Family Feud, and a Mild Conspiracy Theory

Behind me is a generation of Australians that believes that “British is Best” , where a Prime Minster quoted poetry about Queen Elisabeth II and where it was considered that our other great ally, the USA, was a hulking, whoring illiterate. Get hold of some old radio tapes, you’d swear it was the BBC.

Ahead of me there is a generation that believes that Britain is a fusty old maid and the USA is the be-all and end-all. They affect the clothes, the mannerisms, the speech – and here’s something I’d like to see capital punishment return to stamp out – even the spelling.

So, I sit in the middle. I can appreciate the difference. I understand that my favourite TV British shows will have 6 superb episodes; my favourite US ones with have 25 reasonably good ones. I know that I can turn to Britain for history and pageantry, I can turn to the US for un-self-conscious show biz and joyous entrepreneurship.

Sometimes, when your friends bicker, you feel like you have to take sides. both of them are feeling a bit down at the moment, having been hard hit by the GFC, so I don’t want to upset anyone.

As a sideline, the minute I get a ‘Here’s your ticket, come and talk to us about tea” offer in either country, then that one’s my favourite. My affection can indeed be bought.

So, what got me thinking about this? Well, I uncovered a mild conspiracy.

As background, have I noticed that there’s a tendancy amongst US crime shows for anyone with a British accent to be guilty, or at least dodgy. Even the slimy CIA agent on NCIS is English. It’s the new wave of bad guys; after the Russians (pre 1980), the South Africans (a la one each of Lethal Weapon, Die Hard) in the 80’s, the Arabs (1990’s still popular) and another spate of Russians plus other sundry Slavs a few years back.

Other than the remarkable Tim Roth, if you have a British accent on US TV, you’re a criminal. The exact accent determines the level of both evil and IQ.

Of course there are hundreds of Australians on US TV, but other than Jesse Spencer on House, they like to pretend to be Americans. Simon Baker, Portia di Rossi, Alex O’Laughlin etc. But I digress…

So, why are my two friends fighting? Perhaps it goes back to the Boston Tea Party.

Ah, the Boston Tea Party. One of the most misunderstood, misquoted, misused events of all time.

Here’s a quick question for my US friends:

The change to the tax regime that lead to the Boston Tea Party REDUCED the price of tea: TRUE or FALSE.

Of course, it’s true.

The sad thing is that the world’s greatest beverage got caught up in all this. And I’m not even going to mention the current “Tea Party” except to say they are unmentionable.

This leads inexorably to the promised MILD CONSPIRACY in the title of this blog.

I’ve been reading a great book by Sarah Rose – “For All the Tea in China”.  Excellent book with only one spelling mistake! (There I go again). I love the fact it is about one subject – Robert Fortune – but provides all the “before and after” you need for historical context.

So,  here’s my copy:

You can see “FOR ALL THE TEA IN CHINA” and the tagline ” Espionage, Empire and the secret formula to the world’s favourite drink.” This copy was sourced from the UK, hence the correct spelling.

I have noticed, however, how the US version looks.  It has a different tagline.

Specifically, it looks like this:

The tagline? “How England Stole the World’s Favorite [sic] Drink and Changed History”

My conclusion? The publishers are playing into the Anti-England sentiment around tea in the US, and playing it down in the UK version.

The book itself is very fair, and very good.

And the truth is, The East India Company (not strictly speaking “England” but “English”) hired Robert Fortune to steal tea from the Chinese.

The history is great. The tagline a simple pandering to ill-informed predjudice.

In fact, the only actual Government that hired Robert Fortune to steal tea was the US Government. And then, they stiffed him on his wages.

So, to all my friends on both sides of the Atlantic. I’m here for you all. I won’t take sides in this petty feud, which probably holds back tea in the US to this day.

Until those tickets arrive, of course.






12 thoughts on “Family Feud, and a Mild Conspiracy Theory

  1. Did you also notice the Brit bad guys/gals often bite the dust in film and on television. It irritates me, but then again if I could get a job in the UK and get my husband to come along…I’d be on the next flight over.

  2. “We play villains in your movies. Star Wars? The Death Star? Full of British people.”
    — Eddie Izzard

    Found the above quote on: “Evil Brit” an interesting article with plenty of examples of British accents foreshadowing sinister antics.
    Of course quite often German accents have played a similar role. A German with steel blue eyes, a clipped accent and big hands? Spells bad news in many movies too.

  3. And I’d be sitting right next to LittleMewBrew on that plane. With or without my husband. 😉
    I think of the 4th of July as the day American-born terrorists stole my British identity. Stupid ancestors spoiling all that tea. LOL

  4. I have the American version of Sarah Rose’s book with the tag line about England being the thief, etc. Interesting that the other version avoids it. Thanks for pointing it out – I may have never noticed it.
    I can only speculate that it’s due to the sensationalism that US editors feel they have to infuse in order to get US readers to pick up a book and actually read it. We’re not generally known for being a recreationally literate bunch. Metaphorical arms must be twisted before they’ll invest time on a book.

    There’s only one issue I would point out about the theory of British people being the villians. It’s not because Americans think the British are sneaky – it’s because the British accent/the British themselves are seen as more intelligent over here, and you have to be intelligent to be a successful bad guy or even a successful good guy. Just take a look at James Bond, Sherlock Holmes, Dr Who, the list goes on. I’d venture to guess that if Sean Connery read the “A” section out of a phone book, it would be viewed as downright Shakespearean to some people.
    The Australians are a bit trickier to generalize. Crocodile Dundee and the Outback Steakhouse commercials over here (the US) haven’t really helped. They’re either fun-loving but dim outdoorsy types or intelligent professionals who moonlight as barbecuing surfers. Or they’re Olivia Newton John. 🙂

    1. Thanks for taking the time to write such a comprehensive comment.
      Also, I’m not very outdoorsy; I barely have the balance and co-ordination to stand up on land let alone a surfboard, and I categorically deny being Olivia Newton John. It just goes to show how off the mark stereotypes can be.

  5. Of course, I have the best of what the British have, or had….Jackie!

    The other side of this is that the British are evil. Look, all that fighting and revolution and stuff. Americans are all about Empire-building these days, but we never actually admit that we do it – the British on the other hand made a national sport out of it.

    Of course, I think the Australians should be a little more upset anyhow – after all the British did go out of their way to strand you all on a desert isle…

    1. Each time I’ve grabbed the phone by the pool to ring England and castigate them for sending us all out here, they can’t hear me over the howling blizzard.
      But to deal with another stereotype – my ancestors weren’t convicts., I am from South Australia, the only Australian State not to be founded as a penal colony, but by free settlers.
      My ancestors were Methodists who didn’t think England was puritanical enough. Family reunions are a hoot.
      Of course, there is also a bushranger, a man who thought he was wanted for murder and a British Army deserter, but that’s the Victorian branches of my family tree.
      But still no connection to Olivia Newton John.

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