Does the UK have a public diplomacy problem?

I ask because on his blog, the UK Ambassador to the United States Nigel Sheinwald identifies a sinister trend of bloodsucking Brits on American television screens: 

This week sees the release of the highly anticipated second instalment of the Vampire saga Twilight. This spectacular teen drama – which focuses on the forbidden love of the vampire Edward Cullen for his sweetheart Bella – has attracted, in some circles, as much attention as the current healthcare debate (although being undead would still presumably be classed as a pre-existing condition?).

Cullen is played by the talented British actor Robert Pattinson, whose disturbing stare now dominates downtown billboards advertising the new film. As a Prince of Darkness flying the flag for Britain, Pattison is not alone. His British colleague Stephen Moyer has proved a tremendous hit as the tormented blood-sucker Bill Compton in HBO’s series True Blood, whilst Kate Beckinsale, as Selene in the Underworld franchise, shows British women are equally adept at vampyric horror.

 All three build on an established pedigree of undead Brits terrorising their transatlantic victims. From Christopher Lee to Gary Oldman, the Transylvanian Count has often enjoyed an English incarnation. Coincidence? Or something, shall we say, more “cryptic”? Could it be the British climate that creates the pale and pasty complexion necessary to portray authentically Bram Stoker’s monster? Or is it our “deadpan” humour, putting the grave into graveyard, that makes us Brits especially suited to vampire kitsch?

Good questions!  In all seriousness, this is a brilliant post from the Ambassador. It also underscores just how forward thinking the UK Foreign ministry has been in using new media tools to reach out to foreign and domestic audiences.  I get the sense that the encouragement, freedom and culture of UK diplo-blogging comes from the top, i.e. the UK’s  Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, who has maintained a blog for years. (And on it, he actually engaes in argument on his blog, rather than using it as a platform to recycle press releases.)   I just hope that if (when?) the Tory’s take the reigns of government they have the good sense to also encourage the vanguard new media efforts that the current government has so effectively embraced.   


Photo: flickr