Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A New England.

Okay, so I'm a die-hard, self-proclaimed, cut-me-and-I'll-bleed-PG-Tips Anglophile. This on-and-on love affair has been going strong since childhood, when my dad used to spin Pink Floyd, the Police, Queen and Cream. When I thought that Mark Hollis, Peter Murphy and Richard Butler were all David Bowie (the realization that "It's My Life" was not, in fact, performed by the Goblin King sparking my 25-year lunacy for Talk Talk, Bauhaus and the Psych Furs). When I was certain that I would marry Craig Warnock from Time Bandits. Or Robert Smith. Or Dave Gahan. Or later, Damon Albarn.

Anyway, I love the Brits. I even went all the way to England, clubbed one over the head and dragged him home:

The chocolate here, not so good. I must break you.

My childhood dreams of running off to England, marrying my rock-and-roll fantasy and living in an old, dilapidated Hammer Horror castle are a bit more scaled down to torpedoing-toward-middle-age scale at this point. I've gnawed my way through one of the coldest winters the UK has ever experienced this side of Dickens. I've gotten my feet trampled on trains from London to Colchester. Had insults hurled at me on the N11. Stumbled out of a pub, losing a glove and nearly cracking my head open in the process. Seen rubbish strewn along the road on the way to Tesco Express. Done ritual pee-pee dances around a £1 toilet, hoping it would magically open up to me for free. At times, I've felt like the people I've come across couldn't have given less of a damn if I gave them one and asked for it back.

So, it was just like home, except toilets are free in the US, and England has bitchin' pubs, better TV and awesome public transport. And our friends are in England, and my mother-in-law can throw down a Sunday roast that would make chickens line up for a chance to be delicious.

What, then, is the takeaway? Well, although my teenage dreams were so hard to beat, in their place is a respect and genuine, authentic love for England that I didn't have before. I love England because it isn't the Grey Poupon, tea-and-scones, mind-the-gap and cockney-rebel bullshit America has been force-fed through a Tube all these years, like geese for the fattening. And knowing this, I'm free to move on to the things that are truly worth getting hot about when it comes to cool Britannia.

Like Public Information Films.

Britain has a storied cinematic horror history. Peeping Tom. The Wicker Man. The Company of Wolves. Paperhouse. Hammer. I love all of these, but I'm completely in love with Public Information Films. I want to marry them and make little PIFs to release into the wild of random, soulless, consumerist American children's television. So, what are they? Well, here in the States, two eggs in a frying pan is, apparently, our brains on drugs. Yeah, well okay. In the UK, those eggs come part of a Full English Breakfast of whoop-ass, washed down with a glass of Dark and Lonely Water:

Public Information Films are not like our Public Service Announcements, where your 1986 self can grab a Kudos bar, then plop down on the bean bag to laugh at the pothead dad chastising his pothead son during breaks in the ABC Afterschool Special—no, these are mini horror films, in which children are picked off, one by one ("Apaches," below), and if Charley Says it, you'd better do it.

Public Information Films have as much impact now as they did back in their heyday; at least, they do to this girl. They make me want to question everything, down to the most seemingly harmless of events. Take the escalator? No thanks, I'll take the stairs. But what if I slip, fall and break my ass? Are those elevators safe? Is there a Green Cross Code that will guide me safely between the Orange Julius and my car? Those Hot Dog on a Stick girls aren't really jumping to the rhythmic beat of pressed lemons—they're trampling on my self esteem with their lithe bodies and 20-year-old Neutragena smiles! $40 for razor-torn jeans? THE MALL IS TRYING TO KILL ME!!

Even the star-power behind PIFs is cooler. British PIFs had Donald Pleasance and David Prowse (Darth Vader) deliver public-service smackdowns. Our PSAs had Rachael Leigh Cook and Pee Wee Herman. Any questions?