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131. Youthful folly (III)

Hollywood has traditionally had two modes for representing the English: the first, most popular mode, has the English as the evil enemy. America was founded on separation from England; hence the English, especially the aristocratic English, are the quintessential bad guys for Americans. They are the people who want to destroy the plucky rebels. This is why the Imperial officers in the original Star Wars films are played by English actors; and the English also make an appearance as decadent and cruel aristocrats in Braveheart (1995) and Cliffhanger (1993)—and many more. These portrayals, particularly Braveheart, have a strong element of slave morality: the heroes—as with the “revisionist” Westerns that celebrate the Indians over the pioneers—are the Scots, the people who lost in the end. This, in turn, serves a phoney Scottish nationalism—actually a tool of cosmopolitanism—which is widely promoted to this day.

The second representation of the English, more generous, occurs when Britain and America are allied against the Prussian-Islamist threat, as happened in the two world wars and after 9/11. In these cases, the “special relationship” comes to the fore, because both the Americans and the English are friendly with the Jews and suspicious of “the Normans”: the Prussian aristocrat, with his single monocle and fencing scar, becomes the ultra-aristocratic enemy—he instantiates Indo-European values. The Prussians, in both world wars, were allied with the Ottomans or Muslims, another martial religion hostile to the Jews. Hence it becomes easy to conflate the “Nazi-Muslim” in Hollywood mythology. In films where the special relationship is in effect, the English play a secondary role—perhaps as a bumbling eccentric—helping the real American hero against the cruel Aryan Germans and fanatical Muslims.

In terms of her own mythology, America was founded as “the city on a hill”, a place where the immigrant would be washed clean of tribal loyalties and reborn in the Judeo-Puritan New World—Judaism and Puritanism being functionally similar. This was always a lie. The prominence of the Mafia in American life testifies to the fact that immigrants are not “reborn” in America: they retain their ethno-religious kinship ties—it’s about family, ba da bing? The “city on a hill” was a particularly important myth for American Jews, since the Jews saw themselves as being above the old tribal disputes of Europe. Through Hollywood and their position in the American humanities, it is the Jews who tell the story of America, for the most part: the old tribes will die, only the truth of Judaism and Puritan Christianity will remain: universal and accessible to all, regardless of blood—just like “science”, actually the old Abrahamic God under a new guise.

Trump started as a civic nationalist but he ended his term telling Minnesotans that they had “good genes”, the subtext being that his white support base had better genes than the Somali newcomers. This viewpoint, being quasi-aristocratic, is strictly anti-American. Trump’s followers are traitors in the mode of the Confederates; a group identified, with their aristocratic pretensions, as English or “Norman”—and, indeed, the side preferred by England in the Civil War. Trump’s supporters are even the “red hats” just like the “redcoats”; thus Trump represents a fainter iteration the British Empire: the modern Latinos and Somalis of America are making their Declaration of Independence from the empire. Didn’t you see Hamilton?

In Hollywood, up until the 1990s, the villains having an English accent and the heroes an American accent served as a subtext to the European American audience that they were watching the War of Independence in a new form—in Star Wars literally “the (1776) Rebellion” versus “the (British) Empire”—this no longer makes sense. To a predominantly Mexican audience in California or Somali audience in Michigan the accent means nothing subtextually. Instead, the imperial oppressor, the signifier of privilege, has shifted to “white men” in general; they are the obviously “privileged” (strong) group, like the English aristocracy, that Americans are meant to be in rebellion against today.


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