At least the British were upfront when they sent their SWAT team to Shea Stadium in 1965 to take over American culture. Pretty soon, Beatle-mania was everywhere, and we eagerly embraced everything British for another decade - until they ran out of things to export. By the time they were sending us bands like “Hot Chocolate” or “Mr. Bean” reruns, we had had enough. And while there are some still lingering cultural influences – Madonna‘s accent, that guy making the inappropriate “shagalicious, baby” statements at work functions, saying “schedule” as a soft “h” – we have mostly given up our Union Jack T-shirts, our scones, and our Earl Grey teas at 4 o’clock. As we focused on fighting off the Brits, the Nordic Axis of Sweetness (Sweden, Finland, Norway, Iceland, and Denmark) has been assimilating our society since the late 1960s, and is now poised for total world domination with Angry Birds Space.
The newest Angry Birds game will arrive on March 22nd to every electronic device in the world and will launch “simultaneously in mobile gaming, animation, retail, and publishing.” Translation: “Just give up, and surrender Dorothy now.”
How did this happen? How did we give up so willingly? How did I end up with this Bjorn Borg haircut? To see how they did it, we have to go back a few years to an obscure 1970s band called ABBA.
Music: Then came ABBA
Where the British failed by being too direct, the Scandinavians were more sinister in their subtlety by sending us ABBA. When we first started singing “Waterloo,” who knew that in a few short years we would gobble up “Fernando” and straight men in Kansas would feather-back their hair and sing “Dancing Queen” into the mirror during their morning shave. But this is where they were brilliant – they did not just rest with pop songs. They kept coming with wave after wave of influence. “Mamma Mia,” the musical; “Mamma Mia,” the movie; Wii dancing games, ABBAWORLD, and induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. All told over 200 million albums and over 600 million at the box office.
When we started to suspect that we had been “Beatlized” again, they sent us lightweight bands like Ace of Base, Roxette, and the Cardigans. “Oh, you have nothing to fear from us,” they would say. “We are the land of Hans Christian Anderson, of Folk Tales, and of Ingrid Bergman. You loved her in Casablanca. Come and make an album here Bon Jovi. No, nothing to see here. Hey, isn’t that Monty Python over there.”
Retail: Then came IKEA.
While you adored their streamlined, cost-conscious furniture, they have amassed over $23B in sales and an army of over 127,000 employees. And while we shop and eat our “Choklad” bars and our “Applekaka,” they are taking over with creating IKEA Greentech Ventures, global sustainability initiatives, partnering with UNICEF, and making meatballs cool again. They have been featured on “30 Rock,” “the Simpsons,” and numerous “Saturday Night Live” sketches. IKEA, paired with clothier H&M (yup, Sweden), are taking over one “Idealisk” at a time.
Entertainment: Then came “The Girl with . . . “
Who knew what Steig Larsen would create with the “Girl with the . . . ” trilogy. Suddenly, the beaches of Florida, commuter flights out of Chicago, and cafes in Boston are filled with everyone from college students to business people to grandparents engrossed in these novels. These dark themes have touched a cord and my grandmother is now asking some uncomfortable questions. With the over $200M grossing first movie out, Daniel Craig is now sitting atop the box office again. He claims to be British, but I am beginning to have my doubts.
You will also feel the cinematic “ one, two” punch this year with summer blockbuster Battleship, staring Alexander Skarsgard of “True Blood” fame. And while he is no Dolph Lundgren, they both admit to being Swedes (hear that, Daniel Craig. Fess up!)
Games: Then came Angry Birds
OK, I surrender!
Oh, how cute a game. Angry Birds! What a chance to while away a few minutes on this addictive game. Sure, the first 3 levels were free. That was how they get you – get you hooked. Then you are paying $1.99 for the full version, more for HD, then Angry Birds RIO and the movie tie-in. Then, Seasons. Now, soon-to-be-released Angry Birds Space. With over 500M downloads, it is one of the most popular App games of all time. There is talk of Angry Birds movie (starting Alexandar Skarsgard, I am sure), there is a clothing line, and I could not dress up like a pig last Halloween without getting continuously pelted by Angry Bird plushies. Can I tell you more about this fantastic company churning out hit games? I am afraid not, as it is privately held; and while CEO Mikael Hed looks like a nice enough guy, you only see him wearing Angry Bird sweatshirts – like he has been taken over by Angry Birds. Where are they located, you ask? Finland. I rest my case.
I am positive the secret Nordic Cultural Ministry is behind all of this, but my detailed investigative journalistic techniques have been thwarted as I am not a natural blond and so I must rely solely on Wikipedia . . . . Which is just as good. However, I should be careful; I know what happened to Mikael Blomkvist.