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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

because there’s nary a dentist to be found in England…

Tom Charity, in his review of Valentine’s Day at CNN.com, makes the comparison that everyone is making: it’s an American version of Love Actually. It’s a totally fair criticism, but the way he does it is stupid, lazy, and just plain unfactual:

The reality is forgettable, something like a Robert Altman movie without the calories, but loaded with sweetener. Or “Love Actually” with better dental work.

It’s funny, see, because the Britis have bad teeth. Of course they do. Everyone knows that. I mean, look at some of the stars of the film…
Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Martin Freeman:

Hugh Grant, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Colin Firth:

Keira Knightley, Thomas Sangster:

Ah, I see what Charity means now: He means that those hideous blindingly white horse veneers that so many American movie stars have are “better” that nice, normally white, even teeth.

You know, I’m not really annoyed that Charity chose to diss my friends the Brits. I’m annoyed that he chose such a careless, witless way to do it. And he’s supposed to be a professional writer?

(my review of Valentine’s Day)

This has been your WTF Thought for the Day.

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critic buzz
  • Orangutan

    I cannot believe I’m doing this, but I’m gonna link a Cracked article on here. Because it’s relevant. Shocking, I know, but if you scroll down to #3 on the list, you’ll see why.


  • funWithHeadlines

    You know what else is an old stereotype? That professional writers are more skilled than unpaid online writers. There certainly are excellent writers who get paid to write, but there are many hacks as well who get facts wrong, grammar wrong and style wrong. There certainly are hacks online who have no business as writers, but there are many excellent writers who get facts right, grammar perfect and oh, such style!

    The New York Times has been running tech articles that are so absurdly wrong, it’s a shame to put the Times name of them. So it surprises me not that CNN published a stupid cliche in an article. You know what separates a CNN writer from any other writer? A paycheck from CNN. That’s about it.

  • mortadella

    I’m just curious, funWithHeadlines, do you think professional writers shouldn’t expect to get paid for their work?

  • Captain Swing

    I access your site from the UK and it’s covered in teeth whitening ads.

    Is this teeth whitening obsession the modern asexual equivalent of corseting: a cultural fetish? Somebody explain to me why slathering your teeth and gums potentially toxic chemicals is a good idea?

    It’s probably related to the old Vagina Dentata myth. Too much religion if you ask me ;)

  • Kenny

    Orangutan, I loved that article. I’ve been arguing against the ‘British teeth’ and ‘French cowards’ stereotypes for years. I’m a Scot who works at a camp in the US over the summers, and you’d probably be unsurprised how many kids from Long Island fervently believe those two. Oh and I’ve never had a filling in my life.

    I’ll give you one stereotype that I reckon might be true. Almost everybody who comments on Cracked articles is a moron. Hmmm, in that sense, I reckon he reached his target audience.

  • Rob

    Funny, because I know far more Americans than Brits with bad teeth.

  • i too think the *average* american probably has worse teeth than the Brits because the Brits have the NHS which doesn’t act as if your teeth are outside your body care. most medical insurance plans do not cover dental work, except in cases of accidents or serious injury. and our dental care is so gawdamn expensive and dental insurance is practically non-existent and when it does exist, the deductibles are so high, it’s almost the cost of the annual insurance premiums. at the time when most young adults most need to take care of their teeth — in their early 20s to prevent future problems — they can least afford it. there are a few dental schools and clinics, but the waiting list is long… the ideal of taking care of teoth enamel and gums is a cultural vacuum… it’s white teeth that can be seen from satellites in orbit that are the thing most will spend money on.

    the shelves in the drug stores are lined with “tooth whitening” pastes, gels and kits costing up to $50 a pop. still way cheaper than even one trip to the dentist for a cleaning and checkup.

    oh yeah — and among the many other stereotypes that need to be laid to rest is that the Brits have lousy food and that the French are unfriendly. enough already! get out and travel.

  • Victor Plenty

    Bronxbee, you make a number of excellent points about the outrageous cost to obtain decent dental care in the United States, and how fewer and fewer Americans have the spare income available to spend on keeping our teeth healthy.

    But I just had to laugh when your very next paragraph berated us for not spending enough money on travel.

  • Well, as long as people launch far worse accusations against the people who live in the lands of my ancestors, I must confess that I have a hard time worrying about the fact that someone somewhere might be saying something bad about an English person–and gasp! it might be untrue. Join the crowd, buddy, is what I say. After all, I don’t hear you all complaining too much about American movies and TV shows in which an English person is generally seen as the smartest and most attractive person in the room–and it can be argued that that’s as much as an untrue stereotype as the British dentistry thing.

    That said, I must also confess that my inner Cyrano can’t help reacting to the Valentine’s Day quote by saying, “That’s the best you can do? Rip off an old joke–which was probably not that good to begin with–from The Simpsons. At best, it aspires to the same level of cleverness that has directors playing the ‘Dueling Banjos’ theme from Deliverance every time a rural white Southerner comes on screen or playing ‘The Love Theme’ from The Godfather every time an elderly Italian gangster comes into view. Why not watch some of the better British movies and TV shows and see how much more imaginatively the British can insult their fellow countrymen than your no-account Yankees ever could? Perhaps you’d learn something.”

    Of course, my inner Cyrano doesn’t speak up on this subject too often…

  • Valentine’s Day quote

    Oh, right. It’s from a review of said movie.

    Er, I knew that. And the same thing I wrote above still applies…

  • Victor, lol, you caught me in one of my many contradictory expressions… i admit, it’s a tough one. well, perhaps i should amend it to: speak to more tourists in our country!

  • Victor Plenty

    Bronxbee, actually I agree with you that most people, and especially most Americans, ought to travel more before deciding they know everything about other national cultures. A good trip to France that includes forays out into the countryside (not just quick stops at the Louvre and the McDonald’s in Paris) is a much better use of money than the absurdly gigantic HDTVs that seem to be all the rage right now.

    It was purely an accident of juxtaposition that had me laughing at your exhortation to get out and travel.

  • i took a trip to paris a few years ago… the basic package through expedia was less than *one* of my root canals! and a hell of a lot more fun!

  • Kenny

    Wow…. more fun than a root canal huh? :D I’ve been to Paris a few times. Love it. One of the best parts was getting hopelessly lost in the maze of streets behind Notre Dame, hah, I knew I was lost when I stopped meeting tourists.

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