8 people who define British stereotypes to Americans

Posted by Sean Blanda on Oct 6, 2008 in Commentary |

Before we visit a place we have never been to, we often have only television and movies to give us any preconceptions.  In fact, we have dedicated a whole category chronicling our laughably scant knowledge of many of the place we are set to visit.  One country Americans do learn a lot about via media osmosis is one of our staunchest allies, and a popular destination for first time European travelers: England.

Ever since the days of the Boston Tea Party, America has had an odd love/hate relationship with its former colonizer.  Depending on who you ask, the British have bad teeth, amazing accents, and only eat fish and chips.  Below are 8 people, both real and imaginary that have helped shape the everyday American’s perception of England:

1. Every butler ever

Whether it is Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’s Geoffery or Mr. Belvedere, it’s a law of American pop culture that every butler be of British decent.  Apparently, there is some sort of butler college of high servitude in England that is just overflowing with qualified graduates.  Presumably they teach classes on how to civilize a raucous sit-com worthy family while quipping intellectually condescending one-liners.  Oh, and 90% are named Jeeves.

2. Nigel Pinchley


Seeing as I am a college-aged white male, it is my duty to watch every episode of Family Guy the required ten times.  Thus, the unfair stereotypes lobbed in the “One if by clam, two if by sea” episode have been burned into my brain.  In the episode, Nigel takes over the main character’s watering hole and burns it down.  All along the way, he embodies every British joke ever told.  Including his crooked teeth and his “superior negotiating skills.”  Watch the entire episode here.

3. William Regal

Admit it. You watched wrestling and spent many a Saturday planning matches against your brothers while setting up an impromptu ring our of old mattresses.  What?  Just me?

William Regal was a WWF bad guy or “heel”  in the late 90’s and early 2000s.  He may have had a wrestling career after this, but I wouldn’t know as I awoke one morning in 2000 under my Undertaker sheets and realized I had to grow up.  As his last name suggests, he was a kiss up, cheated often, and insulted American crowds for their crassness.  In fact, once he actually kissed Vince McHahon’s ass.

4. Austin Powers

If you had a pulse in the 90s, your pop culture references probably had a hefty doses “Yeah, Baaaaby” and “Oh behave.” You may have even been part of the 65% of Americans that dressed up as Austin Powers for Halloween in 1997. Mike Myers’ take on London during the swinging 60s probably gave England a lot of cool points in the eyes of impressionable adolescent males.   However, they did succumb to the bad teeth stereotype several times, even leading to the culmination of the joke when Austin uses dental floss to escape certain low-budget doom.  Or, at the very least, he taught us all what a penis pump was and that only sailors use condoms.

5. David Beckham

Ask any woman or advertising major about Mr. Beckham and you have to slap them to stop the giggles. If a mad scientist was tasked with creating the most handsome, marketable, mediocre, and android-like soccer player he could think of, David Beckham would be the result.  Much has been written about soccer’s global ambassador, but the real lesson Beckham teaches Yanks is that even if the most famous human being on planet Earth is a soccer player, Americans still will not embrace soccer.  If anything, Beckham means more to me as someone who regrettably advanced the notion of being a “metrosexual.”  Ack.

6. Madonna

Oh wait, she’s not British?  She could have fooled me.

7. James Bond

The subject of the longest running movie series of all time is everything that is right with the British:  Cool, intelligent, romantic, and an awesome student of parkour.  James Bond has been the subject of one of the greatest video games all time and even inspired an American rip-off in Mission Impossible’s Ethan Hunt.  But perhaps his great accomplishment is being a bad ass Brit that can distract the rest of the world from the William Regal-like stereotypes.

8. Tony Blair

Not to get too political here, but in my mind Tony Blair represents both the best and worst of the British stereotype.  In television interviews it seems that Blair wouldn’t even ask your daughter to the movies without first consulting you.  He often has the bumbly, almost childlike, way of dodging questions.  However in the minds of many Americans he was someone who was very friendly with President Bush and was one of the principle backers of a 5+ year long war.  The roles of commander and chief and humble neighbor may not seem to go together, but Tony Blair pulls it off.  Wink believes he is the real life Nigel Pinchley.  We here at WDSTL can neither confirm nor deny this.

In fact, I’m pretty sure Hugh Grant’s Prine Minister in Love Actually is Tony Blair.

Who embodies Britian to you?



Brandon Mendelson
Oct 7, 2008 at 12:42 am

The fact that William Regal made this list makes it pure, unadulterated awesome. Great job.


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