It's now March, which means Ronan Keating has celebrated his birthday and World Book Day has meant that social media feeds have been littered with parents' pictures of their children dressed as film characters, and in any other year these two momentous occasions would be enough - but this year, March brings us the new season of House of Cards. Which means, no disrespect to Ronan or, books, but really, no one cares about them anymore.
House of Cards - the House of Cards which we will finally be able to watch, the entire 4th season, uninterrupted except for by base human needs for sleep and food (both of which can be at least partially overlooked, as long as Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright are on screen) is not, in fact, new. It is, as almost all the best things from America are - an adaptation of a British idea. House of Cards began life as a novel written by Michael Dobbs, a former Chief of Staff at Conservative Party headquarters. It was then turned into a BBC four-part political thriller, which aired in 1990, to what, I am assured was 'great critical and popular acclaim'. In 1990 I was still learning to read, so forsook the heady delights of Dobbs' 'House of Cards' for Cat on the Mat, and other modern-day classics.
Netflix's adaptation is not, of course, the first time we have seen cultural crossover from both sides of the pond. We can look back to 1903, the year Henry Ford began The Ford Motor Company, and revolutionised car production to such an extent that his manufacturing processes became known as 'Fordism'- and, perhaps less flatteringly, were heavily referenced in Huxley's dystopian 'Brave New World'. Huxley's novel sees its characters worshipping the "T", in homage to Henry Ford's Model T. Throughout the novel, the name "Ford" takes the place of "Lord." Yet for all Huxley's alarmed references, the European market for Ford and its eponymous manufacturing system for standardised, low-cost goods was voracious.
America had created the Ford, but we wanted it. Naturally, there was a price to pay. And it was exacted from Liverpool, in the 1960s. That's right: the cost of your new car wasn't quite as low as you imagined - we had to lend the Americans the Beatles in return. I think the fault was partly ours, to be fair - we shouldn't have imagined that naming them the Fab Four would mean the States would be less interested. By 1964 the Beatles were international stars, leading the "British Invasion" of the United States pop market. They were soon joined by The Kinks, the Rolling Stones and The Who.
What did we get in return? It took 20 years to cross the pond, but now we have 1,200 of them, across the UK and Northern Ireland. Alternatively warm and inviting or repugnantly greasy, depending largely on one's age, hunger and level of sobriety, the golden arches of McDonalds arrived in the UK in 1974. So we gave them Dusty Springfield, Van Morrison and Jimmy Page, and they gave us chicken nuggets. Seems about fair.
The trades continued to come and in various forms, albeit disproportionately in favour of the Americans. Common place in Britain you will now see American giants into everyday life for Britons. Whether you shop at GAP, drive a Jeep or have a penchant for oreos or pringles, these are all American brands that are now commonplace in the British psyche. In fact, even our beloved Cadbury is owned by Mondelez International and yet all we have mustered recently to properly tempt the U.S. into exploring our way of life are TV dramas like Sherlock and Downtown Abbey! It seems that the commercial giants of the US have really nailed the commercial crossover.
Although this does make me patriotically sad, perhaps the crossovers play into the strengths of each nation. The Americans are able to mass-produce consumer goods that appeal to the many, whereas us Brits do make a bloody good drama, not to mention the other sectors of 'The Arts' in which we also excel. However, as I settle in for another episode on Netflix, perhaps I'm furthering the influence that the U.S. has on British consumers, which provokes my patriotism once more. However, in reality, I am quite happy to let them to impart their influence on Britain, as long as I get House of Cards. Did I mention I like House of Cards...?