The Displaced Nation

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Are Brit international creatives better than their Yankee counterparts?

NYC_Awindram_pmWhen Chariots of Fire screenwriter Colin Welland won his Oscar in 1981, his acceptance speech began with him somewhat obnoxiously and ungraciously proclaiming: “The British are coming!”

Unlike Paul Revere, this wasn’t intended as a dire warning to fellow Americans, but was rather a British boast about perceived creative superiority over the transatlantic cousins.

Ultimately, the renaissance of British cinema that Welland envisaged did not materialize, but though that particular “British invasion” did not in the end occur, the US has since . . . oh, let’s say since 1812 . . . endured a number of British invasions: from Dickens’s arrival in Boston in 1842, to Oscar Wilde’s statement to a US customs officer that he had nothing to declare but his genius (which I would certainly not advise anyone that they should try to use that line in JFK), to the Beatles’ first performance on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 (considered the beginning of the British Invasion in music).

If David Carr’s recent column in the New York Times, entitled “British Invasion Reshuffles U.S. Media,” is correct, then we may be in the grip of another one. The genesis for this piece has been John Oliver‘s recent, perfectly competent portrayal of a bamboozled substitute teacher on The Daily Show.

Carr’s contention is that at the moment “everywhere you look in the United States media landscape, you find people from [Britain]”:

Piers Morgan came from Britain to take over for Larry King, the Wall Street Journal is edited by Gerard Baker, a British newspaper veteran, and the chief executive of the New York Times is Mark Thompson, who spent his career at the BBC. Anna Wintour has edited Vogue for more than two decades and, more recently, Joanna Coles took over Cosmopolitan, which defines a certain version of American womanhood.

NBC News recently looked to the mother country for leadership and found Deborah Turness, the former editor of Britain’s ITV News. ABC’s entertainment group is headed by Paul Lee, also formerly of the BBC, and Colin Myler, a Fleet Street alum, edits the New York Daily News.

The list goes on, but the point is made: when it comes to choosing someone to steer prominent American media properties, the answer is often delivered in a proper British accent.

But, as the title of this post asks, the British better at being international creatives than their American counterparts? Are we more fearless?

The examples that Carr puts forward are compelling, even if we may have to suspend our imagination and hope our stomachs do not turn too much in allowing Piers Morgan to be considered a “creative.”

However, I am unconvinced in a post-Leveson world that there is inherently anything better or more attractive about British media operators when set alongside their American counterparts.

Of course, that does not alter that it is inarguable that New York media finds itself with a number of prominent Brits.

Carr hits on one of the main reasons for this — London:

“Los Angeles, New York and Washington all have their domains, while in Britain, there is only London, a place where entertainment, politics and news media all live in the same petri dish.”

In an increasingly international world, a world in which the super elite can be found in a select number of super cities, it is only to be expected that large New York media empires would be selecting from a fairly small pool. They’ll look to New York and London — the two major English-speaking super cities.

It is perhaps a complete misconception that for the purposes of this question we think in terms of America and Britain, as if to make out an otherness between each party, when they share status as super city elites.

The true “other” would be the newspaper man from Minnesota or the TV station manager from Louisville. I know from my own anecdotal experience of MBA grads from top US business schools that the majority that I know are in New York or London. This is just the new normal — it is hardly surprising that it is reflected in New York’s media executives.

It is also noticeable to anyone who has spent any time in the UK that while a struggling, gasping industry, print media is more alive in the UK at present than it is in the US.

The result of this is that they are a large number of British candidates that would be attractive to US companies in the position to headhunt a new executive.

A final factor is the attraction of “success” in the US for Brits. I don’t say this lightly, but take a look at Piers Morgan’s twitter account . . . I know, I know . . . awful, isn’t it? However, a quick look through a random selection of Morgan’s twitter will soon reveal a man who enjoys boasting — or if I’m being more generous, teasing — other British celebrities who have no profile in the US.

Success in the US seems greater, somehow. There is a pull there that is irresistible. There is romance to it. “If I can make it there, I can make it anywhere.” What do all the many American CEOs heading boardrooms in London get to sing to themselves?

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post, an interview with our featured author of the month, Rosie Whitehouse.

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to register for The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of weekly posts from The Displaced Nation, with seasonal recipes, book giveaways and other extras. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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Dear Mary-Sue: Expats face tough come-down after Olympics high

Mary-Sue Wallace, The Displaced Nation’s agony aunt, is back. Her thoughtful advice eases and soothes any cross-cultural quandary or travel-related confusion you may have. Submit your questions and comments here, or else by emailing her at

U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A! That’s been the chant in the ol’ Wallace homestead these last two weeks. We took on the world and we whopped its ass — just as it should be. All very exciting — and some of those swimmers! Well, let’s just say they can come round to Mary-Sue’s pool to practice their doggy paddle anytime they want.


Dear Mary-Sue,

I was watching the closing ceremony of the London Olympics last night, and at one point the commentator said that it was a great tribute to British individualism and creativity. But why don’t we just go ahead and call it eccentricity? Because that’s what it is, right?

Former expat in Britain, now happily repatriated to USA

Dear Former Expat,

Hmm, if my understanding of British culture is correct, and bear in mind that I am no expert like Mary Carillo, but I don’t think there was enough cross-dressing for it to technically count as British eccentricity.



Dear Mary-Sue,

At the conclusion to the London Olympics, Sebastian Coe said: “Britain did it right.” But then why were the Spice Girls involved in the closing ceremony?

A happy repatriate to the USA after several years in Britain


How many years were you in Britain and yet you never learned their famed sense of irony? Two weeks Mary Carillo has spent there and she has got it all sorted. Shows what you can do if you apply yourself.



Dear Mary-Sue,

I’ve been watching my home country, Britain, host the Olympics for the past two weeks, and now I’m really homesick. What’s the cure for this? (I’m allergic to chicken soup.)

Ben in Boston

Dear Ben,

Epcot, British pavilion. Just like being in Britain, but with actual customer service!!



Dear Mary-Sue,

I noticed that the great Brazilian footballer Pelé made an appearance in the closing ceremonies when Britain was handing over the Olympics flag to Brazil for the next Summer Games in 2016. As you may or may not know, Brazil will also host the World Cup in 2014. As much as I like the Olympics, in my opinion, that’s a far more important and prestigious event — even though America, my new country, doesn’t participate. Would you agree?

Pablo from Pittsburgh

p.s. Viva España!

Dear Pablo,


Mary-Sue is all about those tasty swimmers. Is Ryan Lochte (yeah, he’s an idiot, I know) going to be at the World Cup? Thought not. Pelé may have been a great soccer player, but all I know about him now is that he does commercials for Viagra. Give me Lochte any day.



Dear Mary-Sue,

I noticed that one of the Displaced Nation writers, Anthony Windram, was criticizing the NBC coverage of the Olympics. He even went so far as to call Bob Costas the “ugly American.”

Though I now live in England, I’m sure it couldn’t have been any more partisan than what I witnessed over here on the BBC.

Wasn’t Windram just being churlish and if so, why was the Displaced Nation giving him so much “air time”?

Bob from Britain

Dear Bob,

I agree Windram is a blight on this site. I actually have to deal with him. I ask for Ryan Lochte and they send me that chump Windram. I wanted a wet athlete and they give me a wet fish. He called Bob Costas ugly, I know which one I’d rather wake up to on a cold winter’s morning.



Dear Mary-Sue,

At one point during the Olympics, tensions between Kiwis and us Aussies here in the Netherlands reached an all-time high because they were winning more medals than we were. But all’s well that ends well, or at least that’s the way I and my fellow Aussies see it: we finished 10th, with 35 medals (of which 7 were gold), as compared to their 16th-place finish with 13 medals, of which 5 were gold. However, some Kiwis continue to lord it over us despite these stats. Until now, we all got on quite well. How can we repair the rift?

Ethan of Emmeloord

Dear Ethan,

Wait, Australia and New Zealand are different countries? Well, I’ll be a monkey’s Aunt!


Dear Mary-Sue,

Why did NBC show Russell Brand singing but not Ray Davies?

Baby Boomer in USA

Dear Baby Boomer,

As one of the 800,000 people to have experienced at first hand the debauched ways of Mr Brand, I can attest that while his whole Pied Piper aesthetic is unusual, his spindly body has an unusual sexual-voodoo pull on others. I’m guessing that Russell was awarded a gold in bedroom gymnastics by Mr Costas, and that Costas then made sure Russell was included in the final broadcast. Ray, by contrast, probably wasn’t able to be heard by the 17-year-old athletes, like Missy Franklin, who were screaming in excitement for One Direction.


Anyhoo, that’s all from me readers. I’m so keen to hear about your cultural issues and all your juicy problems. Do drop me a line with any problems you have, or if you want to talk smack about Delilah Rene.

Mary-Sue is a retired travel agent who lives in Tulsa with her husband Jake. She is the best-selling author of Traveling Made Easy, Low-Fat Chicken Soup for the Traveler’s Soul, The Art of War: The Authorized Biography of Samantha Brown, and William Shatner’s TekWar: An Unofficial Guide. If you have any questions that you would like Mary-Sue to answer, you can contact her at, or by adding to the comments below.

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post with some cooling thoughts for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere who, after sweltering away under the summer’s record heat waves, need a boost to get through the remainder of August.

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to register for The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of weekly posts from The Displaced Nation, with seasonal recipes, book giveaways and other extras. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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