Back in the day, Tumblr was the place to spend your formative years online and share your borderline unhealthy media obsessions. Fandoms used the platform to post everything from ridiculous fan edits of their favorite characters to questionable, and oftentimes very sexual, fanfictions. Many of them had one odd thing in common: Their beloved bands or television shows were from across the pond.
Americans have been obsessed with the British for a long time now. For college students, it is easy to remember One Direction mania as the peak of this craze. Fans helped the band sell out concerts and top the charts, all while wearing T-shirts featuring the Union Jack and talking in fake British accents. Though I was never a “Directioner,” I did start watching the TV show Skins because of the actors’ accents.
There are many versions of a Tumblr girl, but the one who prayed every night that she’d wake up in London was the epitome of this phase — on top of her T-shirt and fake accent, she had a fascination with cigarettes and the grunge aesthetic.
It is easy to think of her as the blueprint for the modern American fascination with British culture, but our parents could actually take some blame as well. Before there were young American girls crying over Harry Styles, there were young American girls screaming over Paul McCartney. The British Invasion of the mid-1960s is one of the most obvious times British pop culture absolutely dominated the U.S.
History is repeating itself yet again, and the British are coming (back). We had hints of a U.K. invasion last year, but now we’re deep into a tea-and-crumpets relapse.
Instead of the Billboard charts, Netflix is the source of the craze this time. Bridgerton and its portrayal of 1800s London debutantes has been a staple of the platform’s top 10 recently. And the Gossip Girl-esque period drama owes at least part of its wild success to the other British hits from the last few months.
When The Crown’s fourth season dropped in November, Princess Diana was once again at the front of everyone’s minds — TikTok overflowed with content about her amazing style and tragic death. I still hear “Rest in peace to Princess Diana” at least once a day on my “For You” page.
Outlander also gained recent popularity after being added to Netflix, despite premiering in 2014. The success of Peaky Blinders and even Black Mirror have also been hinting at a resurgence of our mid-2010s obsession.
This time, though, Americans are accepting the British a bit differently. With every bit of love comes an insult; we’re making fun of their accents and lifestyles rather than just blindly obsessing over every song, band, actor or show produced in the U.K..
“Chav Check” was a trend all over TikTok a few months ago. Young girls poked fun at the British stereotype by dressing in puffer jackets and Adidas joggers. They filmed themselves doing their makeup, which often included heavily drawn-on eyebrows, massive fake eyelashes and enough bronzer to make Snooki jealous.
Even though some British users have retorted with jokes about the United States, sometimes even comparing school shooting rates, Americans have been relentless in joking about every cultural quirk they can find. In 2012, everyone wanted to sound like they were from the U.K., but now, TikTok users are routinely joking with an overexaggerated accent saying phrases like, “It’s chewsday innit it, love?”
Needless to say, the Brits are taking up space in the minds of TikTok and Netflix users, whether they realize it or not. It’s clear we’re living through another British phase, but it is still too early to tell how long this evolved version will last. Thank colonization for that.