Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Cool Britannia?

We need to dispel of a myth: just because something is ancient (i.e. the UK) does not make it innately "cool".

Lots of indie kids i know in Toronto, tend to think of the UK as being hip - particularly hipper than Canada. Why is that?

In his famous essay, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechnical Reproduction, Walter Benjamin noted that in an age of mass reproduction and accessibility, relics of the past are seen to have an aura - most often an aura of uniqueness.

However, the UK is no longer a land of English roses, afternoon tea, and tartan-clad men; the UK, like most of the Western world, mass consumes exported American culture and regurgitates such influences. No longer do you have British gentlemen awkwardly opening doors for you but cheeky young boys heavily influenced by American black culture. It's a bizarre mixture of East and West coast America mixed in with middle-class British angst.

Sure, some people still swath themselves in the Union Jack for The Last Night of the Proms and dab their eyes when they play British anthems but for the most part, the UK is no longer the Empire of Cool like it used to be in the 1990s. And to be honest, it's quite annoying when people wax poetic about how "brilliant" and "cool" Britain is; of course, such poetic ramblings never come from actual British people - it's usually North Americans who make such statements. Brits tend not to boast about cool.

Listen, i'm not complaining. i love the UK. i love Scotland. Like most whities, my Grandmother is Welsh/British and fiercely proud. i just get frustrated when told by those who do not live here to suck it up because i'm living in the epicentre of cool. Yes, Scotland is cool but i'll be damned if i can find a decent coffee shop (not including Starbucks).

i'm not sure who currently holds the title to being the Empire of Cool but you know, Canada ain't too bad.

2 comments:

STAG said...

Naples. Where you have to wear a uniform to serve coffee and ice cream. Where the city issues you a license to sell pizza. And where the only deep fried anything is in the MacDonalds beside the train station.

Thats cool food. Of course, you want cool clothing, Milan, Turin and even Florence will get you into cooler outfits than you can even imagine in Etobicoke!

Cool politics...Rome or Paris.

Cool religion....Rome, Bagdad, Salt Lake City. (Depends on what you mean by cool though...grin!)

Cool houses....Capri, Amalfi.

Cool street action...Philedelphia, New York, San Fransisco.


Museums....Paris, Leeds, London, Rome, Florence.

Hey, the UK got a mention in the things I find cool! No doubt, they got the coolest museums...though I think Florence has it beat.

Michelle Everett said...

Well Jennifer,
I guess you might want some Canadian Coffee brought to you eh? Well it's your lucky summer! This is Catherine Everett's little sister and I am planning a trip to Scotland and England (possibly even a stay for a year or two!) Is there anything else you want brought over?