Decidedly unatlethtic but ebullient gab-fest host and jolly British man-driving-about-Los Angeles-with-other-stars-singing-in-his-car James Corden has, through no fault of his own, become an amusing political football in the World Cup rivalry between England and Team USA. It began last weekend, as a tired-looking English squad, led by an even more tired-looking Harry Kane, took to the field to endure a painful goose-egg draw with a fit, young, quite well-turned out crew of Americans. Both teams have since survived that to go on to the World Cup’s version of the Sweet 16, and, we hope, quite a lot further. But in the fevered runup before England/USA, the transatlantic fan-hivemind on social media seized on Corden with a vengeance, and, for a while anyway, just wouldn’t let the man go.
It was a cultural moment that Mr. Corden certainly wouldn’t have wished for himself, but one that somehow took the meaner, take-no-prisoners spirit of some football fans and upended it with some jolly banter. Unfortunately, that jolliness came at the expense of Mr. Corden. Key to the conflagration was that all were aware that Mr. Corden had recently announced that he would, in a few months, retire from his post on the Late Late Show and would returning to England. The announcement sort of left him a dead duck on the American airwaves, with one foot on the plane, more or less.
So: That professional circumstance triggered the weaponly and hilarious notion in the runup to the England/USA match that Corden was the anti-prize, the trophy that you definitely didn’t want. As far as can be determined, the earliest appearance on the somewhat challenged Twitter platform was a tweet pushed live a few hours before the match that read simply:
Loser has to keep James Corden forever.
Like most products of the zeitgeist that have an edge to them, the narrative behind that tweet and some of the other flotsam generated by the moment goes further back. Corden is, in himself, not a controversial figure. But he has had a couple of moments lately that have unfortunately registered back home in England, and there is nothing that the English — and their tabloids — love more than ragging on their countrymen who have made it in other worlds, in Corden’s case, the great broad target of Hollywood. Any Englishman there — and there are a lot of them in the American entertainment industry — forms an extremely desirable target for all and sundry back home.