|Insight into Today's British Culture|
|http://www.sina.com.cn 2004/02/27 14:59 《英语学习》|
Ever wonder what opponents of globalization used to protest about before there were Coca-Cola and McDonald's?<注1> Well, there was that first promotor of globalization, the British Empire over which, it was said, the sun never sets.<注2> While the world map is no longer dotted by British territorial possessions the echoes of the Empire surface<注3> in unexpected places.
The Brits are good sportsmen. They feel it's important to concede defeat graciously. This is why contemporary discussions of British culture in the United Kingdom often turn to acknowledgment of how the Americans dominate the world.
The American take-over<注4>
An article in the 2002 Christmas issue of The Economist<注5>, for example, admitted that the English language that is now sweeping the globe is closer to the language spoken in Brooklyn<注6> than at Oxford or Cambridge.
Indeed, U.S. movies are everywhere and kids in even the remotest parts of the world are familiar with such essential words of the English language as Big Mac and the Chicago Bulls.<注7>
But it would be a mistake to claim that the British Empire which originally spread English from Singapore to Zimbabwe and from Papua-New Guinea to Kalamazoo, Michigan<注8> is dead and buried.
Dominating world culture
Far from it. Just look at world literature. It's not surprising that the Brits invented some of the most popular literary genres<注9> of the past 150 years. One such example is the detective novel which sprung from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his famous character "Sherlock Holmes", as well as Dame Agatha Christie and her "Hercule Poirot" and "Miss Marple."<注10>
Another example of British literary excellence is with children's literature, \where\ Alice in Wonderland and Winnie the Pooh<注11> became truly global phenomena long before they were Disneyfied by cartoon movies made in Hollywood.
A history of literary achievement
True, those creative achievements still date from the time when Great Britain was the dominant world power. And yet, even though the empire has vanished, both in detective stories and kids' literature, today's British writers do more than hold their own.
In fact, the two global blockbuster<注12> movies of recent years Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings underscore the hold that even the post-World War II generation of British writers still have on kids around the world.
Beating America at its own game
J.R.R. Tolkien's series of fantasy-adventure books, Lord of the Rings<注13>, was written between 1937 and 1948 and has had a tremendous influence on American culture in recent years. Star Wars, unquestionably one of the most lucrative Hollywood endeavors in memory, owes a huge debt to the Lord of the Rings series which its principle creator George Lucas has admitted.
But even in those literary genres \where\ Americans should be superior, the Brits have managed to get ahead. What about the spy novel? After all, Americans were the main combatant in the Cold War with the Soviet Union and bore the heaviest burden of fighting the so-called Evil Empire. American spy novels dealing with that era should be by far the most successful, right?
Wrong. The Cold War novel, in fact, was invented by the Brits. Ian Fleming and his suave character "James Bond"<注14> monopolized the popular end of the literary scale, while Graham Green captured the top, appealing to the more intellectual readers. Later on, two other Brits, Frederick Forsythe and John Le Carre became their successors.
American Tom Clancy, while highly successful, is a Johnny Come Lately,<注15> whose novels began appearing only during the Reagan era, when the Cold War was already over.
Harry Potter's trick
The phenomenally popular Harry Potter books have not only catapulted<注16> their 35-year-old author, J.K. Rowling, from her status as a penniless single mother to her present status as the second richest woman in Britain after the Queen. She also fits \into\ the same pattern of British literary superiority.
The Harry Potter books are highly cultured. They have echoes of Charles Dickens, with his satirical description of British boarding schools in Nicholas Nickleby<注17>.
There are references to fairy tales and myths from all over the world and all of history, such as the philosophers' stone that Medieval alchemists were trying to discover, as well as magical creatures such as basilisks and dragons.<注18>
Meanwhile, the United States has an amazingly extensive youth culture, which is catered to by huge multinational corporations. Enormous segments of the toy, music, movie and fast food industries both sponsor and utilize American youth culture to sell billions of dollars worth of goods and services.
Kids as consumers
A 1997 study found that kids between the ages of 4 and 12 spent $12 billion on their own, had a direct influence over $188 billion of their parents' spending and indirectly controlled $300 billion worth of purchases!
And yet, surprisingly, the creative impulse for the latest global movie blockbuster did not spring from this vast and resourceful empire. Instead, it was once again a seemingly homemade product, hailing all the way from Great Britain, which suddenly captured the imagination of American kids!
5. The Economist：《经济学家》，是一本有关商业与新闻的知名刊物。
7. Big Mac：巨无霸，麦当劳的标志产品。the Chicago Bulls：芝加哥公牛队，当今世界上最为著名的职业篮球队之一，曾获得过六次NBA冠军，并曾拥有NBA历史上最伟大的球员之一迈克尔-乔丹。
8. Papua-New Guinea：巴布亚新几内亚(南太平洋岛国)；Kalamazoo, Michigan：(美)密歇根州的卡拉马祖市。
11. Alice in Wonderland:《艾丽丝漫游奇境记》，英国数学家、文学家刘易斯-卡罗尔撰写的童话小说。Winnie the Pooh：指带有铅笔插图的小说《小熊维尼》，1926年10月14日第一次出版。其后迪斯尼公司成功制作了以“小熊维尼”为题材的卡通影片，如今小熊维尼已成为世界著名的卡通形象。
14. suave：温文尔雅的。James Bond：曾做过英国海军情报军官的伊恩-弗莱明创造的人物——英国秘密情报员007詹姆士-邦德。本段下文提到的几个人物也都是写过间谍小说的作家。
15.Tom Clancy：汤姆-克兰西，美国著名畅销小说作家，以“技术惊险小说”(Techo-Thriller)闻名于世，主要作品有：《近在眼前的危险》(Clear and Present Danger)，《爱国游戏》(Patriotic Games)，《猎取红色十月》(The Hunt for Red October)，《克里姆林宫大主教》(The Cardinal of the Kremlin)等。
Johnny Come Lately：迟到的人,晚来的人。
17. Charles Dickens：查尔斯-狄更斯(1812-1870)，英国著名小说家。著有《奥列佛-特维斯特》(又译《雾都孤儿》，1838)、《老古玩店》(1841)、《大卫-科波菲尔》(1850)、《双城记》(1859)和《远大前程》(1861)等等。
Nicholas Nickleby：《尼古拉斯-尼克贝》(1838)，狄更斯的第三部小说，文中通过对主人公尼古拉斯在约克郡寄宿学校(Yorkshire Boarding Schools)里的悲惨际遇，揭示了当时英国寄宿学校的黑暗和残酷。狄更斯的揭示典型而深刻，故对其后的许多作家，包括J.K.罗琳都产生了很大的影响。此外，在英国的文学作品里，寄宿学校似乎是儿童走向成人世界的必经之地，作家喜欢在这个一半属于儿童、一半属于成人的特殊世界中，探索从权力的形成到社会偏见对儿童的影响，从自我意识的萌发到环境对人的压抑或解放等各种问题。
18. the philosophers' stone：魔法石，是中世纪人们假想的具有点铁成金、祛病延年等功效和占星功能的石头；Medieval alchemist：中世纪的炼金术士；basilisk：(神话中的)蜥蜴状妖怪，蛇怪。此句中提到的“魔法石”，“蛇怪”和“龙”在“哈里-波特”系列中都曾有出现。
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