BBC and my Anglophilia.

Posted: April 7, 2014 in Uncategorized
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By Michael Stelzer Jocks, History Faculty.

When it comes to my pop culture proclivities, I’ve always been a bit of an Anglophile.  My late high-school, early college years was when my English-mania reached its climax. Though embarrasing now, I felt it absolutely appropriate to dress like, and style my long-lost hair in the manner of my favorite English maudlin and/or ironic singers.  In high school, it was a pompadour and t-shirt with blazer, a la 1987 Morrissey.  By college, it was a shaggy moptop with stripy sweaters a la Damon Albarn of Blur. At the time I thought I could pull this off.

By the time I graduated from college, I honestly didn’t have the energy any longer to style my hair in a particular fashion. Plus, I had my girlfriend, and eventual wife, who rightly felt the look went from a cute sign of style, to something much closer to pretention. I came to realize that there is a certain point when putting daisies in your back pocket, and carrying around a volume of Oscar Wilde is just sad. Though my fashion changed, my musical


An inside joke for fans of the Smiths.

tastes still focused upon the English pop music of the 1980’s and 1990’s.  In high school, my cohorts were obsessed with the Nirvana/Pearl Jam/Smashing Pumpkins grunge movement; I enjoyed a more dour line-up of The Cure, Depeche Mode and The Smiths.  By college, people were fighting over West Coast vs. East Coast rap; I was concerning myself with the Oasis vs. Blur quarrel (Blur is MUCH better, by the way.) Some of my university acquantances spent their nights listening to Phish, The Grateful Dead, and Blues Traveller, I…well, I just couldn’t stand that crap. Still can’t.

When we moved to Chicago 15 years ago, my Britpop obsession had cooled considerably.  Now in my mid (okay, late) 30’s, I thought my Anglophilia had finally died.  Then, a couple weeks ago, an import from the Islands rejuvinated my love.  But, it wasn’t music this time.

One evening, I was looking for a good historical documentary to watch on Netflix.  Not much there.  Figured I might as well check out PBS.  Nope, nothing really on.  Finally, I realized, ‘of course! Youtube!’  Sure enough, inputting historical documentary got me quite a list of shows to watch (835,000 hits to be exact).  How to decide?  Well, I quickly realized to look for three letters: BBC.  Youtube was awash in BBC historical programs.  After watching a couple, I was amazed at their quality and seriousness.  For instance, I found a wonderfully intriguing three part documentary written, and hosted by one of my favorite historians, Mary Beard.  Beard is a classicist at Cambridge, and though she doesn’t write about my specialities, she is wonderful at humanizing the people of Ancient world.   Just take a look how she deals with Roman toilets (yes toilets) in this scene from her series ‘Meet The Romans’ (Jump to 24 mins):

Now tell me that is not interesting!  Nothing at all fancy about the production; no special effects; no actors; nothing ‘EXTREME’ or ‘SHOCKING’ or pseudohistorical. Just an expert telling the viewer about a time period and a long gone people she loves. Such shows are stirring my Angliophile nature once again.  But, I must be honest.  This love is mixed with a serious degree of jealousy.  I mean, why can’t we produce works like this in America? Instead, we have  The History Channel.  AAARRRGGGHHH!  How I hate The History Channel.  Let’s just take a look at what the History Channel has on it’s two stations in the next couple days, shall we?  Oh, great, ‘Swamp People’!  Hey, ‘Ancient Aliens”!  How historically challenging! Wait a minute, don’t forget ‘Jurassic Fight Club’!  Sounds like a really enlightening program.

I just can’t figure out why Americans have such a limited understanding of history….Wait, what was that? ‘Pawn Stars’ is on the History Channel at 6:30? Nevermind.


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