I had a lot of time on my hands this past weekend when I stayed in with a cold and so I decided to pass the time by re-watching the Royal Wedding.
I wasn’t surprised that my co-workers to rolled their eyes when I told them about my weekend activities, as I accepted long ago that my interest in British culture is more intense than the average person’s. However, their reaction got me thinking about the past year and how British culture seemed to play a significant role in mainstream American media.
At first I thought it could just be my bias towards things that come out of the British culture.
That started the first time I was introduced to The Chronicles of Narnia. I wanted to change my citizenship the first time I read The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. I mean who wouldn’t want to live in a place where a seemingly ordinary wardrobe takes you to a land with magical creatures and an evil witch that only you and your brothers and sister can defeat?
Then I read Harry Potter.
I should preface this with the fact as an adult, a part of me not-so-secretly believes that there really could be witches and wizards, vampires and werewolves, giants and centaurs… the list goes on.
Maybe this is due to how I was raised. When I was home for a summer in college I got my mom hooked on the Twilight books. After reading the first book she came into my room and said, “So, do you think vampires are real? Because I think they might be.”
Or maybe its just nice to believe that there is a magical world out there, because when I have a bad day I can convince myself that one day I will finally get my letter letting me know that I will be going to Hogwarts on the first of September.
Either way, this is me as an adult – so you can imagine how I might have been as a child.
Maybe you can’t. Basically, I thought I was magical. So yes, after reading Harry Potter, I wanted to do anything in my power to live in London; a place where wizards casually walked among muggles, sneaking into inconspicuous bars that lead them to a magical alley full of wands, potions and owls that deliver your mail for you. Or where a normal train station secretly brings you to a magical school where you can learn how to transform objects into animals or play an amazing game of soccer on broomsticks (which, as a tomboy growing up, I totally thought I would have been awesome at).
After finishing the Harry Potter series, all of my favorite fantasy fiction stories were set in London (at least initially) and written by British authors. Every year since then, I have become more and more convinced that British people are more talented than other nationalities. I have openly voiced this opinion at times, of which, fellow Americans are rarely very appreciative.
Then came the engagement of William and Kate and the wedding to follow it in 2011. Nearly every girl in America watched the wedding, a part of them wishing they could be Kate Middleton. While I was probably more into the Royal Wedding than the average person (most people didn’t make crown-shaped cookies with frosting in the pattern of the Union Jack flag), Americans’ interest overall in the Royal Wedding soon started to strike curiosity by Americans and Brits, alike. People started to pose the question, why do so many Americans care about the Royal Wedding?
It’s certainly a valid question, considering America was founded by a group of British people that decided they had had enough with the British Monarchy.
I used to think the answer was simple; girls grow up reading fairytales about Prince Charming who marries his princess and they live happily ever after in a beautiful castle. Since we don’t have princes or castles in America, it was like watching two people live out a fairytale that we knew we could never experience ourselves.
But as I reflect on 2011, the Royal Wedding wasn’t the only cultural trend that originated in Britain and became popular in America. And the trends weren’t just popular among the sub-culture of Harry Potter lovers, but they made their way to the front pages of American mainstream media.
The number one movie at the box office was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 and the number one most popular iTunes song was Adele’s Rolling in the Deep. We also shouldn’t forget that early in 2011, The King’s Speech won the Academy Award for Best Picture, along with Best Actor, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay.
Additionally, Americans are increasingly searching online for various aspects of british culture; from beer to music, and from royalty to fashion. U.S. searches for British beer has increased over the past several years with a consistently high volume of searches in 2011. Searches for British singers in the U.S. has also increased over the past several years, peaking in 2011.
Search volume for British culture also remains high in the first month of 2012, which indicates that this trend will continue over the next year.
Maybe the question isn’t about American’s interest in royalty, but British culture in general.
While my theory that British people are more talented than other nationalities might be ridiculous, there certainly was something about those Brits that we found fascinating in 2011. Maybe it was the talent, or the culture in general, or maybe 2011 was simply a great year for the Brits. However, with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee this summer, London as the host of the summer Olympics and the Kate Middleton baby bump countdown in full-force, it is likely that the Brits will steal the stage yet again in 2012.
We will have to wait and see.