Its foreign policy might leave something to be desired, but there is much to love about America. Black music is the first, obviously. After that Disney and Pixar. Some of the happiest hours of my life have been spent watching their movies with my kids. I love them all from Snow White to Toy Story to Wall:E. (Cannot wait to see Up this week) Massive investment doesn't always produce the best. But it does in this case.The South Bank Show's excellent tribute to Disney/Pixar this week profiled a team of creatives totally devoted to art and originality. Unlike Emmerdale, X-Factor and all the other crap, this show does not seem to appear on catch up. But here is the South Bank Show website - perhaps it will be available by the time you read this.
Disney/Pixar movies suceed in being ground breaking and populist at the same time. Apart from the obvious technical achievements, they celebrate all the good human vitures: love, kindness, attachment, philanthropy, working together for the common good. Plus there are some great jokes about human weakness as well. A recent study by a Cambridge University academic suggested that movies like Bambi and The Lion King had been hugely influential in developing a critical awareness of environmental issues Sentimental? Anyone who suggests as much is a crochety old cynic. John Lasseter, who pioneered Pixar, is now creative director of Disney and has vowed to return it to the glory days of hand drawn animation. Next year he will unveil The Princess and The Frog, set in New Orleans featuring a black heroine and trumpet playing alligator called Louis. Whoopi Goldberg said she loved Snow White as a little girl because the beautiful princess wasn't blonde. This will be Snow White as re-imagined by Spike Lee. And remember, The Princess and the Frog was in development long before Barak Obama became President. Where Disney leads, Washington DC follows...
You might thing this posting comes under the "Life/Universe" part of my blog's definition, as opposed to "everything Scottish". But you'd be wrong. Scotland's love affair with America goes back a long way. We were so passionate about America we sold our soul, or rather our sovereignty, for a taste of it. The Union of 1707 was driven by our desire to access markets in the New World. In the 20th century, our enthusiasm for American cinema and music was far greater than in England - Passport to Pimlico? No thanks, not when Guys and Dolls are on offer.
My father queued outside a Greenock cinema with a jam jar in 1941 to see Dumbo. Fifty years later my daughter was watching it on video at our flat in the West End of Glasgow, with just as much joy as her granda. Funnily enough, I missed out, because the television generation didn't see much cinema - we grew up before the multi-screen, when cinemas were turning into bingo and snooker halls. But I remember being glued to Disney Time, wishing with all my heart I could see the full length movies, and knowing that was entirely dependent on the BBC's Christmas schedule.
I caught up when I had kids, returning to the videos repeatedly in the same way my dad must have returned to those Greenock matinees with his jam jar. American culture shapes us, and not always in a bad way. For every blinkered ideologue slagging off the US, there are a thousand working class people laughing at Buzz Lightyear's self-delusion.