Papertiger   ·  June 10, 2007 6:54 PM

FWIW, Romero is from Pittsburgh and filmed most of his stuff (especially Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead) there. Maybe it is a Pennsylvania thing.

Phelps   ·  June 11, 2007 4:01 PM

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