Tbogg points to this passage in Peggy Noonan's latest column, in which her prose-poet mask slips off and she reveals herself as the ignorant lower-middlebrow she really is:
I was watching on TV one of the great movies of the British new wave of the 1960s. I think it was "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner." I thought to myself: British acting is simply the best in the world, England is drenched in great acting now. Then I realized it had been for generations--Gielgud, Redgrave, et al. Then I thought: Hmmmm. The rise of England's acting class the past century seems to coincide perfectly with the fall of its power as a wealthy and powerful nation that made a difference in the world--an exploring nation, a conquering one.
I wondered if the loss of a kind of national manliness, or force, tends to coincide in modern nations with a rise in expertise in the delicate arts.
Where to begin?
Let's start with the British acting. People who have no taste think that this or that American or European actor might do a passable job in a movie or on a stage, but when a Brit flaps his tonsils, that's acting. I'm not criticizing British actors by any means; a lot of them are terrific, and some are extraordinary. But Americans and Italians and Swedes and Japanese can act, too. What Noonan says here is a short step from "I love British accents -- they're so classy!" Tacky, Peggy. Very tacky.
Now, Peggy doesn't say that British acting got better over the last few decades. She says it was great throughout the twentieth century. If that's the case, how the hell does she know it wasn't equally great before then? Has she time-traveled to see Richard Burbage originate the role of Hamlet? Did the Wayback Machine get her tickets to some Congreve during the Restoration? Was she in Manhattan in 1849 when the English actor George Macready's performance as Macbeth started a riot? Did Wilde and Shaw invite her to their premieres?
Of course, she's certain that British actors couldn't have been truly sublime in those bygone days, because in those days England was a Great Power -- the Male Principle incarnate! -- and acting is, as Peggy informs us, one of the "delicate arts."
Peggy Noonan, meet Archie Bunker, your doppelganger. ("England is a fag country.")