BUT HAS SHE SEEN LOVE ACTUALLY? Responding to news that Paris "the brain" Hilton doesn't know who Tony Blair is, Kathryn Lopez wonders whether Hilton's brain cells could be jogged, awoken, or possibly created by mentioning that Blair is like Hugh Grant's character in Love Actually. Only...he's not. At all. Grant's character in the film looks like Blair and is clearly a liberal, but he also represents a full-throated rejection of the toady Brit. His seminal moment comes at the close of a weekend summit with the American president, a steely, country-fried nitwit played without remorse by Billy Bob Thornton, when he publicly shreds the arrogance and entitlement of the Bush stand-in. The setting was the weekend negotiations, where, as Bush has done, Thornton denies Grant any progress on his pet initiatives, any compromises on America's priorities, and, worst of all, sleazily hits on the staffer Grant has become somewhat infatuated with (okay -- we don't know that Bush has done that). That's when Grant, who earlier had dismissed advisors who called for a more oppositional stance against America and had adopted the Blair style of total appeasement, shakes out of his Tony-like stupor and delivers the performance most Brits have been aching for in real life:
Press Conference Reporter: Mr. President, has it been a good visit?
The President: Very satisfactory indeed. We got what we came for and our special relationship is still very special.
Press Conference Reporter: Prime Minister?
Prime Minister: I love that word "relationship". Covers all manner of sins, doesn't it? I fear that this has become a bad relationship. A relationship based on the President taking exactly what he wants and casually ignoring all those things that really matter to, erm... Britain. We may be a small country but we're a great one, too. The country of Shakespeare, Churchill, the Beatles, Sean Connery, Harry Potter. David Beckham's right foot. David Beckham's left foot, come to that. And a friend who bullies us is no longer a friend. And since bullies only respond to strength, from now onward, I will be prepared to be much stronger. And the President should be prepared for that.
On the other hand, trying to remind Hilton of Blair's existence by explaining that Hugh Grant played a British prime minister whose decision to face down the belligerent American leader was, in fact, a political commentary on Blair's cowardice may not be the most effective pedagogical approach.