Yesterday I took the kids to see Rio, a dreary and formulaic film from the makers of Ice Age. As the title suggests, it’s set in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and features all the local tourist stops — Corcovado, Carnaval – while lumbering through a lame plot about a couple of rare macaws trying to shake off the bad guys with the help of various toucans, red-crested cardinals, etc.
Afterwards, my kids asked why, in a story whose dramatis personae were otherwise Brazilian, the evil bird was a cockatoo with a sneering English accent called Nigel, and I tried to explain that the more society tiptoes around on multiculti eggshells, the more the English, as the sole remaining acceptable stereotype, have a hammerlock on perfidy and duplicity. Who else would you expect to be decimating the rare species of the Brazilian rain forest? Pedro the cockatoo? Lashawn the cockatoo? Ahmed the cockatoo? Whoa, don’t go there. I didn’t check the credits but I wouldn’t be surprised to find that Nigel was voiced by Tony Hayward, the former BP chief exec forced (in a cautionary tale of the futility of attempting to mitigate the stereotype) to live out the company’s pitiful marketing slogan and explore a career “beyond petroleum.”
As David Cameron likes to say, pretty much everything wrong with the world is Nigel’s fault. If Hollywood ever does make a movie about the Iranian nuclear program, you can bet the Twelfth Imam will turn out to be called Nigel.