We British always muddle through somehow
Whoever tries to deny that we English are a nostalgic lot ought to go and see Rowan Atkinson’s latest, profoundly silly flick, Johnny English Strikes Again. Sophisticated it isn’t – but we English are also not quite as erudite as we like to think.
Johnny English is a secret agent in the classic mould, put out to pasture before his time, then unexpectedly called back into action. Untouched by the era of smartphones and #Metoo, he is the perfect riposte to the ever-sleeker, ever-more sensitive and technologically cuttingedge James Bond. English has no clue how to use an ipad, he snorts in the face of virtual reality and he likes his motors gasguzzling and loud, even if they do run out of juice mid car chase.
The message isn’t exactly subtle. Britain muddles through, despite its clueless, supine politicians and creaking nuclear submarines. Fortunately, the message also isn’t the point and Mr Atkinson is true to his adage that nothing should get in the way of a good joke, not even his own dignity. I’d rather watch a whole scene of him dancing than an endless, high-octane car chase any day.
Another famous Briton apparently untouched by #Metoo Johnny Travolta: Rowan Atkinson never lets his dignity get in the way of a good joke is Sir Philip Green, who has landed himself in hot water by having a Topshop display on feminism ripped down shortly before it was due to open. The teen clothing store was all set to start selling copies of a new set of essays on feminism by various celebrities (Keira Knightley, Emma Watson and so on) when the monstrous billionaire ghoul himself pulled the plug.
Pictures of the display had already been posted online. “Feminists don’t wear pink, feminists don’t wear makeup, feminists don’t like fashion,” it stated, with the “don’t” crossed out. Germaine Greer it ain’t.
Twenty minutes later, the book publisher, Penguin, announced that the Topshop deal was off. “This book aims to prove that the word ‘feminist’ is accessible to everyone,” it stated. “Today’s events suggest there is still some work to do.”
“He’s horrible – he’s the epitome of the old model of how people with briefcases act,” the editor of the book complained. She might have a point here. Sir Philip (do we still call him that?) is behind the times in a way that the canny executives below him might not be. Feminism isn’t so radical any more. It sells.