Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

The British Should Be Proud to Have a Sissy and a Nerd as Their Male Icons

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

The British Should Be Proud to Have a Sissy and a Nerd as Their Male Icons

Article excerpt

Drive down an American highway and, at five-mile intervals, your view will be blotted out by Mount Rushmore-sized billboards featuring a four-eyed geek posing in a scarlet velvet suit. It takes one sighting of Austin Powers' moronic expression and awkward pose for you to burst out laughing: "What a nerd!"

Don't laugh too loud, though: from sea to shining sea, Austin Powers now stands beside the effeminate Hughie Grant as the archetypal British male.

Celia Bray field in last week's New Statesman described how Richard Curtis's view of Britain is the one we are exporting to the rest of the world. No disgrace there: Curtis's land is a fabulous, feelgood fantasia worthy of Walt Disney. The more popcorn-crunching movie audiences buy into that dewy-eyed view of a truly "Great" Britain, the better. A nation of grocers is one thing; a nation of bright young things is quite another.

If Curtis's phenomenally successful films, Four Weddings and a Funeral and now Notting Hill, sell to the world an appealing image of a nation of self-deprecating, attractive professionals who live in Conran interiors and National Trust piles, they also promote a floppy-haired effeminate as the representative Englishman. Grant is pretty enough - no girl would deploy great physical violence to get him out of her bed. But then, she wouldn't have to: Grant is a narrow-shouldered, limp-wristed chap, many iron-pumping sessions removed from the likes of those Hollywood machos, Arnold and Bruce.

The cult comedy Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me has a buck-toothed bespectacled goofball as its own anti-hero. Mike Myers plays the English photographer-cum-spy as a bumbling eejit, a sex-starved sixties geek who uses cringe-making lingo such as "shagadelic!" and "groovy!".

Where Grant is all angelic dimples and Max Factor lashes, Myers is one long anecdote of square-eyed ineptitude. …

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